Labour to abolish termination as a copyright option

Clare Curran blogs at Red Alert:

If elected, we will introduce a Bill within 90 days to remove the termination clauses from the Copyright Act. Those clauses, which give the District Court the ability to impose account suspension as a remedy for infringing file sharing – can’t work in the long term.

This is a welcome policy from Labour. Congrats to Clare to have got Labour to change their position so radically. Three years ago the law was to require ISPs to terminate all repeat copyright infringers (based on accusation), and now it is to remove termination as an option.

This is a good example of the difference a dedicated spokesperson can make.

It is worth noting that the termination clauses are a “reserve” power at the moment, and can only be activated by Cabinet if they feel the current regime has failed to work. I don’t think it is likely they would ever be activated, but I certainly would much prefer the option is taken off the table – as Labour is proposing.

What this means, is that if a future National Government does ever try to activate the termination clause, it would be vigorously opposed by Labour as well as the Greens (and much of the community), which should reduce the chance of it happening also.

Labour will also undertake a review of the Copyright Act, with the aim of introducing a new Copyright Bill within 18 months that updates and extends the framework for digital copyright in New Zealand.

The first phase of the review will be to commission an independent analysis of the problems with the status quo from an eminent expert, such as the review Professor Hargreaves has recently conducted for the UK Prime Minister, and then consultation on a draft Bill before it is introduced.

New Zealand’s Copyright Act has been half-heartedly adapted for the Internet age.  Instead of more piece-meal reforms, we need to transform our digital intellectual property framework, to bring it into the 21st century and to promote innovation and growth in our economy

I’m supportive of this also. I hope any such review (if Labour do form Government) is what I would call a first principles review of copyright – asking what is the correct balance between economic protection and public use in today’s world. This is more than just asking how can we make the law better. I would see such a fundamental review as being more than an 18 month exercise.

The focus should also be on more than just digital copyright. We should also debate issues such as fair use vs fair dealing, protection for use for satire or parody etc. The debate should be about these basic issues, before we even get onto how then does it apply in the digital environment.

Overall though a very welcome announcement from Labour. Well done.

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