Curran uses Clinton speech to criticise ACTA, s92A

Labour's ICT spokeswoman questions disconnection penalty

Opposition ICT spokesperson Clare Curran is using Hillary Clinton’s recent speech on internet freedom to renew criticism of Section 92A of New Zealand’s Copyright Act and the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).

Clinton, speaking in Washington in the wake of attacks allegedly by the Chinese government on the sites of major US companies and local dissidents, compared “the freedom to connect — the idea that governments should not prevent people from connecting to the internet, to websites, or to each other” to the basic right of freedom of assembly in the physical world.

“I’ve been writing quite a bit about this,” Curran wrote on the Labour Party’s RedAlert blog recently “and thinking about the wider issue of the right of our citizens to equitably access the internet (which implies that they shouldn’t be cut off from access).”

Section 92A, in spite of being considerably liberalised in its second draft, still retains the ultimate penalty of disconnection from the internet for six months for the offence of repeatedly trading copyright material on the internet. The draft Bill is yet to go through the Parliamentary process.

Disconnection penalties for illicit copying are also “considered by some to be included in ACTA drafts,” says Curran. The matter is discussed in some leaked documents surrounding the ACTA negotiations, but it is unclear whether they will form part of the final treaty, which, according to New Zealand’s negotiating team, is far from being settled.

The subject of ACTA is topical, with a negotiating session taking place in Guadalajara, Mexico last week, as Curran published her blog comment. The next round of negotiations, in April, will be in Wellington.

The Ministry of Economic Development this month published the slides from its brief discussion of ACTA with local interested parties late last year (Computerworld, December 16, 2009). These emphasise that New Zealand is one of the negotiating countries in favour of greater transparency in negotiations previously criticised as secretive.

Transparency is on the agenda for the last day of the Guadalajara discussion (January 29).

“At the moment it seems like many of the [negotiating] countries are saying they’re calling for more transparency, but they have to get the others to agree,” Curran says.

“The big question is, is this a tactic to make it look as though they take it seriously, or is it real?”

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