Govt refuses to budge on internet law

By Adam Bennett

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

The Government says it will not alter its internet copyright legislation, despite UN criticism that such laws are an attack on human rights.

In a report issued late last week, UN special rapporteur Frank La Rue said access to the internet had become a human right and was an important way for people to "exercise their right to freedom of opinion and expression".

Mr La Rue said he was alarmed that some countries were enacting laws which would deny users access to the internet as a penalty for repeated illegal downloads of copyrighted material, such as films and music.

In April the Government passed such an anti-piracy law with the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act which included a provision to suspend internet accounts for up to six months after three offences.

The act, which provides for termination only if other sanctions proved ineffective, was passed following a debate in which National MP Jonathan Young likened the internet to the evil Skynet computer system from the Terminator films.

While several submissions on the law argued internet access was now a right, Commerce Minister Simon Power yesterday said he hadn't given that a great deal of thought.

"But the legislation that we passed ... was thoroughly consulted over a two-year period. I'm confident that it's been through just about every test and every forum it could have been to get to where it is today."

The Government had no intention of altering it.

"I'm very satisfied with where the legislation is ... I spent two and half years revisiting internet piracy and I have no intention of going back to it at this stage."

Greens MP Gareth Hughes said the UN report "should be a wake-up call to the Government" and he hoped it would persuade it not to enact termination as a penalty.

Labour's communications spokeswoman, Clare Curran, called for a complete review of New Zealand's intellectual property laws.

In his report, Mr La Rue said termination of internet users' connections, including on the grounds of intellectual property laws, was "disproportionate" and a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

New Zealand has ratified the covenant but has not incorporated it into law, although the Bill of Rights Act gives effect to many of its rights.

Mr La Rue urged countries to repeal laws allowing internet disconnection as a penalty.

- NZ Herald

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