South African Cybercrime Bill creates Trial by Hollywood
by David Robert Lewis
THIS YEAR has been a disastrous year for cyber-liberties. South Africans
have seen a range of proposed laws rolled out by legislators, each one
eroding digital rights which include access to information, freedom of
communication, the right to privacy and online speech.
First there was the draft ‘Online Regulation Policy of The Film and
Publication’s Board’ (FPB Bill
labelled ‘Africa’s worst new Internet censorship law
and which has resulted in a storm of protest. This was quickly followed by
a Copyright Amendment Bill
royalties bill) which fails to take into account permissive licensing under
the Creative Commons. (There will be no possibility of releasing material
under a Copyleft license, since such schemes are by deemed to be an
infringement of compulsory licensing under Copyright law.)
Now the Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill
ostensibly aimed at plugging online security breaches, while thwarting
criminals — perhaps the worst piece of anti-speech law to come our way
yet. Far from being an answer to cybercrime, the draconian bill views the
mere intention to use the Internet, as grounds for suspicion, in an
Orwellian world described by author Cory Doctorow, as a ‘war against
general purpose computing’. <http://boingboing.net/2012/08/23/civilwar.html>
That’s right, merely using a computer
could lead to a chain of events, mapped out by legislators, which includes
the end of due process and the annulment of fair use rights and other
freedoms. As such, the Cybercrime Bill as it stands, already contradicts
our constitution and the previous Copyright Amendment Bill, which in turn,
is further complicated by the FPB bill, and when viewed as a suite of
legislation, the result is rather scary.
Cybercrimes, such as merely downloading or copying a Hollywood ‘fliek’,
could result in forced rendition to a foreign country as a “terror
suspect”. The latest Bill, drafted by securocrats, attorneys and lobbyists,
acting at the behest of Hollywood, creates a series of unlawful acts,
including ‘appropriation of property under copyright’ and deals with the
consequences, as if Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger were the ones
implementing the legislation.
Where the AFB uses the threat of child pornography to advocate for less
online freedom, the cybercrime bill uses the threat of terrorism and
espionage to motivate for a world in which merely owning a computer, could
lead to a change in the legal principle, ‘innocent until proven guilty’.
Interception of your data and communication by government agencies acting
without a court order, becomes the norm, rather than the exception in the
bill drafted by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.
Each one of these proposals, severely erodes rights and freedoms guaranteed
by our constitution. Without sufficient checks and balances, safeguarding
constitutional rights, a default override in favour of citizen’s rights,
the laws represent a clear and present danger to freedom.
On January 18, 2012, a series of coordinated protests occurred on the
Internet. The online demonstrations against the United State’s ‘Stop Online
Piracy Act’ (SOPA)
<http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Protests_against_SOPA_and_PIPA>, saw hundreds
of web-sites, including Wikipedia voluntarily blacked out, sending a clear
signal to the American Congress and resulted in a major victory against
Hollywood, in a campaign lead by hacktivists and the late Aaron Swartz.
Like the earlier Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) which sought to
control the reproduction of data, SOPA was criticised for being overly
broad and too robust. It contained measures, critics said, that could cause
great harm to online freedom of speech, Internet communities and net
neutrality. Protesters also argued that there were insufficient safeguards
in place to protect sites based upon user-generated content.
ACT NOW BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE
Interested parties wishing to comment on the Bill are invited to submit
written comments to the Department of Justice and Constitutional
Development on or before 30 November 2015. These can be submitted to:
cybercrimesbill(a)justice.gov.za. Submissions can also be faxed to: (012) 406
4632. For information or queries related to submissions, contact Mr S J
Robbertse on: (012) 406 4770.
Published as an Op-Ed in the Cape Times 23 October 2015.
*David Robert Lewis*
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