In 2008, the New Zealand government introduced a ‘three-strikes’ law which was designed to have alleged copyright infringers disconnected from the Internet. The legislation, commonly referred to as Section92, went largely unnoticed until the media picked it up.
The media attention led to widespread protests. Most noticeable was ‘Operation Blackout’, where hundreds of thousands ‘blacked out’ their profile images on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, and not without success. The objections eventually caused the government to scrap the law and go back to the drawing board. Not for long though.
Fast forward a few months and the government already has a new and ‘improved’ version of the anti-piracy legislation ready. The new plan no longer includes the ‘guilty upon accusation” section where consumers had little options to appeal a potential disconnection. However, the new text also includes the option for copyright holders to demand $15,000 in damages from repeated copyright infringers.
“I want to stress that account holders will have the opportunity during each of these processes to defend claims by right holders,” Commerce Minister Simon Power said in a comment.
Under the new law, ISPs would no longer be obliged to simply disconnect every user accused of repeatedly downloading copyrighted material, without solid proof. Instead, all account holders can request a hearing at the Copyright Tribunal if they don’t agree with the proposed penalty or the evidence presented against them.
From current reports it is not clear how the copyright holders will collect evidence on alleged copyright infringers. The past has shown that their data gathering techniques are not always the most accurate, to say the least. If this is the case, we can expect to see many appeals once the new proposals become law in the coming year.