Bill revises penalties for pirates

Video, music and software pirates no longer face the prospect of having their internet cut off, unless the Commerce Minister gives the green light.

The commerce select committee reported back the Copyright Amendment Bill last week, watering down the ability of copyright owners to punish those who breached copyright by illegal file-sharing.

The Bill would enact a three-notice system whereby downloaders would have three chances to stop breaching copyright until they faced a fine of up to $15,000 and the prospect of losing internet access for six months.

But the committee - in a cross-party, last-minute decision - decided that all applications to suspend internet accounts would have to get approval from Commerce Minister Simon Power.

Mr Power said the intention was to let the Copyright Tribunal have the chance to resolve any issues, and leave the prospect of suspending an internet account as a last resort.

Infringement notices would be provided by internet service providers on advice from copyright holders.

After three notices have been issued, the tribunal can issue fines up to $15,000.

An application to suspend an internet account would be heard in a district court only after the tribunal had exhausted its ability to find a remedy, and only after an order-in-council from the minister.

The court could still deem suspending an internet account would be manifestly unjust.

The Green Party still criticised the Bill, saying it was a disproportionate punishment to cut off the internet for pirating material.

But Labour Party communication spokeswoman Clare Curran said the compromise would put the onus on the creative industries to prove there was a case to suspend an internet account.

"Most of the submitters agreed it would be difficult and cumbersome to take a case to the district court, and they agreed that suspension as a remedy was effective only as a deterrent rather than a practical remedy," Ms Curran said.

The system would not apply to mobile phones until August 2013.

NetGuide managing editor Duncan Campbell said the legislation would bring New Zealand into line with other countries.

"It is another tool for copyright holders to protect their interests.

"It is a global initiative which makes New Zealand compliant with international agreements."

He said cutting off the internet for a particular user would be virtually impossible, as there was nothing to stop someone going to an internet cafe or using free wireless networks.


• You download material that breaches copyright. Copyright holders inform ISPs, who issue you with a detection notice, which expires in nine months.

• You keep downloading material. You get issued with a warning notice, which expires in nine months.

• If you keep downloading and receive an enforcement notice, you will go before the Copyright Tribunal, which can order a fine of up to $15,000.

• If the tribunal is thought to be inadequate, the copyright owner can apply to a district court to suspend the internet account for six months, but only after the Commerce Minister approves by order-in-council. The court can still decline on the grounds it would be manifestly unjust.



Add a Comment