In a beautiful twist of irony, New Zealand parliament member Melissa Lee has been caught in a copyright quagmire. It turns out that just hours before she spoke out in support of the controversial new copyright law being rushed through parliament, she tweeted how pleased she was with a compilation of K-Pop songs a friend copied for her.
This week the New Zealand Government rushed through its controversial 3 strikes-style law as part of Christchurch earthquake emergency legislation. This means that after being ‘suspected’ of sharing copyrighted material online three times, people may be fined and lose their Internet access for six months.
The legislation was brought up again quite unexpectedly this week, despite massive opposition and public outrage that delayed it last year. But this time around there was little room for protest, as it was just a matter of hours before the Bill passed.
As is often the case when politicians decide on copyright-related matters, their very own actions with regard to copyright are being carefully scrutinized. This can lead to awkward situations, something Member of Parliament Melissa Lee found out herself this week.
Just hours before giving a speech in support of the three-strikes law which is supposed to protect the copyright holders, she sent out the following tweet:
So, while Lee was condemning today’s youth and their lack of respect for copyright, she more than likely infringed on the rights of several K-Pop musicians. After all, making a music compilation and handing it over to a friend is not allowed under New Zealand’s copyright law.
Surprised by the call-out, Lee defended herself by saying that the songs were downloaded legally and paid for. But unfortunately for her that doesn’t mean much. As the National Business Review points out, when a friend makes a copy of songs that were legally bought, the recipient of the ‘gift’ is still guilty of copyright infringement.
So it appears that Lee got her first strike already, and since the burden of proof is on the alleged infringer under the new legislation, it’s up to her to prove that she’s innocent. That’s only fair, right?
Although it’s easy to call Lee’s mistake out as hypocrisy, it might be even worse than that. What if she truly believes that copying a legally bought song for a friend is okay? That would mean that even legislators who vote on copyright legislation don’t fully grasp what they’re doing.
In her speech Lee said that it’s perfectly legal to share a DVD or music album with a friend. But does she know that it’s not that straightforward? The laws she helped to pass state that people can’t share a legally bought MP3 with someone, unless they share the entire device it is bought on.
Back to copyright school we say!
The New Zealand government has surprised the public and even some MPs by moving to rush through its controversial 3 strikes-style legislation today. The new measures will allow for users to be disconnected from the Internet for up to 6 months, based on infringement claims from copyright holders.
In a surprise development, during the next few hours New Zealand’s government is to rush through legislation that will target Internet users who share copyrighted material online without rightsholder permission.
The Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill, which unanimously passed its first reading in Parliament in April 2010, will put in place a 3 strikes-style regime, whereby Internet service providers will be initially required to send warning letters to alleged infringers at the behest of rights holders.
New Zealand’s Copyright Tribunal will be empowered to rule on cases of alleged repeat infringement and will be given the authority to hand down fines up to a maximum of $15,000 ($11,733 US).
For repeat offenders, a six month period of Internet disconnection may be applied, a measure too far for Green MP Gareth Hughes who wasn’t even aware the Bill was coming up today.
”It really surprised me because we haven’t debated it since November,” he said.
Hughes later confirmed he would request an amendment to remove the suspension clause but a spokesperson for Commerce Minister Simon Power said it would be opposed. While the Greens are against disconnections, they supports the Bill in principle.
Today’s second reading of the Bill is being accompanied by a Supplementary Order Paper (SOP) which in part is aimed at clarifying burden of proof issues in a current clause.
According to intellectual property lawyer Rick Shera, the clause created a presumption in favour of copyright owners and the changes being considered remove the reference to the presumption of guilt being “conclusive”.
“I do act for a number of copyright owners, I can’t see why there is a need for a presumption, I mean if copyright owners are sure of their evidence then they would simply submit that evidence to the copyright tribunal,” Shera told NBR. “The tribunal is perfectly capable of weighing up whose evidence is better, that’s what tribunals do all the time.”
The Bill is expected to pass its third and final stage during the next few hours. The news is already causing protests on Twitter, where users are calling for a repeat of last year’s demonstrations.