Tech Liberty NZ Defending civil liberties in the digital age

Survey shows opposition to mandatory govt internet filter

Posted on April 4, 2012

InternetNZ has commissioned a survey of the public's thoughts about the government's internet filter. Some of the interesting results include:

  • Very few people (only 9%) knew whether their ISP used the government filter. The ISPs using the filter represent more than 90% of the NZ internet market.
  • Less than a quarter (23%) wanted the government choosing whether to filter their internet connection.
  • Two-thirds want the filter to include other, non-specified, content.

Tech Liberty's Comment

We've always been opposed to the government's internet censorship system but support the right of people to choose filtering for themselves or their families. We're pleased to see that the people of New Zealand agree with us, rejecting the idea of letting the government impose centralised censorship.

Unfortunately we already have such a system. While it is voluntary at the ISP level, their users get no say in the matter and this survey shows that most are unaware that they are covered by it. We also note that with Telecom, Vodafone and 2 Degrees all having implemented the filter there are no major providers of censorship free mobile data in New Zealand, further undermining any voluntary aspect to the current filter.

At the same time it also seems obvious that the internet has a lot of disturbing content that you might want to block other than just child pornography. Therefore it makes sense that someone wanting "cleaner internet" at their home would be looking for a more general purpose filter than the government's one. A number of ISPs do offer such a service (either free or as an add-on) and it seems that they should be promoting this further.

In conclusion, it seems that the survey shows that the current government internet filter is implemented the wrong way for the wrong purpose and by the wrong people.

Filesharing: What does the law cover?

Posted on July 21, 2011

As is often the case with new laws there is not always a clear understanding of how it will be applied when it gets to real cases in court. Previously we've talked about the definition of an IPAP in the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Act, and now we're going to look into the definition of "file sharing".

The text of the Act defines "file sharing" in Section 122A(1) as:

file sharing is where—

  • “(a) material is uploaded via, or downloaded from, the Internet using an application or network that enables the simultaneous sharing of material between multiple users; and
  • “(b) uploading and downloading may, but need not, occur at the same time

Much of the Internet is designed in a way that content is simultaneously shared between multiple users, so does the new law apply only to peer to peer (P2P) filesharing or does it apply to any kind of sharing of content between people?

MED's Answer

InternetNZ put this question to the Ministry of Economic Development who responded that by their interpretation it only covers P2P sharing. While this is useful, the view of the MED is not the only one taken into account by the courts.

Parliament

Hansard, the official record of Parliament, is also used as a reference when courts need to understand the intent of a piece of legislation. The question of what is included was asked during the debate for the second reading of the bill:

JACINDA ARDERN: I would like to request the Minister, given that Hansard will be used as a record going forward in the way that this billis applied in practical terms, to give the Committee his view of the definition of “file sharing”, how he sees that definition being applied once this legislation is enacted and becomes law. For instance, does he believe that it includes an attachment to an email? How far does his view of this definition go? I think clarification from the Ministerwould be helpful for this debate.

Speaking for the Government, Hon Dr Nick Smith replied:

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment): I will also respond to the question from Jacinda Ardern about where in this bill the definition of file sharing is. It is quite simply set out in clause 7 of Part 1. That clause sets out quite clearly the definition of file sharing, and I further say that, yes, that definition does include an attachment that involves the sharing of files.

This appears to clearly state that the definition is not solely limited to P2P networks, but covers any method of sharing files, whether that be streaming, email, private or public locker sites, or any other method yet to be discovered.

Select Committee

Rick Shera has helpfully pointed out the following from the Select Committee's report:

We recommend that the definition of file sharing in section 122A(1) be amended by including reference to downloading or uploading material using networks or applications that allow material to be shared among multiple users. This would avoid inadvertently capturing activities such as emailing or downloading that did not involve file sharing; if such activities breached copyright, they would be actionable under existing provisions in the Copyright Act.

