The opportunities the Internet offers New Zealanders are massive. The ability to share our views with the world, to engage in economic activity that defeats the barriers of distance, and to build new communities and connections between us all are unparalleled in the history of our species.
To someone like me, who has had Internet access since high school, that is kind of obvious. Yet many of my colleagues in the Labour party have a different experience, and don't understand the Internet's importance.
And even more of them, don't yet fully grasp the relationships between the opportunities afforded by an open and accessible Internet, and other pieces of law - law like copyright.
Which is why I was a bit nervous speaking this afternoon at the demonstration in Wellington protesting the #skynet legislation - the imposition from 1 September of a new part of the Copyright Act which is aimed at penalising repeat infringers through filesharing.
Here's a nice photo of the small but perfectly formed group:
As someone who works in the Internet world, I've never supported this legislation. In a post on this blog in 2009, I criticised it (yes, the original version was passed by the fifth Labour government) and ended that post by saying this:
Since that post, the Labour Party has executed an astonishing and very welcome u-turn on copyright policy.
From being the originators of 92A, which would have on accusation seen people disconnected from the Internet, the Party now has a good understanding of the vital importance of access to the Internet, as a way for people to exercise their fundamental human rights to impart and receive information & opinion, and to exercise free speech.
Labour has also accepted that the review we attempted in the 2000s, to make the Copyright Act fit for the digital age, didn't end up achieving that goal.
My task at today's protest was to explain, given those changes of view, why the Labour caucus voted in favour of the current version of the legislation at the third reading in April.
My understanding is this: the Labour team was offered a deal on account suspension/termination (which Labour now opposes).
If we voted against the legislation, termination would be brought in from 1 September.
If we agreed to vote with the Government, the termination provisions would not come into effect, and would require an order in council to do so. People would not see their Internet access cut off from 1 September.
Labour decided to do that deal and so voted in favour at third reading. That doesn't change the party's opposition to termination or suspension -- but my God, it makes it a lot harder to explain than it would have been had we simply voted no.
We will be announcing our copyright policy soon. It will acknowledge that we have done a reversal from the 2008 legislation. I expect it will, as my colleague Clare Curran has already announced, confirm Labour's intention to repeal the provisions of the Copyright Act that allow for account suspension.
I think that we finally accept the argument that the Copyright Act is not fit for the Internet era. A far wider and more in depth consideration of how copyright can work today is needed. Our policy will have something to say about this.
It's not just policy that counts though: the industry has to play ball too. It's the fact that people can't get lawful, affordable access to online content here that drives part of the offending. Rights holders in the movie and music industries don't really deserve to have attention paid to their demands for tougher laws for online infringing, when they don't make the content available in the first place.
In the end, I wished today the policy was already out so I could have explained it. It's better to talk about your plans and hopes than putting right mistakes.
There's an old rule in politics that explaining is losing. Maybe that's right. But when your party has made a mistake in the eyes of an important community, you have to say why -- and what you're going to do differently. Timing issues meant I couldn't do all of the second part of that, but I was not unhappy to have a go at doing the first.