Category Archives: commentary

Commentary on events and the writing of others

Report on public talk: Open Connectivity, Open Data

Jonathan Penney, the Cyberlaw Fellow at Victoria University gave a public talk about the idea of “internet as a right” and whether there is any basis for this in current New Zealand law.

He started by looking at s14 of the 1990 Bill of Rights Act. This is about freedom of expression:

Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form.

Continue reading Report on public talk: Open Connectivity, Open Data

Trans-Pacific Partnership: An FTA with fangs

In the last few years, New Zealand law governing intellectual property has been in a state of flux driven by the content industry demanding changes to protect their business. No sooner has one set of law changes been debated then another set of the same laws and demands pops up into view. From S92 of the Copyright Act to the ACTA treaty and now to the Trans Pacific Partnership.

The TPP is an existing free trade agreement (FTA) between NZ, Singapore, Brunei and Chile signed in 2005. The TPP allows for more countries to join and the USA, Australia, Vietnam and Peru have all indicated that they are interested. Substantive negotiations began in March.

Of course, the USA has proceeded to reframe the agreement around its usual default template for any FTA – draconian IP protection on behalf of its content industries and limited concessions in all other areas, creating a one-sided arrangement. As Australia experienced in its FTA negotiations with the US, it’s not about a meeting of mutual interests but a game of how much wiggle room can be found on the edge of the US demands.

New Zealand has long sought a free trade deal with the US (our second largest export market). In theory it means that our agricultural exports will have an easier time in a large market, but the powerful US agricultural lobby will limit this while changes to IP law will mean an increase in transfers from NZ users to US owners. However, even if the result is actually a net loss to New Zealanders, an FTA with the US is a “win”┬ápolitically.

S92. ACTA. TPP. Once again the battle is on to defend our rights as both consumers and producers of IP before our laws are rewritten to suit the US.

More information:

Internet NZ rejects government internet filter

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:

Continue reading Internet NZ rejects government internet filter

Poll Shows NZers Against Internet Censorship

Stuff is running a poll about Internet censorship next to an article about the Australian plans to censor the Internet. While online polls aren’t very statistically valid, I was still heartened to see the results:

Should New Zealand censor the internet?

  • 13% – Yes, just like we censor films & TV.
  • 61% – No, it’s against free speech.
  • 26% – No, it’s a waste of money.

A total of 87% of the 1964 people who voted were opposed to Internet censorship.

Law Commission Clarifies Position

In our recent article, Law Commission Demands ISPs Filter the Internet, we wrote that the Law Commission’s report Suppressing Names and Evidence required internet service providers (ISPs) to be able to block access to information hosted on overseas websites.

At the R v Internet seminar in Wellington, Warren Young, Deputy Head of the Law Commission, stated that this was not their intention (while admitting it was badly worded). Rather they only intended for local ISPs to have to take down locally hosted information. While this is somewhat of a relief as it means that we can avoid the necessity of implementing a China-style Internet censorship system, there are still a number of problems with this position.

  1. It puts the burden on ISPs to remove material when the onus should be on the people who have published the material (i.e. the individual blogger or the site that allowed the comment in their forum). Putting the liability on the ISP is like blaming the local dairy owner for the content of the newspapers they sell.
  2. Many websites that are popular in New Zealand, such as Facebook and Twitter, are not hosted in New Zealand. While it might be possible to make requests to the individuals discussing suppressed information (and even act against them if they are in NZ and can be identified), this is going to be as successful as King Canute was at stopping the tide.
  3. While ‘responsible’ bloggers and media companies may take down material suppressed by the NZ courts, this just means that anyone searching for information will find the myriad of ‘irresponsible’ sources who probably don’t even realise they’re in contempt of court.

R v Internet – Summary

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 vs Internet – First Session

I’m at the R v Internet seminar in Wellington today. As some of the issues discussed are quite important in terms of Tech Liberty (right to a fair trial, Internet censorship, freedom of speech) I’ll be giving a brief write-up of the event.

The Old Guard

So far we have heard from the Attorney General Chris Finlayson, Law Professor Tony Smith from VUW and the Solicitor General, David Collins.
Continue reading R vs Internet – First Session

Updated: Jailing People for Remaining Silent

The new Search and Surveillance Bill includes provisions to force people who own and manage computer systems to give full access to those systems. This includes the obligation to give up passwords to enable the authorities to access encrypted information.

Of course, this assumes that the person involved actually has the password. It’s quite common for someone running a system to not be able to break the encryption used by other users to secure their data. Will the courts understand that? And even if they understand that, will they believe it?
Continue reading Updated: Jailing People for Remaining Silent