NZ blacks out as MPs consider heavy-handed powers for ISPs
You might notice the lights going out on some of your friends on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and wherever they have an avatar of themselves. If instead of their gurning features you see nothing but inky blackness, you'll know they've devoted themselves to a cause, one raging on the other side of the world.
New Zealand MPs are about to vote on a law that will grant the power to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to cut-off internet connections if they think a website has copied somebody's work. The root of the upset is Section 92 of the Copyright Amendment Act which assumes guilt upon accusation. That sounds head-chewingly dull, but it has serious consequences for anyone and everyone using the internet. The parts of the act concerning copyright infringement (92a and 92c) state ISPs can shut down websites and terminate connections without any evidence of infringement.
Does it matter? The law, if passed, could have far-reaching implications, for pretty much everyone using the internet in New Zealand; a lack of proof wouldn't necessarily prevent an ISP closing down the website and switching off the connection. Many ISPs would rather let people go about their business online, but if passed into law they'll be forced to investigate all complaints. The fun mischief makers could have.
The internet has blurred so many lines concerning copyright and usage that it's all a flickering haze of photons, but there is something altogether Orwellian in passing a law that allows a personal or business websites to be switched off, or material removed without any evidence of wrong-doing being required. A website called Creative Freedom NZ is fighting back, and actively encouraging people to support their cause; accept that copyright laws are required, but laws that take into account technology and how material is used. Supporters can upload a new avatar from the site - an all-black square of despair; it also happens to be this season's colour, so you can show support and still look good online.