InternetNZ backs CallPlus in censor row

InternetNZ boss Jordan Carter

InternetNZ boss Jordan Carter

InternetNZ has backed CallPlus, the country's fourth largest telecommunications retailer, in a row with the chief censor.

The Office of Film and Literature Classification is threatening CallPlus subsidiary Slingshot with prosecution over the access it is providing to blocked overseas internet television services such as Netflix through its free GlobalMode service.

But InternetNZ said "the internet age" merited a broader review of censorship.

Yesterday, the Film and Video Labelling Body, an incorporated society whose members include Sony, Universal, Paramount, Spark and The Warehouse, said it agreed with chief censor Andrew Jack that Slingshot was breaking the Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act. That was because GlobalMode provided a gateway to overseas services such as Netflix that showed programmes that had not gone through New Zealand's classification system, some of which it believed were objectionable.

But InternetNZ said the non-profit society did not believe internet providers were responsible for what its customers did on the internet and to suggest otherwise "creates a bizarre world where internet providers are held up to a different standard to other utility suppliers".

Chief executive Jordan Carter said CallPlus had every right to provide GlobalMode. "The courts have not decided that the service is illegal.

"I don't recall the censor making similar claims when NZ Post started YouShop, enabling customers to order items that were unavailable in New Zealand and have them delivered to a phoney address in the United States.

"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," Carter said.

CallPlus chief executive Mark Callander has said GlobalMode is not illegal and the company does not intend to axe it despite the chief censor's legal threat.

Canterbury University law professor Ursula Cheer has said any prosecution of Slingshot would be a "test case". The outcome would hinge on whether Slingshot's decision to actively promote GlobalMode as a means to access overseas television programming meant it had lost the "safe harbour" protections in the Act that usually shield internet providers from prosecution for the content they carry, she has said.

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Any prosecution case would be that Slingshot was not just passing stuff on like a post office, and instead had "a business built around saying 'here's our service we can stream this stuff to you'," she believed.

 - Stuff


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