Copyright as theft

April 29, 2012

1980s campaign against home-taping

In the March issue of The Spark an article about Kim Dotcom (available online at ended with the words “Discussing ways in which content creators can be remunerated fairly for their work, and also about how the boundaries between creative work and other forms of labour can be broken down are beyond the scope of this article, but they are discussions worth having.” This article by Joel Cosgrove takes a look at some of those issues. For further background reading see ‘Copyright – A Marxist perspective’ at or in the June 2011 issue of The Spark.

Copyright is a cultural battleground. While there is something new in the scale and the breadth of this “issue” at its heart it is just a continuation of a struggle between capitalists and consumers that has extended from sheet music, radio, to records, VHS tapes, CDs and the humble MP3.

Part of the problem is that within capitalism, property and possessions are framed around what people can purchase as opposed to what people actually need. We are all familiar with this situation, most of the time, most people knowingly unknow this. We see things in front of us and for a number of reasons find it easier to put it aside than face the consequences of calling out the emperors’ new clothes. Read the rest of this entry »

Mega Conspiracy: Kim Dotcom, SOPA and capitalism

February 7, 2012

Byron Clark

A large section of the world wide web went dark earlier this year. Websites including Wikipedia (4th most visted site in the world) removed access to content for 24 hours in protest of two bills on their way though the US congress- the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA). The laws would have given the old entertainment industries, represented by organisations like the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) greater control over the internet. Foreign websites accused of copyright infringement could be made inaccessible to American internet users.

The online protest, which prompted a massive amount of lobbying from American citizens (and overseas), was a success, SOPA and PIPA are dead in the water- at least for the time being. Within 24 hours however it seemed as if those two laws had passed and were being enforced- New Zealand Police, colaborating with the American FBI arrested Kim Dotcom, the founder of the website MegaUpload in his mansion north of Auckland. Several other men involved with the site were also arrested. Read the rest of this entry »

Copyright – A Marxist Perspective

June 19, 2011

With the recently passed copyright act amendment it is topical to look at the concept of intellectual property using the tools of Marxism. We can better understand the concept by looking at it in its proper historical context and its relation to the prevailing economic system.


Historical specificity

The invention of intellectual property rights took place in the Italian mercantile states and spread from there to the Netherlands and Britain. The development of the printing press was highly significant, the combination of new technology and changing economic relations brought about the possibility for ‘intellectual property’ a concept that would have been hard to imagine in earlier times. As capitalism developed, the concept was given more credence.

Read the rest of this entry »

Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill: A Challenge to Democratic Norms

May 17, 2011

This article by guest writer Lindsay Breach will appear in the June issue of The Spark

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) is a trade agreement between New Zealand, eight other nations, and the United States. Of particular concern to this article, is that the agreement promises to introduce a strongly U.S. influenced intellectual property regime to New Zealand. Already, this influence has been felt in the shaping of copyright legislation as evidenced by leaked cables indicating the industry is willing to pay $533,000 to fix “key gaps in intellectual property rights enforcement”. The lesson: it appears our legislation can be bought.

Wednesday, April the 13th was a black day for democracy in New Zealand. The Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill was rushed through under urgency, which had been previously reserved for Canterbury earthquake related legislation. This Bill had been postponed due to previous public outcry and was highly contentious law. It seemed particularly insulting to Christchurch residents, the victims of the February 22nd Earthquake, because their suffering and the nation’s state of emergency had seemingly been trivialised.

The Bill introduces a ‘guilt upon accusation’ infringement notice three-strike scheme. This scheme dresses up a civil action, between two parties, as a criminal offense. The copyright holder can request an Internet Service Provider to send an infringement notice, with or without good cause for suspicion, to an account holder. After three strikes, the account holder can be taken to the Copyright tribunal. The burden is on the account holder to prove their innocence against the allegation. Read the rest of this entry »


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