Labour flip-flop on three strikes law's internet termination clause
If it wins in November, Labour is promising to remove internet account termination clauses from the Copyright Act within 90 days of taking office.
The move is the latest twist in the party's fraught relationship with the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act - legislation that began as the notorious Section 92a of the Helen Clark government's attempt to reform the Copyright Act (the subject of a Twitter and Facebook campaign that garnered world-wide attention, and suspended by Prime Minister John Key on the eve of coming into force).
The controversial legislation comes into force from tomorrow (see NBR's full wrap-up here).
It will see those accused by a rights holder of online piracy sent three warning notices by their ISP.
If the warning notices fail to resolve the matter, the alleged offender will face a Copyright Tribunal hearing and a potential fine of up to $15,000.
The law retains the so-called "ultimate sanction" of terminating a person's internet account.
However, at the time of the legislation's final reading, Labour - which voted for the bill - said the process of termination had been made sufficiently arcane that it had "effectively been taken off the table" (an account can only be terminated via an Order in Council; that is, an order created by a cabinet minister then signed by the Govenor General).
Now, in a move announced by communications spokeswoman Clare Curran, Labour has pledged to repeal the termination provision.
It's a notable switch from Ms Curran's previous strategy, which effectively ammounted to supporting the legislation as the best way to moderate it, working from the inside. The change could be, in part, a reaction to Green MP Gareth Hughes, whose implacable opposition to all facets of the legislation has earned him a following amid the chattering classes (or at least the social media set).
Today, Mr Hughes welcomed Labour's conversion, but also reminded people the party voted against his anti-termination amendment.
Whatever the motivation, the change was welcomed by lobby groups this morning.
"This looks very sensible and we applaud Labour for moving so far from the section 92A debacle to a progressive policy," InternetNZ chief executive Vikram Kumar told NBR.
Telecommunications Users Assoociation (Tuanz) head Paul Brislen welcomed the move, but added that "We still need to address the core problem which is lack of content here in New Zealand. The act is all about the stick but internationally attention is turning to the carrot. How do we encourage creation and consumption of content in NZ?"
Mr Kumar echoed the sentiment.
"There may be a need to do more about promoting availability of legal content to Kiwis willing and ready to pay reasonable amounts," the InternetNZ boss said.
For her part, Ms Curran said Labour would investigate some kind of funding mechanism for getting more Kiwi content online.
The Dunedin South MP also pledged to "re-examine" the act's provision that makes an internet account holder - such as an employer - liable for an infringement, even if they're ignorant of the offence. However, the party as stopped short of promising a wholesale repeal.