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New Zealand ditches controversial copyright law

March 23, 2009 | 11:04 am
Copyrightcushion
Credit: openDemocracy via Flickr.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key announced today that he was scrapping an amendment to the nation's copyright law that had enraged free-culture advocates around the Web. Section 92a, which was scheduled to go into effect later this week, would have required Internet service providers to implement a system for shutting off the connections of repeat copyright infringers.

Online rights advocates, such as the people at New Zealand's Creative Freedom Foundation, had seized on a few rather glaring omissions in the measure: There was no explicit definition of "infringer," nor was there a requirement that infringement be legally proved. To freedom fighters, this meant that even an accusation of infringement could count as a strike against someone, and that because ISPs are not in the business of investigating the merits of alleged violations, it would be easier for them to yank connections than to adjudicate every complaint.

Loud protests of this "guilt by accusation" law echoed around the Web in February, spawning Facebook groups, a "blackout" protest and even a pretty good "copywrong" song. But now the demonstrators have what they wanted.

"Section 92a is not going to come into force as originally written,"  Key said, according to Agence France-Presse.  "We have now asked the minister of commerce to start work on a replacement section."

Opponents of 92a are already claiming a netroots victory, and there's no doubt that the Web of outrage they spun contributed to the law's demise. But before we call this a proof of concept for online democracy, let's get a few more examples of 'Net protest in action, preferably where the policies being targeted are less obviously flimsy and lame. Economy, anyone?

-- David Sarno

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