Internet users face flood of warnings

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 05:00 03/05/2011

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Internet users are likely to be hit with hundreds of thousands of infringement notices each year after controversial changes to copyright law take effect in September, an Economic Development Ministry consultation document suggests.

Under the new "three strikes" regime, which is aimed at combating illegal file sharing, internet users could be fined up to $15,000 by the Copyright Tribunal for accidentally or deliberately viewing copyright material, such as pirated videos.

This month the ministry is consulting on the fees that rights holders will need to pay internet service providers to send "detection", warning and enforcement notices to customers on their behalf, before they can take cases to the tribunal.

It suggests those fees may start at as little as $2 a notice, much less than a minimum fee of $14 requested by internet providers.

Officials have asked internet providers to estimate their costs based on the assumption they would send out 5000 infringement notices each a month. New Zealand had 71 internet providers last year, according to Statistics New Zealand.

The ministry said it had selected the figure of 5000 notices only for "consistency purposes" and it did not give an indication of the number of notices that would probably be sent out by each provider.

But InternetNZ chief executive Vikram Kumar said it would be entirely realistic to expect tens of thousands of notices to be issued each month, based on experience overseas.

"France introduced a similar law and they were completely flooded, with 50,000 notices being issued almost instantly.

"In the United States it is quite routine for rights holders to send out hundreds of thousands of notices."

A "WikiLeaks" cable revealed the United States embassy in Wellington offered the Government the help of US Government officials to redraft the copyright law changes and dispel "public misperceptions" about intellectual property rights.

A spokesman for Commerce Minister Simon Power said the legislation was drafted by the Parliamentary Counsel Office "with no input" from US Government officials.

But Green Party communications spokesman Gareth Hughes said the offer showed how vulnerable the Government was to pressure from big businesses in the US.

"Previous leaked cables detail the US recording industry's willingness to spend up to $533,000 to fund a recording industry enforcement initiative to combat what US officials perceive as `key gaps in intellectual property rights enforcement' here in New Zealand.

"This kind of blatant intervention in local law enforcement is undermining our democracy."

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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