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March 8, 2010 | by  | in News |
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Power pulls the plug on porn… well, downloads

News
Downloading = disconnecting and fines

Kiwi internet users caught downloading copyrighted films or music could face disconnection and heavy fines following a bill introduced to parliament by Commerce Minister Simon Power.

Under an amendment to Section 92A of the Copyright Act, copyright owners could apply to the District Court for a maximum six month account suspensions for offenders.

Offenders would receive three formal warnings before being disconnected, a move which Power says will ensure fair warning aimed at educating users about illegal file sharing.

The bill would also allow the Copyright Tribunal to award penalties of up to $15,000 in compensation to the copyright owner.

Creative Freedom NZ director Bronwyn Hollaway-Smith says the internet has become a “core, vital service” and the penalties are therefore “quite extreme”.

New Zealand Writers Guild President Peter Cox welcomes the bill.

“In spite of the claims of certain pro-piracy groups, this bill is much welcomed by the vast bulk of the screen industry, including screenwriters.

“It is clear that the illegal downloading endangers both our individual livelihoods, and the screen industry at large, and screenwriters are passionately opposed to having their work stolen.”

Internet NZ Policy Director Jordan Carter supports the bill but questions if it goes far enough.

“Internet users would simply start a new account at another ISP. While suspension would require an order of the District Court, it is still unworkable and unnecessary.

“The draft bill puts the mistakes of the original Section 92A behind us, [but] InternetNZ will argue strongly that suspension be deleted by the Select Committee.”

John Katz QC, who has written extensively about the bill, disagrees.

“There is no doubt that some form of provision needs to be included in the Copyright Act to allow rights owners to utilise ISPs as probably the only means of exercising control over account owners.”

He says any bill aimed at targeting illegal file sharing was unlikely to be effective.

“Quite frankly, whatever steps are ultimately enacted, I cannot see that it will bring an end to the problem of illegal file sharing. It may help, but I think the problem is too widespread, and too enormous for there to be a truly effective 100 per cent catch-all solution.”

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