Today a new Copyright Law was passed in New Zealand. As a result, no New Zealander can be disconnected from the internet for illegal file sharing.
Labour negotiated with the Government on this Bill. We could have chosen not to and simply opposed it.
If we had, today I would be lamenting that New Zealand now had a law where people could, and would be, disconnected from the internet.
High moral ground. But empty ground.
Being in Opposition isn’t always about opposing. Sometimes you can make an impact on laws. There are times when negotiating an outcome that improves a law is better than taking a high moral stand and ending up with something that you, and many in the community, fundamentally can’t live with.
That’s what Labour’s done.
There’s been an intense reaction to the Bill in social media. I acknowledge, understand and am sympathetic to many of the criticisms and concerns raised by people who are deeply discomforted by having a termination provision in the law even if it is on ice.
The government’s bottom line was to have termination in the Bill. Ours was to not support it. The compromise position was to leave it in but require the Minister to put what’s called an Order In Council into effect to switch it on. This is very unlikely to happen.
The onus is now on the creative industries to prove there is a case to terminate access and that the notice system is not working. Rather than oppose it outright, we preferred to compromise to ensure New Zealanders are not denied access to the internet.
Account suspension remains in the bill and could theoretically be used in the future, but any Minister who implements termination will have to wear the consequences. It won’t be a Labour Minister.
Evidence before the select committee strongly indicated that sales of music and movies on the internet were going up, not down, and that the industry remains viable and strong, if needing to change the way it distributes material.
The fundamental issue here is why so many people illegal downloading and sharing material. This law will hopefulyl have the impact of educating more people who are illegally filesharing and don’t understand it is illegal. I would hope that New Zealanders do not condone illegal filesharing.
I strongly support and stand by Labour’s position. We are not the government. We could have remained on the sidelines and thrown stones. That would have meant a bad law and New Zealanders facing disconnection. We are fundamentally opposed to internet disconnection.
So we compromised. I think New Zealand is in a better place today because of that.
Here’s what I said in Parliament last night in the second reading