posted by Thom Holwerda on Thu 19th Mar 2009 22:24 UTC
IconIt might seem like a New Zealand-only story, but the recently proposed law in New Zealand that would force internet service providers to cut off web access for those accused of violating copyright law has led to an interesting statement from Google about the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

The proposed law in New Zealand would force ISPs to cut off internet access for those who are accused of copyright infringement. This specific element is just a part of a larger new proposed copyright law. I'm sure any Kiwis in here (I'm looking at you, Kaiwai) could provide more details on this law and its reception in New Zealand than I can.

In any case, this element of the law (section 92A) has been met with a lot of resistance from Google, who heavily criticised the newly proposed law. According to Google, 57% of the takedown notices it has received under the DMCA in the United States were sent by business targeting competitors. In addition, 37% were not valid copyright claims at all.

As such, Google concludes that "Section 92A puts users' procedural and fundamental rights at risk, by threatening to terminate users' internet access based on mere allegations and reverse the burden of proof onto a user to establish there was no infringement." Google continues to state that "Section 92A undermines the incredible social and economic benefits of the open and universally accessible internet, by providing for a remedy of account termination or disconnection that is disproportionate to the harm of copyright infringement online."

I think few of us here will disagree with Google's position in this debate. Cutting off internet access based on the mere allegation of copyright infringement seems like a rather dictatorial way of dealing with people. I sure hope for all the people in New Zealand that this ridiculous section 92A doesn't make it into law.

However, the part of Google's complaint that impressed me the most was the following:

While inadequate copyright protection can reduce incentives to create, excessive copyright protection can stifle creativity, choke innovation, impoverish culture and block free and fair competition. As both an intermediary and an innovator in online technologies, Google supports a flexible and adaptable legal framework that provides those who create and invest in new technologies the freedom to innovate without fear that their efforts will be hindered by an overly restrictive approach to copyright. Copyright must have sufficient flexibility so that new, legitimate and socially desirable uses, enabled by new technologies, can flourish.

I'm not a particular fan of Google (as I'm not a fan of any company anywhere), but the above really struck a chord with me.

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