Conclusion

With MED believing one thing and the politicians who passed the law believing another, what is the truth of the matter? The answer is that we cannot know until it is tested in court (or clarified by a law change).

Defend the NZ internet

Posted on June 16, 2011

This week has seen the launch of two new groups dedicated to protecting the internet in New Zealand.

Retake the Net

The first is Retake the Net, which, in their own words:

It's increasingly clear that there are serious issues, both in New Zealand and abroad, with internet infrastructure, use, and control. Rather than simply moaning about them, the Retake the Net crew decided to start actually _doing_ something about the issues (with, of course, as much help as we can muster).

RtN's all about fostering projects which help promote the best aspects of the net, and using new technologies to make sure people can communicate freely. We're also about increasing the real engagement between government and citizens, and promoting New Zealand's transition from a consumer to a producer of content and information. We realise that there's a long way to go, but there's no time like the present to start.

NZ Internet Freedom Collective

Then there's the NZ Internet Freedom Collective, who are initially aiming their efforts at the new copyright law that was just passed:

Our founding purpose will be to establish a broad campaign of political, legal and social action aimed squarely at achieving the total repeal of the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act 2011 and the securing of our Internet rights and freedoms in the next election.

These new groups are both looking for members, or you could consider joining one of the following:

And, of course, at Tech Liberty we're still looking for people who want to be involved in defending our civil liberties in the digital age.

Internet Name Suppression Workshop

Posted on February 3, 2011

InternetNZ hosted a workshop about name suppression in the digital age.

The following notes were made at the session. They give a general idea of what was discussed but should not be taken as definitive or complete.

Internet filtering – time to let it go?

Posted on August 10, 2010

It's been over 3 years since the Department of Internal Affairs started their internet censorship trials in New Zealand. Since then (data from June 29th 2010):

Internet NZ rejects government internet filter

Posted on February 4, 2010

Internet NZ has released a position paper (PDF) that rejects the governments's planned internet filtering scheme. Jordan Carter, InternetNZ Policy Director:

InternetNZ supports a safe environment for people online, and absolutely deplores the availability and use of child abuse material, However, a government filtering system, centrally operated, is not the answer.

The report says that the proposed filtering system:

DIA revamps Internet filter Code of Practice

Posted on January 21, 2010

The Department of Internal Affairs have released a new version of the Code of Practice (PDF) for their proposed Internet filtering system, as well as the initial membership of the Independent Reference Group (PDF).

Independent Reference Group (IRG)

The initial members of the Independent Reference Group are:

R v Internet – Summary

Posted on December 4, 2009

A summary of the main links to articles about the R v Internet seminar held in Wellington on December the 3rd.

Tech Liberty summary of events:

  • Session 1 - Chris Finlayson (Attorney General), Tony Smith (law professor, VUW), David Collins (Solicitor General)
  • Session 2 - Panel discussion with Steven Price (media law expert), Robert Lithgow QC, Brent Edwards (journalist)
  • Session 3 - Warren Young (Law Commission) and Judge David Harvey
  • Session 4 - Panel discussion with Sinead Boucher (Fairfax), Ursula Cheer (associate professor, Canterbury), David Farrar (blogger)

Kiwiblog (David Farrar) summary of events:

R2 video:

R v Internet – Final Panel

Posted on December 3, 2009

Sinead Boucher - Group Online Editor, Fairfax

Everything's changing very, very fast, no sooner do they get a handle on something then they have to rethink it. What we discuss today might be obsolete in another year.

Last year they had a talk about social media and didn't even mention Twitter in their meeting. Now Twitter is changing everything, news goes out instantly - and then half an hour later the judge suppresses the information.

R v Internet – Panel

Posted on December 3, 2009

R v Internet - Reality Intrudes

After the morning tea break we came back to a panel discussion on the issues of contempt.

Steven Price (media law expert) started off with a list of points and was a breath of fresh air. It was great to see him state that once the information has got out, it can't be stopped.