Copyright law still riles

BY NICK SMITH
Last updated 05:00 17/07/2009

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New government proposals to enforce online copyright law have failed to appease internet industry concern at a regime that could see individuals or businesses having their internet connection terminated if they breach the rules.

Commerce Minister Simon Power this week released a revised proposal to amend section 92a of the Copyright Act. The new plan introduces a three-phase process to stop copyright infringement  but still ends up with repeat offenders potentially having their internet connection cut off.

Step one involves rights holders to written and visual content, music or films being able to issue two notices  an infringement notice and a cease and desist notice  to the alleged infringer.  In step two, they can apply to the Copyright Tribunal (a previously relatively inactive organisation) for an order forcing the internet service provider to furnish contact details of the repeat offender.

The third stage involves an infringement complaint being lodged with the tribunal, which can impose a fine, order the payment of damages and force the ISP to terminate the infringer's internet account.

Keith Davidson, executive director of lobby group Internet New Zealand, says that while the three-phase notice period is an improvement, it still contains ''the toxic remains of a termination regime''.

"Nobody condones copyright abuse, but the termination of a household or business internet account is simply out of proportion to the alleged offence.''

  Brett O'Riley, chief executive of internet supply organisation New Zealand ICT Group, warns that the regime could penalise education organisations, where it is difficult to identify the copyright infringer. He  favours financial penalties to change the behaviour of  repeat copyright infringers.

Davidson says the demand for the remedy of being able to cut someone's internet connection comes from ''a subset of the music and movie industries, who are pleading for special treatment they do not deserve''.

The latter comment prompted a swift riposte. "Absolute nonsense,'' says Anthony Healy, director of the Australasian Performing Right Association,  the administrator of music royalties. "Without the content industries, the internet would be empty. We want to ensure that the people who make the content are rewarded.''

Punitive sanctions may not be needed, Healy says, if internet providers understand the obligation to enforce licensing of copyright material.

"If the internet providers are willing to play a role in that, everyone will be in a better place.''

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Submissions on the proposed amendment to section 92a close on August 7.

 

- The Independent

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