Three strikes for NZ pirates

The New Zealand Government has announced a lighter plan to crackdown on internet piracy.

The New Zealand Government has announced a lighter plan to crackdown on internet piracy. Minister of Commerce Simon Power indicated on Wednesday that his government was leaning towards a "three strikes and you're out" situation.

Previous legislation, mooted by the former Labour government and inherited by National, would have seen users removed from the internet even on a mere accusation.

This led to a series of protests earlier this year and the National-led government abandoning Labour's proposals and announcing a review.

The new rules, set for introduction in the new year, will see the worst offenders fined up to NZ$15,000 and their internet accounts suspended for up to six months if they repeatedly download copyrighted material.

Film users or record labels will be able to ask internet service providers to give alleged infringers notice to stop infringing activity. The first notice will inform the account holder that infringing has occurred and is illegal. Two further notices may also be sent to further warn of unlawful activity.

If, after three notices the infringing continues, the right holder may seek a penalty of up to NZ$15,000 at the Copyright Tribunal. The amount will be based on the damage to the copyright owner.

Where serious and continued breaches occur, right holders will be able to go to court to seek a range of remedies, including the suspension of accounts for up to six months.

The government adds that account holders will be able to issue counter notices, and can request a hearing if they feel they should not be penalised.

Power said the three-notice procedure was the key to the process. "The procedure will both educate and warn file-sharers that unauthorised sharing of copyright works is illegal, and in turn stop a large proportion of illegal file sharing," he said.

Though right holders will be able to seek suspension of accounts through the courts, said Power, he expected that would happen only in cases of serious offending.

"I want to stress that account holders will have the opportunity during each of these processes to defend claims by right holders."

The minister added the issue was complex but the government had worked through them with industry groups, intellectual property experts and others. The public and others could still make further submissions on the latest proposals.

"I'm confident we now have a workable solution," he added.

Reaction has been favourable from internet users and the copyright sector.

Thomas Beagle, spokesperson for internet-rights group Tech Liberty says the new proposals seem fairer than the old, and included rights to a fair trial, something the old proposals failed to do. But Tech Liberty remains concerned New Zealand laws may still need amending to meet the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which has yet to be publicly released.

Internet New Zealand policy director Jordan Carter welcomed the new proposals saying the government had taken on-board many concerns widely felt across the IT sector.

"At the heart of the proposed legislation is a notice-and-notice system which Internet New Zealand has argued for since the original legislation was drafted in 2007. Mr Power has recognised that this approach should lead to a large fall in illegal peer-to-peer file sharing. Internet New Zealand agrees," Carter said in a statement.

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