NZ police have arrested four people connected with MegaUpload.com in New Zealand today at the request of the US FBI. They have been charged in the US "with running an international organized criminal enterprise allegedly responsible for massive worldwide online piracy of numerous types of copyrighted works through Megaupload.com and other related sites". (FBI press release.)
We have little faith in the fairness and appropriateness of the US's laws and processes around copyright and intellectual property. The US government is continually strengthening its copyright laws at the behest of the entertainment industry (see SOPA and PIPA) and is trying to pass laws that we would not like to see copied in NZ.
Will this NZ police cooperation lead to New Zealanders being arrested and handed over to the US for doing things that may not be serious offences in New Zealand? Which other countries' laws do New Zealanders have to obey when using the internet?
Whether this case is an example of good international cooperation or the US demanding other countries help enforce bad law is yet to be determined. We will be monitoring this issue closely and hope to publish more information as it is available.
- FBI charges seven with online piracy (Wall Street Journal)
- Megaupload's Kim Schmitz arrested in Auckland, site shut down (3news)
- File-sharing website Megaupload shut down, NZ-based founder arrested (PC World NZ)
- File-sharing kingpin arrested in New Zealand at US officials' request (NBR)
- 'We're not pirates, we're just providing shipping services to pirates' (Wall Street Journal Law Blog).
- Why the feds smashed Megaupload (Ars Technica).
- Megaupload attempting to get back online (Stuff NZ)
- The FBI press release.
- The indictment.
- Statement from the NZ Police.
- The NZ extradition treaty (PDF) with the US.
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade's information about extradition from New Zealand
- Yes, copyright infringement can be criminal in New Zealand with imprisonment up to five years.
- Damning quotes from the MegaUpload owner's email.
There has been a recent spate of people being arrested in the USA and UK for taking photos and video of the police at work. We also found anecdotal evidence of police in New Zealand exceeding their legal authority when it came to people taking photos and video of them:
"Taking photographs around Cuba Mall and a police officer approached and said 'Would you like me to break that?' indicating the camera. He was exceedingly hostile and it turned out it was because the officer thought he had been photographed by us."
"Have to wonder why they confiscate cameras and tapes then. We were told we could pick the tapes up from the station... at which point any knowledge of the tapes was denied."
The legal situation in New Zealand
Firstly, it is generally accepted that anyone can photograph or video anyone else as long as the subject wouldn't have a reasonable expectation of privacy. There are a range of exceptions, but are the police one of them?
We wrote to both the Police Commissioner and the Minister of Police and asked them "Is it against the law in New Zealand to take photos of video of the police at work?"
The Police responded first: "No, not if the photos of video of police at work are taken in a public place, or with the landowner's consent if on private property."
Judith Collins, the Minister of Police, backed up the Police's position in her response, going on to say that she saw no need to change the law and was not aware of any plans to do so.
It seems clear that in New Zealand the police can't stop you from documenting what they are doing. They have no power to stop you, seize your camera or force you to delete images or video.
We believe that this is a good thing and is part of having a police force that is accountable to the people they serve. The police hold most of the cards when it comes to dealing with the public, and the prospect of being recorded should provide a brake on any temptation to abuse those powers.
However one concern remains. Police training does not cover this issue and it seems that some officers feel free to make up their own powers as they go. We recommend that the NZ Police should make sure that this is included in initial and continuing training.
Finally, we remind anyone taking photos of police at incidents to make sure that you do not get in their way or you could be arrested for obstruction.
A Tech Liberty representative spent two half days at a group discussion about privacy and technology.
Here are some of the things that were discussed:
The Search and Surveillance Bill is an attempt to rewrite New Zealand's laws around search and surveillance.
One thing that has become clear in the debate around the bill is that many people are not fully aware of the existing powers that government agencies have to pry into our personal affairs. It's not uncommon for someone to decry a 'new' power in the Search and Surveillance Bill, only to be told that it is already in existing law.
This article lists, to the best of our knowledge, the current ways that the government can use to watch us. We will expand/correct it as additional knowledge comes to light.
This article has not yet been updated to reflect the changes made when the Search & Surveillance Act became law.