For New Zealand-based Internet users, today is the big day. Although the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act 2011 doesn’t come into force until 1st September, infringements can be back-dated for 21 days so pirates on P2P networks are probably being logged right now.
Those who are discovered uploading copyright material are first sent two warnings via their ISP. On receipt of a third, copyright holders can take Internet account holders to the Copyright Tribunal where they will face fines of up to $15,000 and disconnection.
While it may sound straightforward, the steps in the previous paragraph face problems. At best the evidence gathered by rights holders is only accurate enough to identify an ISP account from where an infringement took place, it cannot identify the actual infringer. The New Zealand government have dealt with this eventuality by making account holders responsible for infringements even if they didn’t carry them out.
This situation hasn’t gone unnoticed by Reddit user “drunkonthepopesblood” who says he has somehow gained access to the Internet via a government-owned connection (he doesn’t say how – could be wireless, he could be a government worker) and is now sharing copyright material.
“I’m officially downloading copyrighted material on P2P protocol on Government ISP. Lets see what happens,” he announced.
Several hours later his update read: “6:30am no signs of a dawn raid & thoroughly enjoying all of my newly acquired Miley Cyrus movies and soundtracks.”
The clear intention here is for the government to receive 3 strikes warning notices from the entertainment companies’ P2P monitoring partners so that they are disconnected from the Internet – to give them taste of their own medicine, if you will.
Gareth Hughes, ICT spokesman and MP for the Green Party has been an outspoken critic of the 3 strikes legislation. Even so, it was quite a surprise to see him pop up during the Reddit discussion.
“Wow that was fast, but not surprising,” he said in response to the attempt at framing the government for illicit sharing.
“I asked a series of questions [in] Parliament about this yesterday and have written to the Speaker because I don’t think he’s considered the impact this will have on him – as [the] account holder responsible for all alleged infringements,” he added.
“This law could bring the gears of government to a grinding halt because the holder of the account — Parliamentary Services — provides internet access to hundreds of users anyone of whom could cause infringement notices to be sent,” he noted in a separate statement Wednesday.
Hughes also levelled criticism at the government when it was revealed that the official website informing the public of the law’s implications won’t be launched until next Wednesday, one week after the infringement process begins.
“The Government has a responsibility to ensure that public institutions can navigate around the new law and not run the risk of fines or disconnection,” said Hughes.
“By not providing information or advice and relying on InternetNZ, Internet Service Providers, and the media, Mr Power has left schools and universities in a legal grey area.”
Hughes raised the issue with Commerce Minister Simon Power during a parliamentary session yesterday (video embedded below) but the question was disallowed.
However, perhaps the most disappointing part of the video comes at 4m 28s as Hughes asks Simon Power what the government is doing to encourage legal downloading, such as the uptake of Netflix.
“That is a good question,” said Power, laughing into his response.
“Because I have no idea what [Hughes] is referring to…”