New Copyright Laws in New Zealand

Mar 12, 2009

Activist group LinuxChix is warning of threats to Linux and open-source posed by new copyright laws in New Zealand. The proposed laws threaten to force ISPs to disconnect users and close websites accused of copyright infringement.

LinuxChix is a global community of women with an interest in Linux and open-source. Developer Brenda Wallace is a member of LinuxChix NZ. She sees great danger for providers and users of free software in her country if the new laws are implemented. “Many New Zealand businesses and community groups fear the threat of false copyright accusations against Linux could result in internet disconnection and website takedowns without due process. There is no requirement under the new law to prove the accusations, nor are there any sanctions against those who make false ones.” she says on the LinuxChix website.

Wallace uses the recently dismissed SCO vs. Unix-users court case as an example of how the laws could be misinterpreted. The US company tried to secure its copyright on parts of the Unix operating system. The litigation ran for five years, with SCO claims being finally thrown out in November 2008.

Says Wallace, “Already, the country's third largest ISP, TelstraClear, has stated it will take down sites accused of hosting copyright infringing material without investigation or verification of the claims...” and she adds; “Failure to act promptly could costs ISPs dearly. The NZ Ministry of Economic Development has advised that: "The ISP is required to consider the notice of infringement and as soon as possible after receiving the notice either delete the allegedly infringing material or prevent access to it. If the ISP fails to take prompt action after receiving the notice, it could be liable for copyright infringement even if it was not directly responsible for the posting of the infringing material on the website."

For Wallace, the "guilt upon accusation" principle is especially worrying. Speaking to the media, New Zealand's Prime Minister, John Key, insisted that international trade commitments require New Zealand to have copyright restrictions in place.

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