Talks about the Blackout campaign and Section 92A.
“Section 92a was to do with Internet connection takedowns, so it said that an ISP must have some kind of policy to do with dealing with repeat infringers – the problem though was, who judges who was a repeat infringer and, at the end of the day, if the ISP isn’t going to pay for it or pay for a tribunal system, of course the customer won’t be doing that either because it would cost too much – maybe NZ$1000 to get some copyright law experts in and lawyers – so then no one’s going to pay. So basically the ISP would be in the situation where it has to make a decision and who’s the biggest threat? Is it the the Hollywood lawyers or is it their customer from Timaru. Who’s going to actually roll them over? So what we decided was that this was what we called a ‘Guilt upon Accusation’ style law in which ISPs would be compelled to make decisions against their customers because of the resources of the entertainment industry.
I remember when I was over in Amsterdam thinking deep thoughts, as you do in Amsterdam, about what we were annoyed at in this conversation around the Internet and copyright... and so what we decided to do was just to set up an organisation around that. So for several months we were writing content and designing the website and then in November 2008 we launched the website to a group of about 100 people just to get some feedback – various politicians, media people that we know, artists – just to try to get all the rough edges off the website in terms of how we framed our ideas and how we talked about things, add a lot more features – and we ended up launching in December 2008. We ended up adding a countdown to the website so it had the number of days until the law was due to come into effect because we knew the exact day when it was going to be discussed in Cabinet.
Prior to XXXX (1:58), we had about 5,000 people signed up to the website. So what we decided to do was to have a blackout week campaign in which people would change their Social Media profiles to be just little images of black icons. The campaign we came up with at XXXX (2:16) was based around a failed All Blacks campaign from a couple of years ago, as in failed because only a couple of hundred people did it and it was supposed to be this big thing that everyone was doing it to support the team but it didn’t really catch on. It was that kind of idea. Then throughout the week we unveiled one thing after another so people would have something to talk about – on the first day we launched the campaign, on the second day we launched a comic about it by Dylan Horrocks, a famous New Zealand comic artist, and then we released a song called The Copywrong Song and we ended up delivering 122 CDs to parliament for each parliamentarian using the distributed burning power of the office building at work and we had every single employee there burning copies of the song... legitimately. Lots of talk online around what this issue was and trying to educate people around it and again just talking about why we called it the Guilt upon Accusation law... because in practice, although it wasn’t the letter of the law, that’s how it would have played out.
I think there were hundreds of thousands of people in the end that were playing with it. The blackout campaign that was in New Zealand ended up influencing... there was an Irish blackout campaign, in France there was a blackout campaign against the HADOPI law and I believe there were some Canadian blackout campaigns as well around their ACTA negotiations, which was the Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, which is again another way that US copyright interests are trying to influence the world...
When Section 92a was scrapped, what happened is that we had a lot of parliamentary protests around the grounds. We had about 200 people there with large signs with just plain black on the actual placard. We didn’t want people to turn up in black clothes as there was nearly an anti-homosexual protest from the Destiny Church – right-wing radicals – so we didn’t want to be associated with that. So we said, “No please, no one turn up wearing all black. Just wear colourful clothes and have black placards and that will be fine”. So people listened to that and turned up with crazy costumes on and put out a clear message. I was really impressed that there was a large variety of ages. There weren’t just your typical 20-to-30-year-old Internet nerds. There were all kinds of people, elderly people, who need the Internet. We had a couple of blind people turn up because, of course, for the disabled community the Internet is a real lifeline. It means they can actually buy food and do all these kinds of things and access the rest of the world without having to rely on others. So we had a well-established community around that. A couple of days later they said that the law would be delayed for a month and then, after that month, they said that the law would be scrapped and that they were going to start from scratch again.”