30 May 2014

Internet Party pushing for copyright reform

10:37 pm on 30 May 2014

The Internet Party is proposing a reform of copyright law to shield internet companies from liability for their customers' activities. Critics say the policy will give content pirates a free hand.

The party's chief executive, Vikram Kumar, said on Friday a proposal to create a so-called safe harbour clause for internet service providers is not directed at any particular company.

Internet Party chief executive Vikram Kumar.

Internet Party chief executive Vikram Kumar. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Mr Kumar said it won't benefit the party's founder, patron and internet mogul Kim Dotcom, who is fighting extradition to the United States on charges of criminal copyright infringements, racketeering and money-laundering relating to his former website Megaupload.

Mr Kumar said the clause doesn't offer any advantage to Mr Dotcom's current enterprise, Mega Ltd, either.

"Mega doesn't fall under the copyright type of safe harbours in the normal sense. It has encrypted material which it takes down. So this isn't in any way directed towards a particular company."

Mr Kumar believes the current copyright law is throttling innovation, while party leader Laila Harre says reforming copyright law is a key priority.

Critics say the party's proposal for the law change to protect internet companies from liability shows undue influence from Mr Dotcom. But Ms Harre said he is providing valuable policy advice.

"The expertise available to the Internet Party including Kim Dotcom's own expertise is enormous. But of course it goes well beyond that and these aren't issues that are unique to New Zealand, and they're not proposals that are unique to the Internet Party."

Ms Harre said copyright law reform is vital because clear rules are needed.

'Licence for piracy'

John Barnett, a leading film producer from South Pacific Pictures, says the Internet Party's policy looks like a licence for piracy.

Mr Barnett's company lost hundreds of thousands of dollars due to bootleg DVDs and downloads and said the Internet Party appears to be the puppet Mr Dotcom's.

"This is what you'd expect from a party whose funding comes from the ill-gotten gains of copyright theft. It's ironic to see that they intend to compel global content creators to comply with their policy - but they're very happy to take every step to avoid meeting any global obligations that attend to them."

Mr Barnett said he would be interested in whether Hone Harawira's Mana Party, which has just formed a strategic alliance with the Internet Party ahead of the general election on 20 September, would be prepared to allow all Maori music and other taonga (treasures) to be available for use by anyone at no cost.

The Copyright Council says any changes must protect the creators' right to get paid for their work.