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Digital copyright debated in the House and online

Gareth Hughes MP
Gareth Hughes MP
gareth [dot] hughes [at] parliament [dot] govt [dot] nz (Email)

It was a privilege to speak in Parliament last night and oppose the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill that passed this morning under urgency.

It was also a fun debate, with some hilarious gaffes made by National MPs who got their inter-webs mixed up with their Skynets that have been immortalised in online parodies. There was a parallel debate occurring online – on message boards, Twitter and Facebook – that I was also participating in that showed the power of the internet to facilitate communication and broaden political engagement.

The Green Party were the only party to oppose the legislation, and has always opposed and continues to oppose, internet account suspension as a punishment for infringing file sharing. I outline the Green Party’s position in this speech.

In a nutshell though, the Green Party thinks the current Bill is significantly better than its predecessor and is glad that through a select committee compromise, termination will not be enacted immediately except through a Ministerial decision. However, it is likely just a delay and we cannot support it to be written into law.

We believe account suspension is a bad precedent, is disproportionate to the problem and will not solve the problem. We support Kiwi copyright holders and think the use of fines rather than Internet suspension is a more appropriate and proportionate sanction for file sharing. Access to the Internet has become a necessity in an era when more and more public and private services are only provided online.

Labour have taken an interesting approach to this legislation. In my committee stage speech below, I go a little in-depth into Labour’s so-called ‘compromise’. Labour try to explain why they supported it in their own blog and state that they are “fundamentally opposed to internet disconnection”, yet still they voted to support the bill that contains this clause and voted against my amendment to remove it. I question how fundamental their objection is.

I wrapped up the final reading of the Bill by arguing for a whole revisit of copyright as an issue in the modern world and by thanking the Twits, Facebookers and Bloggers for engaging in the debate.

So, what now? It seems that this debate has prompted the revival of the Blackout campaign and the next questions we need answers to are: what threshold will the Minister use; will a public consultation be run to enact account suspension; and will Labour pledge to remove the clause if they become Government?

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