Pirate party to fight election

The Pirate Party, which is opposed to changes to copyright law that will take effect in September, hopes to contest the party vote in the November election, aiming to emulate the success of similar parties in Europe.

The Economic Development Ministry further stoked controversy surrounding the forthcoming crackdown on internet file sharing on Friday, issuing a discussion document that suggested copyright holders might have to pay as little as $2 to send out infringement notices under the "three strikes" regime.

Pirate Party president Tommy Fergusson, a 22-year-old Auckland engineer, said the party had signed up 64 of the 500 members it would need to contest November's party vote through only "word of mouth" and social networking sites Facebook and Twitter. "We think we have got a good chance of being registered for the election."

The 5 per cent threshold meant getting a list party candidate elected would be a challenge, despite the "strength of feeling" on copyright reforms, he said. "But if we can get acknowledged as having a certain level support, as the German Pirate Party and some others have, it might send enough of a message that other people might start taking an interest and acting on our concerns. It also means any submissions we make to select committees will have a greater weight."

The party is one of 18 pirate parties afflialiated to Pirate Parties International.

Sweden's Pirate Party stunned pundits when it won 7.1 per cent of Sweden's popular vote and two seats in elections to the European Parliament in 2009. But the party, which was founded in 2006 in the wake of the prosecution of Swedish file-sharing site Pirate Bay, slumped to 0.65 per cent of the vote in the country's 2009 general election. Germany's pirate party, Piraten, polled 2 per cent in Germany's 2009 federal election and has won 43 council seats.

Mr Fergusson said the party believed there was a place for copyright, but it wanted a regime whereby material would become freely available 10 years after it was created and a more liberal policy allowing "fair use" before then. "We want a law that is more in favour of consumers, but we wouldn't abolish copyright."

Amendments to the Copyright Act mean internet users could be fined up to $15,000 by the Copyright Tribunal for illegally downloading copyright material, such as pirated music and videos, from September. Rights holders who identify the internet addresses of infringers will for the first time be able to make internet providers send infringement notices to customers and supply their details to the tribunal after a third warning.

Tony Eaton, chief executive of the New Zealand branch of the Motion Picture Association, NZFact, has said the fees rights holders would have to pay internet providers to send infringement notices would be critical in determining the extent to which they used the new enforcement regime.

Internet providers had suggested rights holders should pay between $14 and $56 per notice.

But the ministry said internet providers should swallow the set- up costs of establishing systems to manage the three-strikes regime and should only charge rights holders for the ongoing costs they incurred sending out notices.

"The range of notice fee estimates would be between $2 and $28," it said.

The ministry is consulting on whether there should be a flat fee for infringement notices or whether internet providers should charge less for the initial detection notices that would first be sent out to illegal file-sharers and more for subsequent "warning" and "enforcement" notices.

Internet Service Providers Association vice-president Charlie Boyd said a fee at the lower end of the scale of that touted by the ministry would be of concern to internet providers. "There are real costs. It is not like we are trying to make a buck out of this. You have got to build systems and processes and employ people to monitor what is happening here.

"We are not having a laugh, it is real cost and if you are a small provider you have got the same costs as the big guys."

The ministry's preferred option was that the formula the Copyright Tribunal would use to decide the scale of fines would take into account compensation for the rights holder for their loss of revenue, the reimbursement of the fees they had had to pay for infringement notices and to bring a case to the tribunal, plus an extra amount as a "deterrent" that would be based on the "flagrancy of the infringement".

"While flagrancy is partly determined on whether the infringer was aware they were infringing, the tribunal would also be able to consider ... if the infringer was deliberately sharing a large number of works [and] whether the work was uploaded or downloaded."

The Dominion Post