The government's request for ISPs and rights holders to reach a voluntary agreement on delayed copyright legislation has been thrown into chaos by the withdrawal of TelstraClear from key talks, which needed unanimous, UN Security Council-style consensus.
On February 23, the government suspended Section 92A of the Copyright Amendment (New Technologies) Act, which had been due to come into force on February 28.
Prime Minister John Key gave internet service providers until March 27 to reach a voluntary, workable agreement with copyright holders, led by RIANZ (the Recording Industry Association of NZ).
But today TelstraClear has confirmed to NBR that it has withdrawn from the Telecommunications Carriers Forum (TCF) working party charged with creating an ISP code of practice to put before rights holders. All of the major telcos and ISPs were represented on the working party.
TelstraClear spokesman Chris Mirams told NBR "It's not our job to fix bad legislation."
Mr Mirams says TelstraClear objects to not having any input into the original drafting of the law. The telco has also listened to feedback from its customers, and acknowledged the popular S92 photo blackout campaign on Facebook and other social networking sites.
'Like the UN Security Council'
TCF chief executive Ralph Chivers compares the ISP code of practices to a UN Security Council resolution; unanimous consent from all members is needed. “If we don’t get it, it can’t be ratified.”
Mr Chivers says the remaining members of the working party will continue working on a code over the next two weeks but by definition "it will now fail when put up for final approval."
But without TelstraClear on board, “infrastructure around the code can’t be put in place, such as a third-party dispute resolution service.” The TCF had been hoping to work with rights holders, led by RIANZ, to appoint an independent moderator to work as a go-between between the two bodies.
Government to step in; no permanent suspension
Several parties involved in the S92 talks, including Mr Chivers and RIANZ chief executive Campbell Smith, have confirmed to NBR that the government will step in an impose its own solution if the voluntary talks break down - rather than indefinitely suspend S92, as is the popular impression.
Mr Chivers says he’s informed the Justice Minister of TelstraClear’s withdrawal, but has yet to receive a response about its implications.
RIANZ's Smith tells NBR he still wants to work with the TCF on an ISP code, and hopes negotiations will continue without TelstraClear.
The first meeting between the TCF and rights holders since TelstraClear’s withdrawal, which was announced to TCF members on Friday, will take place tomorrow.
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