Internet account ban no worse than driving penalty
Subscribe now for $100 (23 issues) and save more than 37% off the cover price!
Get the latest news from Computerworld delivered via email.
Sign up now
The Law Society suggests courts should have the power to ban someone found guilty of a sufficiently serious on-line copyright breach from having any internet account for the period of an account disconnection penalty.
The suggestion is contained in the Society’s submission to the Commerce Select Committee on the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill. In the Bill as it presently stands, the ban only applies to the internet account used to commit the breach in question. The maximum suspension period is six months.
“During this period a subscriber can easily open an account with another ISP and immediately continue illegal file sharing,” says the Law Society’s submission. “There should be a power to allow the Court to order that the account holder cannot open an account with another ISP during the period of the suspension.”
With this contention the Society has “gone out on a limb”, says intellectual-property and ICT lawyer Rick Shera. “No other submission has suggested this,” he says.
One of the writers of the submission, Clive Elliott, also an IP and ICT lawyer, says such a penalty is not unusual. There is a lot of talk about internet access being a human right, but even if it is, the law is still entitled to abridge such rights as punishment for a sufficiently grave illegal act, Elliott says.
The chief body that levies penalties under the law as envisaged is the Copyright Tribunal. The Courts will only be involved, Elliott points out, in a case where someone has continued to break the law after repeated warnings.
If you commit a serious driving offence, he says, you are not just banned from driving the vehicle in which the offence has been committed; you are banned from driving any vehicle. If you are guilty of harassing your domestic partner, you may be served with an order which will also stop you from having contact with your children, even though you did not offend against them.
Shera says this is a false comparison. The offences Elliott refers to are crimes, he says; “copyright breach is a civil wrong” and a standard of punishment appropriate to a crime should not be applied.
“[There is] no indication of how the Society expects such a prohibition to be policed,” Shera says on his blog “or why it considers that the adverse consequences of complete termination are justified. In fact, to enforce this we'd have to adopt some sort of centralised blacklist a la France's HADOPI or as was at the last minute discarded from the Digital Economy Act in the UK. No thanks.”
Elliott acknowledges that a ban on having any internet account would be difficult to enforce, but the mechanics of this are not for the Law Society to work out, he says.
In any case, Elliott adds, what the Law Society suggests is not a complete ban on accessing the internet, just a ban on holding a personal account. The person under such a penalty can still go to an internet café, “to go on Facebook and all those other things you do on the internet”.
Computerworld suggested (as did Shera when interviewed) that paying taxes and doing accounts through an internet cafe would present grave risks. In such cases, Elliott says, the post or personal delivery is still an option.
However, this is not always available, Shera says. “The only way lawyers can conduct conveyancing transactions is by using the Government's Landonline internet portal,” he says on his blog. “If accepted, the Society's submission would prevent a repeat copyright infringing Society conveyancer from practising altogether.
“I don't condone copyright infringement for one moment,” he says, but how can my Society really suggest that preventing its members from practising is a fair penalty for copyright infringement?”
At any rate, so copyright infringement (ie stealing IP) results in being banned from holding an internet account. So stealing something physical from a shop should get you banned from entering ANY shop, right? Dont worry, you could still use personal messengers to get your food for your family tho!
This Elliott guy is the whole problem with the IP wars, he's using old skool logic and applying it to a future he no longer understands, law makers and copyright holders need to finding new ways to make IP theft pointless (think ad based net streaming ala Spotify/Rdio/Pandora). As others have pointed out, via router hacks and VPNs the hackers and freetards are Legion and WILL find a way around any roadblocks in their way, you can't fight them so just find a way to make it easier to get what you want without having to be a crim!
Posted by Nick Foote at 23:44:25 on August 6, 2010
If you do get caught doing it as someone jacked your wifi connection or managed to download something on your connection, give up your PC to have evidence found that YOU did the download or some random plugged in his laptop to download.
Posted by Random at 10:18:51 on August 5, 2010
That what you want determining if you can use the internet or not?
As for "giving up your PC to have evidence found", I have to ask, have you ever used a computer or any sort of wireless networking? There isn't much in the way of evidence to be found at all.
As usual, there's a lot of CSI-induced fantasy and not a lot of reality behind this thought process. Computer forensics are not that easy. Best case scenario, the examiner finds no traces of piracy on the system. That still isn't proof you didn't download it, and the media company will keep screaming that it was your IP address.
Guess which the court is going to accept? (Hint: it won't be your claim that you didn't download anything)
Posted by Matt P at 10:29:22 on August 6, 2010
Are you perchance a Law Society member? The inanity of your comments and anonymity suggest as much.
All New Zealanders should be seriously concerned by such potentially serious infringements of their civil liberties.
Posted by Stephen Roberts at 11:08:27 on August 5, 2010
There is no comparison between that an the issue of people infringing copyright. None.
Attempting to make that comparison is disingenuous and self-serving. Either that or it's flat out stupid.
Posted by Dave Lane at 11:20:23 on August 4, 2010
IMO too many discussions like this are based upon a bunch of plausible sounding yet purely hypothetical scenarios.
Posted by Anonymous at 10:52:16 on August 4, 2010
If I can't pay my taxes because my Wifi router gets hacked, and I get banned from having the internet, I will be charged penalties... Great system.
Posted by Anonymous at 10:51:14 on August 4, 2010
The funny thing is that we don't cut off other services such as electricity, water and food supply. Why should the actions of a child downloading some files compromise the entire household? Intenet disconnection is a collective punishment; you punish more than the person responsible.
Punish people with fines or community service if necessary, but why punish their entire family?
Posted by Peter Harrison at 9:18:55 on August 4, 2010
They're just a dirty old lobby group for drumming up business for lawyers. Of course they want lawyers to get a new, disproportionate law they can hang large number of NZers with. The movie industry will need to hire layers to prosecute and if you contest it, you'll need a lawyer. It's time the government put an end to their sham just like they did REINZ.
Posted by Steve at 18:23:38 on August 3, 2010
Posted by JC Carter at 17:24:33 on August 3, 2010