New Zealand’s parliament has officially rushed through a bill making it illegal for users to share copyright material. Although we have heard the likes of this law before, it has never managed to stand its ground – until now. This time, the government means business.
The Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill passed by 111 votes on April 14th. It was supported by all parties except the Greens and independent MPs Chris Carter and Hone Harawira.
Needless to say, the announcement of the new law was met with massive public outrage and protest, including the revival of the 2009 "blackout” protest on social media sites such as Twitter(a response to the government’s last attempt to outlaw illegal file-sharing two years ago).
The bill cracks down on illegal file-sharing with a three strike policy, giving those suspected of downloading pirated material from the internet three warnings before slapping them with a $15,000 fine and possible internet disconnection.
Opponents of the bill, including InternetNZ director Dave Moskovitz, have questioned why the bill was rushed through parliament in urgency – a measure previously used to speed up the passage of Christchurch earthquake legislation. Moskovitz said he was "pissed off” at the government’s abuse of the measure.
At this point in time, New Zealand is the only country in the world to have passed this law. This combined with the controversy surrounding the bill itself, combined with the rush in which it all occurred, has not only resulted in public outcry and protest, but has also encouraged several conspiracy theories.
One such theory maintains that the decision to rush the bill through was based on this year’s filming of the Hobbit in New Zealand. After speculation that the movie might be filmed elsewhere, some people have gotten the idea that this bill was passed as a way to make nice with Warner Brothers (as many of their films are illegally streamed online) to ensure that filming of the long anticipated Lord of the Rings prequel stays in New Zealand.
Regardless of why the bill was passed with such urgency (or at all), the fact remains that it did pass and it looks like it’s here to stay. What’s more, in two years time if the new regime is not working and lots of people are still illegally downloading, the Commerce Minister may introduce an even tougher regime which could lead to the suspension of accounts. Yikes!