I take some time to form opinions approaching final, so I was hesitant to comment when the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Act 2011 was brought in under urgency in April.
I’ve had some interesting discussions about the act since that time, and read some mighty interesting things coming from other library industry professionals and groups. Myself, I’m not so sure we can predict the possible consequences as yet, mainly because we have yet to see the organisational structures surrounding this law in place and functioning, or even a clear proposal as to what those organisational structures might be.
We see lawlessness around us constantly in society. We constantly drive up to 9kph over the speed limit, which is so enshrined that the police are obliged to announce special weekends when they’ll apply punitive measures if we’re more than 5kph over. Very much any law that is on the books is only as good as the systems of enforcement that support it.
Is there a moral issue here? Should I mention the now-hackneyed Melissa Lee story? I found Ms. Lee, a list member (who by the way must have photoshopped her twitter background picture – she normally looks like a human being), to be repugnantly ignorant when she described a motorway extension as a way of channelling social undesirables through Mount Albert, so I don’t feel a need to hold her up as a special example of the ability of “citizens of good standing” to construct ways in which lawbreaking doesn’t count when they do it.
Frankly, it doesn’t matter to me. Breaches are happening all the time. I think we can agree to that even if I’m reluctant to identify a specific breach happening in a specific location, let alone any one library in New Zealand.
Sections 122J-O and 122T are where the meat is for me, in that they describe (a) what happens in a Tribunal situation, and (b) what the obligations of the IPAP (definitions) are.
From my non-lawyerly reading Section 122N, which deals with what pass for “evidence” here, allows the rights owners to make assertions of infringement. These assertions are presumed to “constitute an infringement”.
This is where I flounder. Isn’t the standard to ask the plaintiff and/or prosecutor to provide some evidence?
The “infringing party” is then required to submit evidence that they were not involved in said acts, when the they, like The Honorable Ms. Lee, may not have even known an “infringing act” was occuring.
The good news for them? IPAPs are required in section 122T to keep information on IPs assigned to rights holders for 40 days.
The bad news for us? That means we’re going to do the work to have these processes documented and potentially alter our digital environments so that’s possible in the first place.
Section 122U, “Fees Payable by Rights Owners to IPAPs” is just plain weird to me:
(1) An IPAP may charge a rights owner for performing the functions required of IPAP under sections 122A to 122T
Sooo… we can just send a bill to AOL/Time Warner?
Here’s what I really think we should do: Let’s see what happens with this patchwork law, but more importantly strive to position ourselves at the forefront of friendly sharing. Isn’t that what we are all about?
Besides which, there are other models besides copyright we could be telling our users about.
In my latest solo musical project, I am sharing everything I do with a Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 Unported licence. I enjoy content I own, have hired, or that has been released for free. I pay for some of that free content simply because I choose to support those creators.
I don’t think I’m unique in this, but I do think I’m living out some of the ethic I see in our profession in doing so. I think we can collectively live out that ethic by teaching and encouraging our users in recognising themselves as legal, celebratory sharers who have a relationship with libraries, because libraries can connect them with a lifetime of top-quality content.