NZ copyright protest blockades parliament

Some 120 protesters descended upon New Zealand's Parliament today in Wellington to deliver petitions expressing concern over sections of the new Copyright Act which will force ISPs to disconnect customers who have allegedly infringed copyright.
Written by Juha Saarinen, Contributor

update The fight over the controversial amendments to New Zealand's copyright law is heating up.


Anti-copyright protesters in Wellington
(Credit: Rory Purcell-Hewitt/ZDNet.com.au)

Today at noon, some 120 protesters descended upon the parliament in the capital, Wellington, and handed over an e-petition against the amendments with over 12,000 signatories, and a traditional one with 148 names, to the United Future party leader Peter Dunne.

Section 92A which will force ISPs to disconnect customers who have allegedly infringed copyright. The demonstrators were waving black placards reading "ISPs are not a court" and "Fair go, not Fear go".

Organisers Bronwyn and Matthew Holloway of the Creative Freedom Foundation said they weren't disappointed with the response. As well as the petition to Dunne, the Holloways handed a CD of their The Copywrong Song to all 122 Members of Parliament.

Half of the signatories to the online petition were artists, Matthew Holloway said. Also, he claimed that the CFF now had over 6,000 artists against Section 92A, making it larger than the Australasian Performing Rights Association (APRA) in NZ.

Holloway said he was hopeful that S92A would be repealed. CFF will continue to campaign for this, with an internet blackout (design protest) coming up for many popular websites in New Zealand next Monday.

Hoping that the issue will move into the general interest area, and not be seen as a strictly technical or legal one, Holloway was keen to point out that it affects anyone connected to the internet.

Mauricio Freitas, proprietor of large NZ tech site Geekzone, also took part in the demonstration. He said: "I'm against copyright infringement and believe we need a law to curb it." However, Freitas said the new law didn't provide those accused with a "due course of action" in case the allegations are incorrect.

Furthermore, Freitas expressed concern about the implementation of the law from a content provider's perspective. "It's really unclear how it'll affect us and if it does, how to enforce it," he said.

In a further development, the opposition communications and information technology spokesperson, Clare Curran, sought leave in parliament to introduce a Bill to amend the Copyright Act to ensure that a workable code of practice was in place before the contentious Section 92A comes into force. The code would have to be approved by the relevant minister as well.

Presently, Section 92A looks set to come into effect on 28 February, but the ISP and telco industry organisation Telecommunications Carriers Forum (TCF) doesn't yet have a code of practice ready for its members, as rights holders have rejected parts of the draft version, relating to the need for evidence that'll hold up in court and cost recovery for providers.

The governing National Party refused leave for Curran's Bill however, and she will now submit her Bill as a Private Member's submission. Curran criticised National for "sitting on its hands on the copyright issue," even though it was her party, Labour, that introduced the controversial amendments to the Bill.

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