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Defend copyright: Take NZ off the internet

We're not thinking outside the box enough on the problem of copyright criminality. I would like to propose a solution to that.
Written by Juha Saarinen, Contributor on

Right, we've now got the new proposed Section 92A (S92A) on the table to discuss. For those who've missed the long but fairly exciting saga about little New Zealand having its virtual goolies put into a vice by the entertainment industry, we're talking about a suspended section in the new Copyright Act.

The original version of the law would have seen your internet access cut off almost instantly, if accused of file sharing.

The proposed new S92A is milder: after a few "you naughty file sharer" notices, the lunatic and incorrigible infringers are hauled in front of a Copyright Tribunal. This sounds more medieval than it is, but basically, the outcome of such a Copyright Tribunal hearing ranges from mediation to damages and fines, and of course, your internet connection potentially being cut off.

That idea, X amount of strikes and whatever and you're off the net, has been rejected elsewhere, but New Zealand seems hell-bent on introducing it. Is it fair though? I don't think it can be compared to say losing your driver's licence if you drive drunk because you're obviously not endangering anyone's life while downloading stuff you shouldn't.

We think nothing of cutting off people's phones, however; but that usually happens if you don't pay your bill. Getting the phone snipped snipped for infringing on copyright does seem a bit unusual.

So is it fair then to cut off people's internet access for copyright crimes? Is it enough even? If you're going to remove the conduit along which the alleged crime takes place, should you not forfeit the implement with which you commit the felony? That is, your computer should be confiscated, along with your iPod, iPhone and other electronic and optical storage media.

Thinking about this further, going to the root of the issue might be in order, namely the internet. Think about it: the internet is at the heart of uncontrolled copyright crime. As we all know, it's impossible to filter out illegal material (Conroy, I'm looking at you) and policing it leads to expensive bureaucracies like the proposed Copyright Tribunal in New Zealand.

Why not remove the temptation completely? New Zealand would be an ideal test case for such a brave solution. Point the IPstar satellite elsewhere, and put a backhoe through the Southern Cross Cable. There are a few more undersea cables to deal with too but they're insignificant in comparison. The government's torrents, err, communications, won't be affected because they have other means of punting IP traffic in and out of the country.

Of course, this doesn't deal with existing content being infringed upon through the New Zealand Intranet, and people smuggling in stuff using memory sticks in an unpleasant manner, but it's a start I believe. What do you think? Should I send the above to copyrightact@med.govt.nz as a submission?

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