S92 redux: It's back

Termination of file-sharing internet users' accounts is coming up for New Zealanders — again.

After the government suspended the controversial Section S92 of the reworked New Zealand Copyright Act due to the huge public outcry, several people I spoke to warned that it won't be the last we saw of it.

To recap, the new legislation contains two controversial clauses, 92A and C. The first one requires ISPs to implement a "reasonable policy" for the termination of the accounts of customers accused of file sharing.

The second one requires ISPs to remove any content hosted by them, if it's suspected of breaching copyright. Both clauses are quite draconian, and it's fair to say they establish a guilt by accusation principle in New Zealand law even though some lawyers would split hairs here and say that only punishment is meted out and no guilt is apportioned per se.

Recently, France dumped its law that would establish an internet Gestapo monitoring French users and if they're found file sharing, it snips their internet accounts.

No other democratic country in the world, as far as I know has felt it necessary to create laws that would see internet users' accounts chopped off based on allegations, so it's disappointing to see that New Zealand is once again going down the S92A route.

S92 is being reviewed, but according to the government brief:

The scope of any legislation leading to the termination of internet accounts of repeat copyright infringers is explicit and takes into account issues of due process, practicality and enforceability; the process leading to account termination is clear to all parties concerned.

Lovely. Never mind the fact that up to a third of all copyright cases brought before the courts turn out to be dodgy. Never mind that without internet access, you're severely handicapped when it comes to accessing government services. On a practical level, what do you do with telcos like TelstraClear here, which offers bundles comprising of internet, voice and mobile? Cancel the lot, or cancel the internet access and then what?

The recent tumult in Iran has shown how important the internet is to help people disseminate information, get around censorship, organise themselves and assemble.

Now, the New Zealand Government wants to take away all that. I'm sorry, but I don't think anyone voted for that, and it's time again for the electorate to hammer that home. No termination of internet accounts.