Category Archives: commentary

Commentary on events and the writing of others

Customs testing body scanners

New Zealand Customs have been trialling body scanners at Auckland Airport and are now working on plans to implement them.

Green Party MP Keith Locke says that using such equipment is illegal as they are banned by the Aviation Crimes Act.

with respect to a person searched under subsection (1), a member of the police, an aviation officer, a Customs officer, or an agent of the carrier authorised by the carrier for the purpose may not use an aid or device that produces an unclothed image of the person.

We also had concerns about both the desirability and legality of this body scanning technology and wrote to the Minister of Customs, Maurice Williamson, earlier this year expressing our concerns. He responded (PDF) that while it was illegal to use body scanners for the purposes of aviation security, it was allowed under the Customs and Excise Act 1996 for the purpose of searching for contraband.

However, Keith Locke responds that the language used when the Aviation Crimes Act was amended in 2007 very clearly showed that Parliament’s intention was to “…prevent any production of an unclothed image … there was no hint of any exception.”

Maurice Williamson says that he is not aware of any plans to further amend the Aviation Crimes Act.

Still guilt on accusation: Copyright and section 122MA

Section 122MA of the revised Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill sets out an alarming presumption: an allegation is proof of wrong doing.

While many have made the comparison to traffic tickets (where guilt is assumed but can be challenged), we pointed out in an earlier article why this is unreasonable, with Police and media companies being held to very different standards of behaviour.

The law, to be passed under urgency today, has been modified but how much difference does this make? Compare the two versions:
Continue reading Still guilt on accusation: Copyright and section 122MA

Kiwicon: RFID (in)securities

We’ll be writing some summaries of some of the relevant sessions at Kiwicon – the hacker conference in Wellington.

Anne Galloway from the VUW School of Design presented the keynote speech – RFID (in)securities. RFID tags are the tiny bits of circuitry that nearby scanners can read – such as used in Snapper cards and passports.

She brought a social anthropology view of RFID to a conference full of hardcore geeks and was brave enough to start by defining “discourse” and how it is used to create understanding. She then discussed three popular discourses around RFID:

  • RFID is awesome
  • RFID is evil
  • RFID is fun

Continue reading Kiwicon: RFID (in)securities

Account holder liability vs IPAP

One of the major changes in the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill was the replacement of ISPs with something new called an IPAP. The reasoning appeared to be that it was unclear when the obligation to maintain mappings of IP addresses to users (i.e. one of the duties of an ISP) kicked in. The new definition added various exclusions and inclusions that determined whether you were an IPAP or an account holder.

What this hid from view was that if you weren’t an IPAP, then you must be an account holder. And, as an account holder, you became liable for everything done through that account. In fact, it’s easier to think about the implications of the bill this way:

Whoever is named as holding the last publically identifable address is liable for all infringement attributed to that address.

You can only escape this liability (and become an IPAP with all of their obligations) if you meet all of the following tests:

  1. Provide any form of digital communications to someone else
  2. Allocate an IP address to that person or organisation
  3. Bill the person or organisation
  4. Are primarily in the business of providing such services
  5. Are providing your services to fixed users on a continual basis, not on a transient basis

Approaching it from this point of view makes it easier to see what obligations and exposures you have.

Who is liable?

A public library providing Internet access terminals fails to meet points 4 and 5. This means they are liable for all infringement by anyone who uses their terminals.

An airport that provides free wireless Internet access to passing travellers fails to meet points 3, 4 and 5. They are liable for any copyright infringement by anyone passing through the terminal using their wifi.

I have a server from a hosting provider to that I pay for. Since the hosting providers meets all of points 1 through 5, they have the obligations of an IPAP, and must forward notices to me. I am liable for any infringement made through my server, for example, after the server is hacked into and software installed on it without my knowledge.

If you share an internet connection with your flatmates and your name in on the account? You don’t meet point 4, so you are liable for any infringement by your flatmates.

As the law is currently written, can any business or person risk giving Internet access to someone else?

Copyright Bill Roundup

A round-up of comments and information about the latest report on the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill.

First, the report of the Commerce Select Committee (PDF).

We found that the bill raised complex issues around the challenges faced by rights holders in an environment of rapidly-developing technologies, which are changing consumer expectations and behaviours. We have attempted to strike a balance between the rights of copyright holders to have their intellectual property rights protected, and the reality that the Internet has now allowed far greater access to copyrighted works through file sharing.

Continue reading Copyright Bill Roundup

Government looking at further regulation of speech on the Internet

Justice Minister Simon Power claims that “new media” on the Internet is a “wild west” that lacks professional or ethical standards. He says:

Issues I’m concerned about include how trials can be prejudiced by information posted on websites and seen by jurors, real-time online streaming of court cases, breaches of court suppression orders, and re-publication of a libel.

He has asked the Law Commission to review whether current regulations are good enough. This is the same Law Commission that believes that ISPs (Internet Service Providers) should have a responsibility to close down websites and shutdown webservers if they are hosting material that might be in breach of a suppression order.

The report will focus on whether the two existing industry bodies, the Broadcasting Standards Authority and Press Council, could be used to regulate “new media”, and whether existing criminal and civil remedies and penalties are appropriate.

These is no mention in the press release of the freedom of expression guaranteed to New Zealanders in the Bill of Rights Act. Nor is there any recognition that many forms of old media such as leaflets, posters and books are also unregulated.

An issues paper is expected by December 2012.

Dissent, the internet and freedom

Tech Liberty was formed because a group of us were concerned that governments were ignoring traditional civil liberties when it came to new technology. The New Zealand government had recently passed a digital copyright law that would see people punished without due process and were secretly introducing a new internet censorship regime. We decided that we needed to stick up for the civil liberties that underpin our democracy and keep our society healthy.

A recent article by Rob Weir does a good job of articulating what drives us. In How to Crush Dissent, he compares distributing information on the internet to the samizdat underground presses in the Eastern Bloc. He fears that our current anarchic level of information freedom could be temporary:
Continue reading Dissent, the internet and freedom