03 May 2011

Why Did Wikileaks Fail New Zealand?

As I noted elsewhere, we now know that the US played a major role in pushing for tougher copyright regimes in Canada, Spain and Sweden. It seems that we must add New Zealand to the list of countries that were nobbled:


As you may recall, back in 2008, New Zealand politicians tried to sneak through a three strikes law, that would kick people offline based on accusations (not convictions) of infringement. A few months later, mainly due to massive public outcry, the government scrapped those plans and actually promised a complete rethink of copyright laws.

In a cable just after New Zealand decided to scrap the proposed law, the US embassy noted that it made it clear a new 3 strikes law needed to be put in place as soon as possible and saying that the US can help them write the new law.

...

The cables turned up a few other interesting tidbits from a bit further back, including the fact that a program -- run by the Recording Industry Association New Zealand (RIANZ) to set up a website and get people to snitch on their friends, reporting them as infringers -- was funded by the US government. Yes, the US government handed half a million dollars (New Zealand dollars) to the recording industry to get people to turn in their friends for copying music. Lovely.

Now, this is all pretty shameful stuff; but what makes it doubly so is the fact that New Zealand has recently passed precisely the kind of anti-consumer, pro-industry legislation that the US was demanding.

But consider what might have happened had these same cables surfaced *before* that crucial vote: doesn't it seem likely that quite a few New Zealand MPs would have been revolted by the massive US interference in their internal affairs? Might not enough have voted against the legislation to cause it to fall?

Maybe that wouldn't have happened, but given even the slight possibility, I have to ask why on earth Wikileaks held off publishing these cables that provided such crucial insights into what was going on behind the scenes?

Was this out of some new-found reluctance to influence the unfolding politics of a country? Given Wikileaks' track record, that hardly seems likely. Sadly, this looks more like a case of pure incompetence - only noticing what hugely important materials they had when it was too late for them to have much effect; or maybe - perhaps even worse - they just didn't care what happened in such a far-off land....

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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Canadian case was known prior to yesterday's election, but still Harper got elected with "majority" government despite the fact that his party got less than 40% of the votes. yes, our political system is THAT broken! 60%+ do not want him but he still gets majority win...

glyn moody said...

@anonymouse: indeed; as I noted, there's no guarantee these cables make a difference, but it might have been worth releasing to see...