The National and Labour parties have reached a compromise on the most hotly debated feature of the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Bill, meaning that for the time being at least, no copyright infringer will be in danger of having their internet account suspended, even by a Court order.
The Commerce Select Committee has tabled its report back to Parliament, which recommends an amendment that the termination provision not be available until authorised by an Order in Council, enacted by the Commerce Minister.
“Without this compromise Labour could not have supported the Bill,” says committee member and Opposition ICT spokeswoman Clare Curran.
“The evidence produced at the select committee identified that suspension of internet access was not only potentially disproportionate but the evidence was very clear that it wouldn’t work because those infringing persistently and deliberately would be able to circumvent disconnection with multiple Internet Service Provider connections,” Curran says.
“We believe that internet access is fast becoming as necessary to us in our daily lives as the provision of electricity, water and the telephone.
“However internet access is not just a utility but also enables the provision of social and family connections across distances and time zones, education and work opportunities,” she says.
The Bill now goes forward for a second reading with a draft amendment deferring the suspension provision, and effectively with an assurance that the contentious clause will pass into law in that form.
There are still many other contentious aspects of the Bill to be debated, Curran says, particularly around responsibility for the cost of policing potential infringements.
The second-reading debate will not appear on Parliament’s Order Paper until next week and it is not yet clear what priority it will be accorded.