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May 2, 2011 | by  | in News |
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You wouldn’t steal a car, but you’d download one if you could!

When they weren’t displaying Pokémon, Facebook profile pictures turned black over the university holidays as students rallied against new copyright lawPeople who download and share material like music and software risk having their internet connections cut off by the government under the Copyright (Infringing and File Sharing) Act, which was passed under urgency in April.

The law’s stated purpose is to give copyright holders the power to protect their property. It replaces similar legislation introduced by the previous Labour government which was widely criticised for its “guilt upon accusation” approach to account suspension.

Public opposition to the new law has quickly grown, with critics saying it repeats the worst parts of the previous legislation by retaining the provision for account suspension.

A Facebook page formed to oppose it has been “liked” by
over 10,000 people in three days, many of whom expressed
the opinion that internet access has become such a necessity
in day-to-day life that it should be considered a modern
human right.

Green MP Gareth Hughes agreed, stating in Parliament that “we should not have a provision in the Bill for account suspension”. The Green Party’s nine MPs, along with independents Chris Carter and Hone Harawira, were the only members who voted against the Bill which passed by 111 votes to 11.
Labour MPs expressed their “fundamental opposition” to account suspension during the debate but voted for the Bill.

“Our compromise position was to leave it in but require the Minister to put what’s called an Order In Council into effect to switch it on,” explains their Communications and IT Spokesperson Clare Curran.

The Order In Council means that the account suspension clause is ‘frozen’ until the Minister enables it. Critics of the Bill question why the power to cut off internet access is in the Bill if it is not going to be used.

Students spoken to by Salient disagree with the way the government has approached the issue of copyright.

“In its current state the bill is unenforcable. It’s a sad indication of the gulf between government and technical reality. The nature of the bill’s urgent passing and its almost unanimous parliamentary support highlights serious issues with the priorities of the major parties.”

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