Amendment to the Copyright Act.
Some important changes have been made to the Copyright Act that could affect you regarding Internet use from 11 August 2011.
The new law is called the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act 2011. It amends the Copyright Act 1994 to provide owners of copyrighted works such as movies and music an easier way to penalise people infringing their copyright through online file sharing. While tech savvy users of file sharing will almost certainly find ways around the mechanisms for detection that the rights holders envisaged in seeking this legislation others may be exposed if they share or obtain copyright material from file-sharing networks. Those that feel that this legislation is misguided point out that the industries that have sought this new legislation are the same ones that are seeing growth in income, and even deriving benefit from their material being circulated. They appear not to properly understand all the implications of the situation they are trying to combat.
InternetNZ has put together a website to answer all your questions: http://3strikes.net.nz . You may want to read their advice for protecting yourself or your organisation. They have a page that covers the legal basics http://3strikes.net.nz/information/law-basics
Our involvement: If a rights holder or their agent determines that you are infringing, you may get two warning notices which will be sent from us, your ISP. We will only send these when we receive a complaint from a rights holder that the IP number in our network that you were using was involved in infringing their copyright (accessing their copyrighted material without their permission).
After a third notice is sent to you, the copyright owner can take you to the Copyright Tribunal where a financial penalty could be imposed.
It is a sound idea that you check if your wireless network is secure and that you know if anyone is running "torrent" programs or other peer-to-peer programs on any machines connected to your network. File-sharing itself is not illegal but at present a very large percentage of usage on peer-to-peer networks relates to circulating movies, music and TV shows without the consent of the copyright holders. It is our recommendation that you discuss with those sharing your Internet account whether they have copyright infringing activities taking place as you could be held responsible at least initially if an infringement is detected, and that would at least create inconvenience for you.
We have found in conversation that account holders are often not aware that their children or visitors are running programs that connect to file sharing networks. Similarly employees in an organisation sometimes may sometimes be running these softwares without the employer being aware of this activity. If you run an organisation you could consider having an explicit policy on this matter.
Some points to note:
- We are still learning about the implications in practice of this legislation
- We are not in favour of this legislation as presently conceived. Some of the reasons for this are:
- It has a high chance of being the death of free Wifi, thus increasing inconvenience for Internet usage for travellers and increasing the "digital divide".
- The internet account holder may be held liable, even if they are not the actual person who was sharing copyrighted material.
- Allegations of copyright infringement made against you by the copyright owner are presumed to be correct unless you give evidence of why you are not guilty. This is a controversial respect in which this legislation differs from the natural justice convention of "innocent until proven guilty".
- It creates a costly layer of bureaucratic compliance for ISPs
- We expect we will be updating you further regarding our experience of the processes once we start receiving notices from rights holders and see how this process works out in practice.
- We do not monitor your Internet traffic at an individual level in respect of what sites you visit or what trackers you might connect to, and would not do so unless we were under compulsion to do so legally such as by court order or some new legislation. Our role in determining copyright infringement under the present legislation is to find out what account was using an IP number at a particular time and send the required notices to the account holder, and pass challenges back to the rights holder. If you want to know more detail concerning the process you could read the Act at www.legislation.govt.nz.
- We are not actively policing your usage for copyright holders. The organisations mainly involved in tracking down infringements are typically determining IP numbers of "sharers" by querying the trackers that are used by protocols such as BitTorrent. We can usually determine who was using a given IP number at a particular recent date-time and that knowledge that ISPs have of the usage situation is presumably why the legislation has put us in the role of on-serving notices after the complaint is sent to us.