New Zealand is known for sheep, rugby, and dramatic filming locations. However, it will also be known for being the first place in the world with a 3-strikes law for copyright infringement. The Copyright Amendment Act 2008 gained royal assent earlier this year, and goes into effect at the end of February 2009. Opposition to this bill, despite being signed into law, is still growing though.
Previously we’ve discussed how certain countries have been pushing for laws requiring ISPs to disconnect filesharers, if they receive multiple notices alleging copyright infringement. This proposal has been struck down by the EU, and no-one but lobby groups seems to want it.
However, over in New Zealand a law requiring ISPs to disconnect repeat copyright infringers has been proposed, passed and signed into law. The law, Copyright (New Technologies) Amendment Act 2008 adds a new section to deal with Internet Service Providers and copyright infringement. Yet, opposition from ISPs, and Internet user groups may see it being struck down or modified before it goes into force.
The section in question, 92A reads
Internet service provider must have policy for terminating accounts of repeat infringers
(1) An Internet service provider must adopt and reasonably implement a policy that provides for termination, in appropriate circumstances, of the account with that Internet service provider of a repeat infringer.
(2) In subsection (1), repeat infringer means a person who repeatedly infringes the copyright in a work by using 1 or more of the Internet services of the Internet service provider to do a restricted act without the consent of the copyright owner.
Opposition to this section of law has been steady, with six industry bodies that have opposed the law meeting with government ministers. Indications from Communications Minister David Cunliffe and Associate Commerce Minister Judith Tizard, are that if the opposing groups and rights holders can come to an agreement by developing a workable code of practice, the law can be reworded. Tizard also reiterated strongly that the law was going ahead, and it would do so because of ‘Internet piracy’, according to one of the meeting’s participants
The issue at the heart of the debate is that of proof. InternetNZ head Keith Davidson told New Zealand’s Stuff, that he wanted to see an element of proof being required before people are cut off. A position understandable with the recent bad press given to copyright infringement allegations in the US, both in studies, and the courtroom. Countering him was the CEO of the NZ Recording Industry Association, telling Stuff that proving the guilt of infringers in a court of law, before any penalty is dealt out would be “impractical and ridiculous”, a sentiment also shared by his American counterparts.
A provision to penalize false or inaccurate accusations was in the bill at one point, after dealings by the group of six with a select committee. However, Tizard stated that it was inappropriate, as the Cabinet had already decided the law was to go ahead as was, and that people shouldn’t be surprised.
New Zealand is also in the middle of an election (voting day is November 8th) so there may be a change of ministers soon. These may be more amenable to changing the wording of the law, to be based on proof, not simple accusations. As always though, nothing is certain for the 3.3 million kiwi’s (around 80% of the population) on the net, except they are considered less important than the greed of lobby groups.