Guest on Bain

January 1st, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

David Fisher at NZ Herald reports:

David Bain’s first defence lawyer has emailed Justice Minister Judith Collins to say that, in his opinion, his former client had made a “damning admission” which in his view “shatters any suggestion of innocence”.

The email was sent by disbarred lawyer Michael Guest to the Minister of Justice on September 10, just weeks after she received a report from retired Canadian Justice Ian Binnie saying Mr Bain was “factually innocent” and should be compensated.

Mr Guest’s email became a factor in the decision to have Justice Binnie’s report peer reviewed. On September 26, Mrs Collins wrote to retired Justice Robert Fisher saying Mr Guest’s email, concerns from the police and her own issues “led me to consider that I need to proceed to this peer review”.

Mrs Collins confirmed the link to the Herald, saying it added to concerns raised by herself, the police and the Crown Law Office.

Mr Guest claimed in his email he was prompted to contact Mrs Collins after reading reports Mr Bain had been found “innocent”.

In a personal email, Mr Guest expressed his view to Mrs Collins which stated “finding that [Mr Bain] is innocent is not a correct conclusion”.

Mr Guest claimed he was freed from client confidentiality because of an earlier waiver by Mr Bain. He said he was concerned because neither he nor his co-counsel had been interviewed by Justice Binnie as part of the inquiry.

I would have thought that was sensible to do, even if you didn’t treat his views as determinative.

The claims focus on whether Mr Bain was wearing his mother’s glasses the weekend before the murders – the frame was found in his room and a lens in his brother Stephen’s room.

Mr Guest said he was told by Mr Bain he had been wearing the glasses. He said Justice Binnie could have found a way to take a different view on the evidence about the glasses “but, in my opinion, it shatters any suggestion of innocence”.

There seem to be two main possibilities. Either David Bain told the truth to his lawyer Guest, and later lied about it.

Or David Bain has always denied wearing the glasses the weekend before the murders, and his former lawyer has invented the story.

I understand this story was first reported on Monday in Truth. Their website may have more details later today.

Truth has put online the documents released under the OIA. The letter from Police listing the errors in Binnie’s report is very detailed.

The US and our copyright laws

May 4th, 2011 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Top copyright law professor Michael Geist blogs on how Wikileaks revealed the extent of the US lobbying pressure on our copyright laws:

Wikileaks has also just posted hundreds of cables from U.S. personnel in New Zealand that reveal much the same story including regular government lobbying, offers to draft New Zealand three-strikes and you’re out legislation, and a recommendation to spend over NZ$500,000 to fund a recording industry-backed IP enforcement initiative.

Yes, the US Embassy actually offered to do the rewrite of Section 92A. Thanks, but no thanks. We’ll write our own laws thanks.

Geist also notes:

Finally, an April 2005 cable reveals the U.S. willingness to pay over NZ$500,000 (US$386,000) to fund a recording industry enforcement initiative. The project was backed by the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ) and the Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (AMCOS).  Performance metrics include:

“The project’s performance will be judged by specific milestones, including increases in the number of enforcement operations and seizures, with percentages or numerical targets re-set annually.  The unit also will be measured by the number of reports it submits to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) on its contributions to IP protection and enforcement methodology.”

The proposed budget included four salaried positions, legal costs for investigation and prosecution, and training programs. The RIANZ still runs an anti-piracy site, but does not include disclosure about the source of funding.  It certainly raises the question of whether New Zealand is aware that local enforcement initiatives have been funded by the U.S. government and whether the same thing is occurring in Canada.

The current S92A is not too bad (but it should not have termination as an option), but the real danger is the TPPA negotiations. The US is demanding as part of those negotiations a total rewrite of our intellectual property laws in their favour. This is a price we should not be willing to pay, unless the trade gains from the deal are massive. To date the NZ Government has been resisting the demands. I hope they continue to do so.

All about ACTA

March 12th, 2010 at 10:05 am by David Farrar

I’ve blogged in the past on ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. Readers will gear a lot more of this in the next month, because the next meeting of the ACTA negotiators is in Wellington in April.

There are two major issues around ACTA. The first is that the negotiations are secret, and this has even upset the EU Parliament:

Wary of the lack of openness surrounding the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), virtually representatives of the EU parliament have banded together, voting 663 to 13 in favour of passing a resolution that would require the EU Commission (who are the EU’s representative in ACTA negotiations), to share all information about ACTA talks, and to refuse to support any Internet disconnection penalty for online copyright infringement.

The resolution is very specific and blunt about the EU Parliament’s displeasure with the lack of transparency around EU ACTA negotiations, citing concerns over the “lack of a transparent process in the conduct of the ACTA negotiations”.

The second is the concern that ACTA may force countries that ratify it, to legislate for Internet disconnection for people accussed or found to have infringed copyright.

