Three strikes file sharing bill passed in New Zealand

NZFACT backs change which comes into affect on 1 September

The Australian entertainment industry may still be in talks with internet service providers (ISPs) about movie privacy but in New Zealand, some groups are celebrating the passing of an illegal file sharing bill.

The final vote passed the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill by 111 votes to 11, while the bill will pass into law on 1 September this year. Under the amended legislation, internet service providers (ISPs) will be required to send three warning notices to customers informing them they may have infringed copyright.

Legislation also grants the Copyright Tribunal jurisdiction to make awards of up to NZ$15,000 in damages sustained by the copyright owner in illegal file-sharing claims.

The bill also includes a power for a district court to suspend an internet account for up to six months, in appropriate circumstances. However, this element of the legislation will not be brought into force unless the notice process and the remedies by the Copyright Tribunal are ineffective.

A key provision of the bill was that the notice regime would not apply to cellular mobile networks until October 2013.

Commerce Minister, Simon Power, said in a statement that the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill repealed Section 92A of the Copyright Act and replaced it with a new process to deal with online copyright infringements. Section 92A of the Copyright Bill included reference to internet access as a human right.

“This issue has a long and chequered history and I would like to thank all submitters for their help in shaping the Government’s online copyright regime. I look forward to the regime coming into effect on 1 September this year,” Power said.

"Online copyright infringement has been damaging for the creative industry, which has experienced significant declines in revenue as file sharing has become more prevalent. This legislation will discourage illegal file sharing and provide more effective measures to help our creative industries enforce their copyright.”

New Zealand Federation Against Copyright Theft (NZFACT) executive director, Tony Eaton, said in a statement that it welcomed the enactment of the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill.

“The legislation enacted will prove invaluable to our efforts to educate consumers about the value of intellectual property while at the same time deterring copyright infringement," he said. "We now look forward to its full implementation and to working with all sectors of the industry to make that happen."

The legislation, which was introduced on 23 February last year solidified the steps that ISPs must take in cooperation with rights owners to address peer-to-peer copyright infringement occurring over their networks. Those steps included forwarding notices of infringements generated by rights owners to those customers and maintaining records of such activity.

Legislation was passed including the three strikes policy despite a multi-lateral decision to can the condition from the Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement (ACTA), a treaty to which Australia and New Zealand are both signatories. The agreement was finalised in November last year, though New Zealand is one of the first to ratify some of its conditions into legislation.

Meanwhile in Australia, entertainment companies and distributors have come together to form a conglomerate called the Digital Entertainment Alliance Australia (DEAA) aimed at conducting discussions with ISPs and telecommunication companies to discuss ways of combating online piracy.

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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