Depending on where you live, you may or may not have heard about the copyright law changes going down in New Zealand at the moment. For those of you that don't know, part of this new law is aimed at file sharers on the internet. This part of the law, Section 92 (or S92 for short) revolves around one simple rule: if you're accused of repeated copyright infringements, you'll lose your internet connection.
Section 92 is causing quite a stir, for several reasons. The first and foremost of these reasons is that you do not have to be convicted of actual copyright infringement for S92 to kick in. No, you only need to be accused of infringing copyright. That's right, accused. In essence, it's taking the whole judicial concept of "innocent until proven guilty" and turning it on its head. What's more, there are no penalties for filing a false statement, so there's nothing to stop false accusations from being made.
Another large part of the problem is that is shifts the burden of copyright enforcement from the copyright holder to the internet provider. In order for this law to be effective, internet providers will need to keep logs of which account was assigned which internet (IP) address, possibly for several years at a time. They need to create systems for querying this data so that they can send an accusation to the correct account-holder. They dedicated staff to process accusation notices and ensure that each one meets the (fairly low) standard required under the law. All this because the various content publishing organisations (read: music and film producers) are too lazy to perform the necessary legwork to send each case through the legal system.
Our own government wasn't even sure that this section of the new Act was needed. Although present in initial drafts of the law, it was removed by a Select Committee because it was deemed unworkable. However, thanks to stupid and gullible politicians, the section was re-added.
So what does this mean for New Zealand? Anybody with an unsecured wireless router could get permanent disconnection from the internet for something they haven't done. Schools, libraries and companies could get kicked off the internet because of fraudulent accusations. Do our musicians and filmmakers benefit? Hardly likely, seeing as how the production and distribution companies receive the lion's share of any profits made from CD/DVD sales. No, all we're seeing is ordinary people being punished because a group of companies have failed to embrace the internet.
There's only one small piece of silver lining around this dark cloud. Although the new Copyright Act came into force as of February 28, our new prime minister has postponed the start of S92 until near the end of March. During this time, the internet providers and content producers are supposed to talk and come up with some sort of "code of compliance" that can be used to make this law work. If nothing can be worked out, S92 may be removed from the law entirely.
Let's all hope that no agreement can be made, or else we're in for some very interesting times in the years ahead.