Copyright law dust-up turns into a war of words

By Pat Pilcher

It's official, the recording industry has thrown its toys out of the cot after critics have roundly condemned the controversial Section 92A of the Copyright Amendment (New Technologies) Act.

The Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) Director, Anthony Healey has labelled criticism of the looming legislation as mischievous, saying accusations of the new legislation are "...a continued attack on our songwriters whose ability to make a living from their music has already been compromised by widespread illegal file sharing on the internet by those who believe it everything should be free and by the internet companies that profit from it".

Advocates of artistic freedom, The Creative Freedom Foundation, the bulk of whose membership is made up by musicians and artists dispute this and have responded by saying that "No one is seriously saying that "everything should be free" - especially not the Creative Freedom Foundation."

They then go further to say that "APRA appears to be arguing a black and white case - that you are either for this law, or believe that everything should be free. This stance is both ill-informed and absurd."

From February 28, Section 92A will requires ISPs to develop a code to act on to deal with alleged repeat copyright infringers.

Expectations are that accused copyright offenders will initially be warned with suspected repeat offenders ultimately being disconnected by their ISP.

Criticisms levelled at the legislation have slated it as being impractical to enforce, expensive for ISPs and unfair in that accused internet users are effectively penalised (disconnected) and then forced to appeal.

APRA Board member, Arthur Baysting has added his voice to this war of words by saying that " APRA NZ has 6,000 members, all of them songwriters.

"Music has real economic value and our music writers deserve food on the table and a roof over their head."

Other APRA members are less than supportive. The Creative Freedom Foundation have responded to his statement by saying that "The Creative Freedom Foundation would like to propose that the list for artists be extended to food on their table, a roof over their head, and access to the internet without fear of being wrongly disconnected."

Further complicating matters, dissenters appear to be emerging amongst APRA's 6,000+ membership. APRA member, Anthony Milas, says: "This law is poorly written and poorly thought-out in such ways that could lead to abuse of the basic human rights of ordinary individuals.

"If anything, the public backlash sure to result from such a situation will make it even more difficult to educate the public and convince lawmakers of the necessity of sensible laws to protect creators rights.".

Musician APRA member, Phil Brownlee has also questioned the organisation's approach, saying that "As an APRA member, the thing that really strikes me about their public position is that it's not based on consultation with actual members (Or, if it was, not all of them.)"

At present APRA, RIANZ, the Telecommunications Carrier Forum and other industry groups are working to develop a code of practice ahead of Section 92A coming into force at the end of February. According to the APRA press release, The code of practice is expected be released for public discussion shortly by the (TCF).

Pat Pilcher works for Telecom, but does not represent the views of the company.

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