Stephen Fry Joins New Zealand Internet Blackout

Actor, comedian and Twitter superstar Stephen Fry weighed in today on the controversial copyright debate currently raging in New Zealand.

According to the Creative Freedom Foundation, soon to be amended Sections 92A and C of the New Zealand Copyright Act of 1994 establish a guilt upon accusation principle that could see anyone accused of “copyright infringement”, resulting in his or her Internet connection being severed.

What’s more, according to GeekZone, under the new laws (drafted as the Copyright New Technologies Amendment Act 2008), anyone who provides any form of services over the Internet is an ISP:

“That means libraries, councils, schools, businesses, government offices, you name it. If you share your Internet connection with your flatmates, you’re probably an ISP too under the new act. Geekzone is an ISP. Think about what that means”

The proposed amendments come into force on 28 February 2009.

To make their disgust felt at the proposed amendments, GeekZone and Creative Freedom put their heads together and came up with the Internet Blackout Feb 16-23:

They’ve encouraged users of Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and anyone with a web site to show their support for the campaign by blacking out their avatars and images for a week to demonstrate the strength of public disapproval of the proposed laws.

The blackout began this morning and the impact was immediately felt across the social media community. Twitter account holders across the country turned their avatars black, prompting a lot of questions from their followers and more publicity for the campaign. I blacked my avatar out about mid-morning and was delighted to see so many others do the same, even non-Kiwis were joining in!

During the day, Twitter elite member Nat Torkington cheekily challenged Twitter superstar Stephen Fry to tweet about the issue. Unbelievably, Mr Fry not only responded, but joined the blackout bandwagon, removing his avatar and replacing it with the campaign’s recommended black square. He then changed his entire Twitter bio, dedicating it to an explanation of his avatar change and the reasons behind it. I’m guessing his very recent visit to New Zealand has had quite an impact on him!

Now, if you’re not a Twitter user, you may not understand the type of exposure this provided. Let me explain: not only does he have a huge profile in the entertainment industry, but Mr Fry has 193K followers on Twitter. That’s makes him #1 in the Twitter popularity stakes. Instant exposure to 193,000 sets of eyeballs cannot be underestimated.

As you can imagine, campaign participants were positively thrilled. Unfortunately, GeekZone servers were not. Apparently the sheer volume of traffic sent GeekZone’s way knocked over their servers for a short time. Mr Fry instantly apologised and suggested his tweeps Digg the related article instead.

With all that support and publicity, I’m sure this issue is far from put to bed. Will the archaic Copyright Law amendments go ahead at the end of the month? Stay tuned for updates.

EDITOR NOTE: If you want to help our cause, please share this link, blackout your avatars and if you tweet about the issue, please use the hashtags #blackout and #s92a  Follow me on Twitter so I can acknowledge your contributions.

Thank you in advance!

EDITOR NOTE 2: It worked! The widespread protest which took on a viral marketing quality via Twitter, Facebook and other sites was apparently enough to raise the profile of the issue and encourage New Zealand Prime Minister John Key to postpone the implementation of the controversial s92a amendment.

Thank you to everyone who blacked out their avatars, sent messages of support and tweeted about the issue. You guys give real meaning to Power of the People. Rock on!