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Google criticises New Zealand’s three strike rule

By | Published on Friday 20 March 2009

Google has weighed into the debate over New Zealand’s introduction of the infamous three-strike rule. As previously reported, New Zealand is the first country to put the three-strike system onto the statute book, making it law in section 92A of the country’s Copyright Act. This means that, in theory, record companies there can demand that internet users have their broadband connections cut off if they think their copyright is being infringed, and if users ignore three warning letters.

The new laws have come under much criticism, not least because the government there doesn’t seem to have put much effort into considering how the system will be policed day to day. That is key to Google’s concerns – because they say that content owners are not especially reliable when it comes to making infringement claims, and that as a result innocent web users could lose their internet connections.

In a submission to the Telecommunications Carriers Forum, Google said that 57% of takedown notices it had received asking for copyrighted content to be removed from Google’s services were submitted by businesses targeting their competitors, and that 37% were not valid copyright claims.

Using these stats to point out the potentially high number of innocent internet users who might have their connections cut off, the company said: “Section 92A puts users’ procedural and fundamental rights at risk, by threatening to terminate users’ internet access based on mere allegations and reverse the burden of proof onto a user to establish there was no infringement”.

It went on to add that the rules may end up doing more harm than good to the internet, saying: “Section 92A undermines the incredible social and economic benefits of the open and universally accessible internet, by providing for a remedy of account termination or disconnection that is disproportionate to the harm of copyright infringement online”.

While the New Zealand government claims that the “primary purpose” of the new code is to educate internet users about copyright, Google went on to say that “there is little reference to education about users’ rights, including limitations and exceptions enabling lawful use of copyright protected works, in addition to their obligations”.

Concluding it’s damning take on Section 92A, it concluded: “While inadequate copyright protection can reduce incentives to create, excessive copyright protection can stifle creativity, choke innovation, impoverish culture and block free and fair competition. As both an intermediary and an innovator in online technologies, Google supports a flexible and adaptable legal framework that provides those who create and invest in new technologies the freedom to innovate without fear that their efforts will be hindered by an overly restrictive approach to copyright. Copyright must have sufficient flexibility so that new,legitimate and socially desirable uses, enabled by new technologies, can flourish”.