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I am angry.

Last night under urgency Parliament got a new law about internet and copyright almost all the way through. Three things about this make me angry:

(1) The law specifies that if you are accused of downloading illegally, you are presumed guilty (more info)

(2) The law gives government the power to punish a person by removing access to the internet entirely

(3) A controversial law such as this should not be put through under Parliamentary urgency.

More info about the bill is here.

This is a shameful episode in NZ politics. Bad law, and indefensible process. You cannot legislate morality, and you cannot legislate to fix technological failure.

Both major parties voted for this law. Only the Greens opposed (with two independent MPs). Remember that at election time.

{ 15 } Comments

  1. Ivan | April 14, 2011 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Urgency seems a deeply problematic feature of the NZ parliamentary process. There seem to be no constraints on its use, and no price for using it instead of doing things properly. Is anything being done about fixing it?

  2. morgue | April 14, 2011 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Don’t know what’s happening, but all the political bloggers have been kicking up about it lately – to the extent that the semi-official Labour blog and the semi-official National blog made a joint post just yesterday, agreeing that something must be done.

    It’s the abuse of urgency that upsets me the most about this, no question.

  3. Ivan | April 14, 2011 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Can you post the links for those? I’d be interested to read what they’re saying. It’s weird, urgency has become such a threat to the norms of parliamentary government, yet to apolitical folks it must seem like such a wonkish procedural detail that it’s hard to see where popular pressure comes from.

  4. morgue | April 14, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    The Dim-Post has the charts, and links to the other posts I mentioned:

  5. billy | April 14, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    Boing Boing are reporting on this.

  6. Jon B | April 14, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    1st of September rolls around. I produce a piece of music, which I copywrite. I accuse John Key of illegally downloading it. John Key must defend my charge?

    Why don’t we all just do this?

  7. china shop | April 14, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    I kind of feel like I’m just waiting for this government to end so we can start repealing all the stupid stuff they’ve done. 😛

  8. china shop | April 14, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    P.S. That emoticon was not supposed to be happy!

  9. morgue | April 14, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    [Jon B’s comment rescued from approvals. I don’t know if Jon’s protest action would work – but it raises the question of what minimum standard is required by the law? Will go looking tonight.]

  10. ipsi | April 14, 2011 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    The problem with Jon B’s suggestion is simply that ISPs can charge you for it. So whether or not it’s worth doing depends entirely on how much they charge for the service of issuing infringement notices…

  11. Jamie | April 14, 2011 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    I really thought Labour had totally missed a trick here – they could’ve nabbed the votes that National have invariably lost if they’d publicly opposed this bill. But then I learnt that they’d actively supported it! I was confused – “why on earth are both major parties so damn keen to get this through so quickly and covertly?”, I asked myself. Then I read this:

  12. Hutch | April 14, 2011 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

    Actually, while I agree with you, your (next to) final statement, you cannot legislate morality is utterly wrong. Of course you can – key highlights, human rights, absolutely moral – homosexual law reform, absolutely moral – prostitution bill, absolutely moral… many, many laws are morality based, drug laws, equal rights laws. I think you mean a jurisprudential distinction between moral and ethical ruling.

  13. morgue | April 14, 2011 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

    Hutch: yeah, caught out by the soundbite approach. What I meant to convey is not in those few words unless the reader is quite psychic. I was going for this: the public view of the morality/immorality of filesharing copyrighted content cannot be changed by laws. The big music companies, for example, dearly hope that they can create moral outrage around illegal downloading. That just isn’t going to happen, just like it never happened around the “home taping is killing music” nonsense.

    (When viable legal alternatives are developed, then that might allow for moral judgement to kick in, but right now – no.)

    Jamie: yeah. If I was a betting man, that’s where I’d lay my chips.

    ipsi: ha! that’s a practical problem I hadn’t expected, but a pretty powerful one!

  14. Kiwi in Zurich | May 4, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    Morgue, you can legislate morality. We do it all the time. Think back to Legal 101. One of the purposes of law is to set the moral tone/reflect societal values. I’m not suggesting that you can change morality by the law, at least not beyond those people who are the level that they can’t decide for themselves what’s right or wrong, but you can legislate morality. Anti-abortions laws are a good easy example. But I think what you’re probably saying is that you can’t change someone’s morals through legislation. For the most part I agree with that.

    Ivan: MMP is a check on the legislative process. That is one of the strongest arguments for MMP. NZ was rightly called one of the fastest laws in the West before the introduction of MMP. MMP serves as a control on that. For a law like urgency is a complete abuse of process. Urgency exists exactly as the name would indicate, to push through urgent laws….responses to catastrophes, national emergencies etc. It is a complete abuse of process to use it for a law that is not in and of itself urgent.

  15. Kiwi in Zurich | May 4, 2011 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    Morgue, I see that this point was addressed previously. I should have read the comments through first! Apologies.