Blacked Out – no “Guilt Upon Accusation”

Written on 18 February 2009, 4 min read.

If you’re reading this post via the website rather than a feed/planet then you will notice that the site has gone completely black in support of the Creative Freedom Foundation’s campaign against S92A of the NZ Copyright Amendment Act which is due to come into effect on 28th February 2009. I’ve also joined the wave of people blacking out their “avatar” on Facebook/Jabber/MSN, etc.

S92A introduces “Guilt Upon Accusation” whereby if you are accused of copyright infringement (downloading music and movies, etc) “repeatedly” (likely 3 or more times) you are at risk of being disconnected from the Internet by your ISP. The law does not require any proof or substantiation of the accusations and the entire process would occur outside of the courts and the established legal system. Not only does it place every user at risk, the wording is very unclear on exactly what type of organisation is considered an ISP and there is significant concern that schools, businesses, libraries and hospitals will be placed in the difficult position of determining whether their users have broken the law and require disconnection.

Opposition to the law is not an attack on copyright, or a statement that we should be free to download all the movies and music that we desire. Those sorts of activities are clearly wrong, and I don’t have any issue with copyright holders wanting to enforce their rights when their content is illegally copied. However, disconnecting people upon accusation, with no proof or formal legal process to prove guilt is not the right way to go about it.

The fact that the law does not require proof of guilt is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of problems with it. For further background on the problems it causes for ISPs by placing them as the middle-man in copyright disputes you should refer to the following posts:

Finally, I think it is worth pointing out that S92A was removed from the proposed Amendment at the select committee stage, but was later reintroduced by Judith Tizard during the final reading of the bill. Mark Harris has an excellent post on the history of the amendment which includes facts such as the official report on the amendment also recommended removing S92A as it was unecessary given existing ISP terms and conditions which forbid illegal activity. The fact that the select committee (based on public submissions) recognised the problems with S92A and removed it, only to have it added back in again at the last stage when we no longer had any say on it really hacks me off and I cant’ help but feel the influence of the “big money” American media companies pressuring our politicians to pass a law that they don’t really understand the full consequences of.

So what is to be done? The Blacked Out campaign, being run by the Creative Freedom Foundation is gathering steam and international attention. Peter Dunne of United Future (who originally voted for the amendment) has declared that the amendment is wrong, and doesn’t do what they thought they were voting to do, we need to convince National and the rest of the house of the same. Time is running out for this to happen before the amendment comes into effect on Feb 28th, but there is still time to write to your local MP and sign the petition against S92A “Guilt Upon Accusation”. The Creative Freedom Foundation site has a nice easy list of what you can do to register your protest.


Comment by Paul Marques Mota on 2009-02-18 22:27:47 +1200

I’ve been meaning to write something about those kind of issues for the longest time, your post motivated me enough to actually do it. The Multatuli Project can now be found on