Now, all trade agreements are negotiated privately, but whether an agreement on copyright law should be seen as a trade agreement is a big issue – most IP agreements are not. Many countries would like to be more open about ACTA, but the rules of trade negotiations are that you need unanimous permission to agree to anything – including releasing information. So just one country, such as the US, can block the release of the draft text.

I’ve attended two meetings (in my role with InternetNZ) with officials from MFAT and MED, and have to say I am impressed with their willingness to engage, within the limits of what they can say. They have consistently said their position has been that ACTA should not require NZ to do anything beyond its current law (including the replacement S92A). However they can not tell us what has been proposed by other countries, and the concern is what pressure there may be to get an agreement in the final stages.

What the Government has done is asked for public submissions on “enforcement of intellectual property rights in the digital environment”. If you have concerns about ACTA, you should take a few minutes to make a submission and state what is and is not acceptable to you. Topics include:

  • Liability of ISPs for third party infringement
  • Safe Harbour provisions for ISPs and associated conditions
  • Identifying Infringing Users
  • TPMs (Technological Protection Measures)

Now despite the ACTA negotiations being secret, a draft text has been leaked. And, assuming it is accurate, it shows the New Zealand negotiators in a pretty favourable light – opposing some of the more undesirable aspects.

Nathan Torkington covers this in a blog post. His summary:

On the balance this bit isn’t too bad–New Zealand is a good voice for sanity in the negotiations.

I was pleased to see from the leaked draft, that the official position of the NZ negotiators, was very much in line with the informal indications they had given. It is ironic that we can only verify this, because someone leaked a draft.

Now as I said the next round of ACTA, and the round most likely to be discussing the Internet section, is in Wellington from 12 to 16 April. I am hoping the organisers will allow an opportunity for some sort of public forum or dialogue with negotiators, and this request has been made.

InternetNZ has organised a PublicACTA conference on Saturday 10 April, which will allow interested people to debate the issues, form positions, and report them to the main ACTA negotiations the following week.

And in a further announcement, the keynote speaker will be Professor Michael Geist, the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa in Ontario. Michael is a real expert in this area, and a great advocate for balance in copyright laws.

I would recommend people attend, just for the chance to hear Michael. And if you wish to stay up to date with what is happening, I recommend this ACTA coalition site.

Copyright changes

April 11th, 2008 at 11:48 am by David Farrar

Been meaning to blog on this since the changes to the Copyright Act were passed on Tuesday with all but the Greens and the Maori Party against. It would be a very very close call, but if I was a (non whipped) MP I would probably have voted against as the law is so inconsistent. The major points:

  • One can now legally format shift music (say from a CD you purchase to an Ipod), but music labels can opt out of allowing this in their sale conditions.
  • However you can not format shift other works, such as a movie from a DVD to your laptop or to a Video Ipod.
  • It is legal to record a TV programme to watch it later, but you can only legally keep it for as long as is reasonable to have viewed it at a more convenient time.
  • ISPs have been given an exemeption for their technical operations, such as caching files, which in theory can breach copyright.
  • Content Hosters though have only limited liability for material uploaded by their customers. If they receive a complaint alleging a copyright infringement, the ISP becomes liable unless they delete the material. This means in the case of disputes, the ISP has to act as Judge and Jury or risk being sued, and there is some evidnece from overseas that (for example) the Church of Scientology uses such copyright laws as a way to silence critics.
  • A “notice and notice” regime was rejected in favour of the US style “notice and takedown described above. The NaN regime would have meant that if a content hoster receives a complaint, they must pass it onto their customer. If the customer does not respond or agrees to remove the material, then it is taken down. However if the customer disputes they are infringing copyright, then the ISP is not held liable, but merely provides the customer’s details to the complainant so they can negotiate or sort it out in court directly.
  • The law enshrines special protection for technological protection devices, even though they can sometimes restrict people from legal actions such as making backup copies, or format shifting. TPMs are hugely unpopular and most of the music industry are dropping them.

Has been lots of comments in various areas. First of all Canadian Professor Michael Geist (a expert and advocate for fair use copyright laws) says the law isn’t great but a lot better than what was planned for Canada. He thinks the parts dealing with circumventing TPMs are pretty good.

Steven Price has an excellent post on the notice and takedown regime, its strengths and weaknesses.  I think the Minister, Judith Tizard, has also indicated they will look in future at stronger fair use provisions, which could help.

Russell Brown blogged on the law also.  InternetNZ (I chaired their working group on this issue) calls it a missed opportunity, which it is.

On the bright side, the MPAA is looking a movie download site in NZ, where people can purchase movies. This is a laudable idea, as it is important that people are given legal avenues to access material. We have had the situation in the past where one could not purchase music legally for your Ipod in NZ, and where popular TV shows are not available here for months and months after they show overseas.  The world is a global market, and making works available globally for legal purchase and download will help reduce illegal downloads.