This week another shot was fired across our bow when Chief Censor claimed Global Mode may infringe on censorship issues. Personally we feel that it’s unreasonable, it’s not the ISP’s role to censor YouTube, but ultimately our customer Slingshot came out saying – “We firmly believe there are no censorship laws broken when Kiwis access overseas content from New Zealand”
Slingshot has every right to offer customers back-door access to international websites, says an internet advocacy group that is “surprised and bemused” the country’s chief censor is considering bringing charges against the broadband provider.
InternetNZ, a non-profit organisation that seeks to foster internet use in this New Zealand, said it did not believe providers were responsible for what its customers did online.
InternetNZ chief executive Jordan Carter said this morning that CallPlus had every right to offer the service.
“The courts have not decided that the service is illegal,” he said.
Internet companies Slingshot and Orcon, both owned by CallPlus, offer a service that gives customers access to overseas movie and television websites, like Netflix, that are normally blocked to people in this country because of copyright arrangements.
• Censor eyes ‘global mode’ internet access
There is therefore the potential for New Zealanders to watch films on these sites that are unclassified in this country or banned. Netflix charges around $12 a month for streaming a vast catalogue of television shows and movies online.
Among its library is Maniac, a 2012 film starring Elijah Wood as a serial killer, which the Office of Film and Literature Classification banned from general release in New Zealand last year.
Andrew Jack, the country’s chief censor and head of the classification office, this July wrote to online film distributors reminding them of their obligations under the law and said this week that most “responded positively”.
Jack did not respond directly to questions about Slingshot’s service last week, but a spokeswoman said:
“A range of charges are being contemplated. Given that this is a matter which may end up before the courts, it is not appropriate to comment further.”
Carter (from Internet NZ) said suggesting Slingshot was responsible for its customers’ actions was not to be encouraged.
“We don’t criticise road construction companies for speeding and we don’t attack phone-line companies if someone makes a prank call,” he said.
“The reality of Internet-based services is that the border becomes less important. Rather than this reactive approach, the Censor would be better placed starting a conversation about how censorship questions should be dealt with in the Internet age,” says Mr Carter.
CallPlus chief executive Mark Callander said last week that all legal issues were closely investigated when the service – called Global Mode – was launched and that he was very comfortable with the legal position on it.
While Global Mode sets new precedents, we’re seeing the public become more aware about the importance of open Internet policy. Slingshot is leading the charge as the consumer advocate.