Copyright section could be changed

01:43, Jan 31 2009

A controversial clause in the Copyright Act due to come into force in February could be changed if ICT groups and copyright owners can reach a compromise.

Section 92A of the act requires Internet service providers and copyright owners to decide between them whether people have infringed copyright, and obliges ISPs to cut off repeat offenders.

Representatives from the six ICT industry bodies that campaigned against the section met with Associate Commerce Minister Judith Tizard and Communications Minister David Cunliffe last week.

Telecommunications Carriers Forum chief executive Ralph Chivers says the ministers indicated they would consider a rewording of the section should ICT groups and rights holders come up with suggestions while developing a code of practice for implementing it.

"There certainly seems to be an offer to come back with any ideas through the code development process.

"But there's not an undertaking to change anything.

Advertisement

"There are serious issues that need to be fixedbut in the meantime we accept it's the law and we'll develop a code that helps our members and other ISPs and minimises the legislative risks as far as possible."

Ms Tizard says the section is law and ICT groups have agreed to work within it, but changes to the section are possible.

"Given the speed of developments within IT technology and the Internet, it would be expected that changes to New Zealand's copyright regime will occur in the future and I have given an undertaking that government is committed to working with ISPs over this period."

ICT groups and rights holder organisations are motivated to develop a workable code but there will be challenges, Mr Chivers says.

Recording Industry Association chief executive Campbell Smith has said it would be "impractical and ridiculous" for copyright owners to prove the guilt of infringers in court before demanding they be cut off from the Internet.

InternetNZ president Keith Davidson says it would like to see an element of proof required before people are cut off.

"We don't want to see people's accounts terminated because of frivolous or specious allegations of copyright fraud but we do want to see rights holders protected."

He says the current wording of the section is likely to alienate ISPs from rights holder organisations, but if a code of practice can be agreed upon the wording may not need to be changed.

ISPs and rights holders generally work well together, he says."I think everyone agrees it's in our best interests to get a solution."

Computer Society chief executive Paul Matthews says he was disappointed the ministers would not discuss possible changes to the act at the meeting.

"The impression I got at the meeting was that they were standing fast on the wording of things but then nothing is ever set in concrete. If ICT groups and copyright owners come up with an alternative that everyone is happy with there's a quite strong chance of that changing."

ICT groups and rights owners won't know if they can develop an agreed code of practice "until they are around the table", he says.

"We strongly believe in copyright in terms of protecting people's content, but the penalty should match the crime."

The creative sector should look to develop other business models to combat copyright infringement such as the subscription service offered by Nokia with some of its high-end phones, which allows users to stream as many songs as they want for a monthly fee, he says.

The Dominion Post