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Guilty until proven innocent: new NZ law

Remember the old saying about being "innocent until proven guilty"? Well, the latest version of New Zealand's Copyright Amendment Bill has a farcical reversal of this, which has created rightful outrage.
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Written by Darren Greenwood on

Remember the old saying about being "innocent until proven guilty"? Well, the latest version of New Zealand's Copyright Amendment Bill has a farcical reversal of this, which has created rightful outrage.

Yes, under the newly-inserted Section 122MA, a copyright holder can simply issue an infringement notice saying that someone has been copying something of theirs and a Copyright Tribunal will accept that as the truth!

You may recall an old plan to give people "three strikes" before having their internet accounts terminated for illegal file sharing, copying and the like.

Now, instead of banning offenders from the internet for up to six months, they can fine them up to $15,000. Commerce Minister Simon Power could still ban people from the net, but it seems unlikely he will use this discretionary power.

Labour ICT spokesperson Clare Curran believes that it was extremely important to have disconnection removed as a copyright remedy, saying it was "disproportionate" especially as internet access is effectively essential for businesses and families.

"It was always my view that a fine for copyright infringement was much more appropriate than termination of internet access," she said in her blog.

However, she did raise concerns about the "burden of proof" issue, saying later that it may threaten her party's support for the Copyright Amendment Bill.

Indeed, it seems necessary to ponder the issue particularly after National Party-aligned blogger David Farrar cited reports from Google that said 30 per cent of similar infringement notices in the USA have been found to be false or incorrect.

Certainly, the government will have to address it before the Bill reaches its second reading.

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