TelstraClear kill off s92A Code

TelstraClear have killed off the Code of Practice designed to try and get workable process around the deeply flawed s92A. They have said they will veto the code at the TCF Board. TCF rules allow any board member to veto.

I was initially pissed off at TelstraClear, because all the hundreds of hours of work put into the code are now wasted. But upon reflection, I think they have have done the right thing by stepping back and saying this law is just so bad, we can;t make it workable through a code. Their submission explains:

TelstraClear considers that there is a fundamental problem with the TCF being a party to any code of this nature, which is that the code would be based on flawed legislation.

In TetstraClear’s view, any industry code would simply be an attempt to tidy up poorly drafted legislation. TelstraClear does not consider this to be the responsibility of the TCF. Indeed the best outcome would be if s92A was repealed. Failing that, it should be amended to address the above concerns:

So there will be no TCF code. The other ISPs can continue work on the code as an unofficial grouping, but it would be madness to have s92A come into force with no code in place.

The submission on the code are very interesting, and I hope MPs look at some of them. Take this submission from the leading IT jurist in NZ – Judge David Harvey. is also the former Chair of the Tribunal so about as authoritiative as you can get on this area:

This section is poorly drafted and makes a number of unsupported assumptions, but in essence it suggests that an Internet service provider must develop a policy to cancel an existing contract as a result of copyright infringement.

The reality of the matter is that the cancellation or termination of the contract arises at the behest, not of the Internet service provider, but of copyright owners. Without significant justification in normal circumstances this could amount to an interference with economic relations and raises significant issues about the sanctity of contract.

Judge Harvey further concludes:

section 92A is unnecessary and gives rise to a situation where a person may be deprived of rights under a contract without proper legal process.

Does the Government really want to persist with s92A bearing in mond those comments, and that there will now be no TCF code?

If it had been Parliament’s intention to provide for a process whereby contract termination should take place, Parliament should have provided such process by legislation after proper consultation with all interested parties.

This is basically TCL’s point. You can’t ask private players to determine these rights when the law is so silent on details.

The Australian ISP Association has commented:

As mentioned above, we are aware that a concerted worldwide effort has been made by rights holders in the music and film industries over the past two years to lobby for the introduction of a ‘notice and disconnect’ scheme along the lines of that proposed in the Code. In spite of that, no ‘notice and disconnect’ scheme has been implemented anywhere in the world.

Yay, we could be first. In fact that is why the US groups are pushing so hard – they want us to be an international template.

In all jurisdictions (except France) where the introduction of ‘notice and disconnect’ schemes have been considered and consulted on by Governments, there is now a general move away from any scheme which requires ISPs to terminate internet accounts, on the basis of an allegation of infringement from rights holders.

The whole world except Judith Tizard has realised what a bad idea this is.

Auckland University says:

The main problem is in Section 92A of the Copyright Act which we believe should be removed from the Act or, if it is to remain in some form, then substantially redrafted with input from stakeholders as would have happened during a select committee process.

The Auckland District Law Society:

Section 92A represents a mechanism whereby the copyright holder, an unrelated third party, can interfere with the contractual rights between an ISP and a customer, where the customer is identified as a repeat copyright infringer. Under common law, that could, without significant justification, amount to the tort of interference with contractual relations.

This law is just as flawed as the Electoral Finance Act. When the former Chair of the Copyright Tribunal, the and the country’s largest university says the law needs to repealed or amended, it is time to do so.

National did the right thing by delaying the introduction until a code could be completed. But we now know that unless the law is amended, a code is not going to happen, so time to introduce a bill amending or repealing the clause.

UPDATE: Also worth reading the submission from the Society of Authors. They are as pro-copyright as anyone, yet they say:

The NZ Society of Authors is concerned about the introduction of the proposed s92A of the Copyright Act 1994. Whilst we strongly support the need for measures to control repeat copyright infringement we feel that this clause is not ideal – it has been hastily written and we recommend the need for further discussion.

We feel that should Section 92A be implemented, it is imperative that the Code of Practice be effective and respectful of the rights to freedom of expression.

Radio NZ has said no disconnection should occur without a court order unless there is an independent body established by the Government to rule on any disputes.

And Internet giant Google has also made a submission:

Section 92A puts users’ procedural and fundamental rights at risk, by threatening to terminate users’ Internet access based on mere allegations and reverse the burden of proof onto a user to establish there was no infringement. …

Copyright law is often complex and context sensitive, and only a court is qualified to adjudicate allegations of copyright infringement. Indeed, in Google’s experience, there are serious issues regarding the improper use and inaccuracy of copyright notices by rights holders. In this context, the responsibility should not fall to ISPs to determine cases of infringement.

It is very relevant that Google has testified that many rightholders notices are inaccurate and indeed improper.

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