New Zealand delays copyright amendment

Summary:In the wake of widespread online and physical protests at impending copyright legislation, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has announced a month's delay in the rules to give the industry time to come up with a workable solution.

In the wake of widespread online and physical protests at impending copyright legislation, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has announced a month's delay in the rules to give the industry time to come up with a workable solution.

Known as Section 92A, the amendment to the country's Copyright Act aimed to strengthen the rights of holders of copywrited material, but New Zealand's online community was angered at provisions it said forced ISPs to block websites simply on the demand of the copyright holder.

We are encouraged to see National listen to the New Zealand public.

Bronwyn Holloway-Smith, CFA director

The legislation, due to come into effect on February 28, had been inherited by the recently-elected centre-right National-led government from the former Helen Clark Labour admistration.

But at 4pm in Wellington, Key told a post-cabinet meeting press conference that the implementation of the controversial clause of the copyright legislation would be delayed until March 27. "We are hoping that by that time we will have come up with a voluntary code of practice," he said.

If no agreement is reached, Section 92A will be suspended.

A spokesperson for Key told ZDNet.com.au that there had been much concern about Section 92, which led the government to look at the matter and try and seek a solution.

Bronwyn Holloway-Smith, director of the Creative Freedom Foundation, which formed in 2008 to fight the impending legislation, called the announcement "a step in the right direction". "We are encouraged to see National listen to the New Zealand public. It's really encouraging," she said.

Holloway-Smith said the delay meant there was time to address certain aspects of the bill and the Telecommunications Carriers Forum, representing ISPs, could still receive submissions on the issue by March 6.

The government move also represents a success for online campaigns, as the issue hadn't been covered much in the mainstream media until the bloggers came on board. "It's a real sign of the times. As a grassroots organisation, it's been amazing to see how successful an online campaign can be, to get the message through and inform the public," Holloway-Smith added.

It's been amazing to see how successful an online campaign can be, to get the message through and inform the public

Bronwyn Holloway-Smith, CFA director

Well-known media commentator David Farrar of Kiwiblog said S92 was wrong because it had been rejected by a parliamentary select committee and was reinserted at the last minute when people thought the matter had been resolved.

It was badly worded, so was unclear, and there was a concern that due to high court costs that a mere accusation from copyright holders would be enough to see ISPs remove material, he said. "The TCF has a draft a code rights-holders don't like. The ball bounces with the rights-holders. It still won't be as good as not having the law, but it will provide certainty."

Farrar, who helped use his blog to campaign against electoral finance legislation imposed by the former Labour government, which was axed by National this month, agrees online campaigning had an effect.

"I don't think there are many issues you would get every political blog agreeing. If only Labour had backed down on the Electoral Finance Act! You have to give the (National) government credit for acting so quickly," he said.

In separate media statements, industry bodies InternetNZ and the Telecom Users Association of NZ also welcomed the move.

Topics: Legal, New Zealand, Telcos

About

Darren Greenwood has been in journalism, not all of it IT, since the days of typewriters and long before the web spun its way around the world.Coming from Yorkshire, he can be blunt, and though having resided in New Zealand, as well as Australia, for quite some time, he insists he is not one of the 'sheeple!'

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