ACTA treaty draws fire in NZ submissions

InternetNZ and the New Zealand Open Source Society express their concerns

InternetNZ and the New Zealand Open Source Society have released their submissions to the Ministry of Economic Development's consultation on this month's ACTA negotiations, with the two organisations taking different, but equally critical tacks on the issue.

The MED's consultation sought information on how New Zealand should position itself on enforcement in the digital environment, the main subject of the Wellington round of negotiations.

The New Zealand Open Source Society submission (pdf), however, goes much broader than requested by the ministry, exploring the relationship between the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and the New Zealand Copyright Amendment Act 2008 and the leaked provisions in ACTA.

"In this submission we will not only examine the public statements made about ACTA, but also the historical background of ACTA, writes NZOSS vice president Peter Harrison in the submission. "We will show that there has been a hidden agenda to pass intellectual property legislation, and that the only balance introduced was achieved through a public campaign to protect our rights. In every other way the intellectual property agenda has been set not by our Sovereign Government, but by multinational companies."

The NZOSS says on its website that it does not wish to see a regime where citizens will be disconnected from the internet based only on notices from rights holders, but rather maintain a position where proper judicial oversight and process will be maintained.

"The scope of submissions as requested by the Ministry of Economic Development was limited to specific questions about internet service providers," the society says. "The NZOSS felt that there were far broader concerns about the ACTA process itself and the impact of the entirety of ACTA, not just the provisions around internet service providers. As a consequence the submission was far broader than that requested."

The NZOSS says it wishes to ensure that the secret negotiations of ACTA do not override the democratic process in New Zealand, which saw a disconnection regime overturned and a new process put in place as a result of an internet blackout campaign and other protests.

MED negotiator George Wardle says there have been two previous rounds of requests for public submissions in which broader comment was sought. In May 2008, the public was asked to comment on what matters within ACTA should be the focus of the agreement for New Zealand and in May 2009 a further round of comment was requested on civil and criminal enforcement and border protection measures.

InternetNZ policy director Jordan Carter, meanwhile, says changes to enforcement make a real difference to the rights Kiwis enjoy under copyright and trademark law.

"Changes that reduce the access the public have to creative content must only be considered where strong evidence suggests they are needed," he says in a statement.

"That evidence simply does not exist."

InternetNZ's submission argues that in the absence of such evidence, the digital enforcement framework should not be part of ACTA -- and if it is, New Zealand should not sign the treaty.

"We prefer a safe harbour approach for minimising ISP liability, in line with the current New Zealand approach," Carter says. "We do not support the release of the details of alleged infringers to rights holders, and we do not support enhanced enforcement or protection of digital rights management systems or copyright management information."

InternetNZ will host a PublicACTA event in Wellington on 10 April.