The controversial ‘Section 92a’ law is looking increasingly uncertain in New Zealand. Following a breakdown in talks it’s been revealed that one ISP has already implemented a version of it, and may have already threatened innocent customers after allegations from copyright holders.
The entertainment industry has lobbied extensively for a “guilty on accusation” process for years now. Last year they had a breakthrough when New Zealand enacted the first such law, commonly referred to as Section92. It went largely unnoticed until the media picked it up last year, but it quickly spawned a lobby group of its own.
Around the same time there was an election in New Zealand and a major change in government, with the then-ruling Labour Party losing out to the National Party. One of those losers was the bill’s champion, Judith Tizard.
With a change of government comes a change in views, and late last month New Zealand Prime Minister John Key announced that the law would be delayed until a workable solution is found.
For many thousands of Kiwi’s, however, disconnection upon accusation is already a reality. One ISP, WorldXChange, has already implemented a Secton92-esque policy for its customer base; one it claims might actually be more draconian.
According to the New Zealand Herald, WorldXChange, which has approximately 20,000 customers, has already initiated their own version of ’3 strikes and you’re out”. The Herald spoke with a WorldXChange customer who said their connection was terminated last year after an allegation of copyright infringement was made to Xnet (WorldXChange’s broadband service). After contacting customer services, they learned that their connection had been terminated because the ISP had received an allegation that the customer’s IP was linked to file-sharing that infringed copyright.
“They said that they’d reinstate my Internet, but that if they got one more [accusation] it would be cut off permanently – two strikes, you are out.”
A spokesperson for WorldXChange confirmed that such a policy was in place, but said it was 3 strikes, not 2. However, WorldXChange will not be terminating commercial customers in this manner, only residential ones – undoubtedly because residential customers are less likely to sue WorldXChange than a commercial concern, who could easily have their business turned upside down by an unwarranted disconnection.
It might be a a different story if media-groups (and their enforcement contractors) could be trusted to make accurate, well researched claims when it comes to allegations of infringement, but we all know that is not always the case.
Meanwhile, the debate amongst other NZ ISPs has stalled with the withdrawal of TelstraClear (NZ’s second biggest telecom company) from talks regarding Section92, stating it doesn’t want to harm customers. The law has generated intense debate all over New Zealand and now has an uncertain future. If the law is repealed, or struck down though, it is entirely possible that Xnet’s policy will stay in effect, at least until the sound of customers flocking to their competitors – voluntarily or after being ‘terminated’ – gets too much to bear.
On a lighter note though, WorldXChange does seem to have mastered irony. WorldXChange states on the ‘about us‘ section of their website “To us, the key stakeholders are our customers”. Meanwhile Xnet has a package aimed squarely at bandwidth-hungry BitTorrent users.