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Piracy fireworks just a damp squib

After all of the fireworks, the controversial "three strikes" anti-piracy legislation, which became effective at the start of this month, has proved to be a damp squib.

After all of the fireworks, the controversial "three strikes" anti-piracy legislation, which became effective at the start of this month, has proved to be a damp squib.

The legislation allows copyright owners to send evidence of alleged infringements to internet service providers (ISPs), who will then send up to three infringement notices to the account holder. If the alleged offending continues, the copyright owner can take a claim to the Copyright Tribunal, which can fine the account holder up to NZ$15,000. The Bill includes the power for a district court to suspend an internet account for up to six months in appropriate circumstances. However, this is not intended to be used unless the notice process and the remedies by the Copyright Tribunal are ineffective.

Sounds like the iron hand of the law just got a bit tougher, right?

But this weekend gone by, the NZ papers were reporting that no one has been charged yet, and no infringement notices have been issued. So this is what the country went through years of turmoil over. This is what led to internet blackout campaigns and follow-up protests and threats. This is what caused some to brand the former Labour government, which brought in the original legislation amendments, as stooges of Hollywood.

Yes, all those years of drama over section 92 and matters of copyright, with the legislation later becoming known as the "Skynet Bill".

What was it all for?

Much credit for making the Copyright (Infringement File Sharing) Amendment Act 2011 so impotent can be given to its opponents, who did much to reveal how file-sharing piracy is so easy and possible.

It seems that it's a large portion of the population that has moved on to piracy because of old media models not working anymore. And people are being canny about it. A fresh-faced lad featured in the NZ Herald on Sunday got a mate to copy for him. And I am sure that he is bright enough to also use the technical means to make his connection anonymous to avoid his piracy being detected.

It's hard enough for the authorities to track down "proper" criminals and make them pay their fines, so you can imagine how hard it will be for copyright holders, who must pay ISPs a NZ$25 admin fee for each infringement notice, to track down these "guilty" pirates.

Then, if they are caught, such youngsters probably won't have the means to pay any heavy fines and, as yet, the government is not allowing any internet disconnections as a punishment.

So how can the law be enforced?

It almost looks like the pirates have won.