I must admit that I was slow to appreciate the import of the content of this post. It was actually only after a tweet from Graham Wegner that I finally checked out the reason why all of the New Zealand Tweeters I follow had blacked out their Twitter avatars. Having followed the link to Creative Freedom NZ I could appreciate the urgency of their action.
It seems that in the pursuit of protection of creative rights and fair use of the products of these creative pursuits, the New Zealand Government has determined that the normal process of the law can be reversed. In this case the soon to be enacted
Section 92 of the Copyright Amendment Act assumes Guilt Upon Accusation and forces the termination of internet connections and websites without evidence, without a fair trial, and without punishment for any false accusations of copyright infringement.
As the following banner points out this law will place the rights of internet users below that of those who society generally regard as deserving of the strictest punishment.
Leaving aside the vexed question of digital rights management in all its manifestations, enacting such a law will by necessity cause enormous impost on NZ schools and education in general. Who has not seen a student download an image from Google Images to add to their PowerPoint? Who has not seen a piece of student work that has been blatantly lifted from Wikipedia or some other online source? Who has not had a student bring a CD long to school that has been copied from some other source? Who amongst us has not been as careful in checking the Creative Commons licence of a piece of work before we have embedded it into our sites?
Who has not used each of these opportunities to engage those same students in a discussion re the need to pay due heed to the originator of such work? Who has not also used the opportunities to engage in a discussion about the alternatives to copyright in the form of Creative Commons. Unfortunately for our Kiwi cousins they may potentially never get the chance to engage in this conversation should just one complainant decide to accuse a teacher/class/school of abuse of copyright.
Many teachers will as always continue on with normal practice firm in the conviction that education is always more important than punishment. Many others, probably the majority, will decide not to take that risk, quite fairly reasoning that their reputation and that of the school is paramount. That they could do so can only be more the poorer for an education system that otherwise has many outstanding features.
Let’s hope sanity prevails and the Twitter Avatars can all be switched back to a more congenial look.
BTW of you wish to add your name to the Creative Freedom online petition you will need to act fast as of this post there are only six days left until the legislation becomes law.