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New Zealand passes formalised three-strike plans

By | Published on Friday 15 April 2011

Three Strikes

New Zealand’s long time in development three-strikes system has been finalised and put on the statute book, and it’s ended up being pretty draconian.

Parliamentarians in New Zealand were among the first to back the concept of introducing punitive measures against persistent file-sharers, though the initial three-strikes proposals put forward by the country’s government were not especially well thought out, in particular no consideration had been given to who would administer complaints by content owners against individual net users, nor how accused file-sharers might appeal.

But a more formalised system has now been developed, and it was passed into law by the country’s parliament this week. Under the new system, internet service providers will be forced to send out warning letters to net users whom the content owners suspect of file-sharing. The accused will be given fourteen days to respond.

Where letters are ignored or file-sharing continues, cases will be passed to a Copyright Tribunal who in first instance can order fines of up to $15,000 be paid, and if that doesn’t work order that a file-sharer’s net connection be suspended for up to six months.

When it goes live in September, the system will initially only apply to file-sharing on fixed-line net connections, but will be extended to the mobile internet in October 2013.

While those who oppose three-strike style systems will find fault with most elements of the new law, they might object in particular to the fact that the tribunal will assume a content owner’s claims of copyright infringement against a file-sharer are correct unless the accused provides evidence to the contrary. And also that accused file-sharers will not have an automatic right to bring a lawyer to a tribunal hearing, though they can request to do so.

The new laws received very little opposition in the New Zealand parliament, though were criticised elsewhere, not least by the country’s ISP community. The boss of one, EOL’s Terry Coles, told the National Business Review that more persistent file-sharers knew how to hide their file-sharing from the content owners, rendering the new measures ineffective.

Coles: “No one can see them, so no one will be able to see what they’re downloading. The people on the internet who drive this sort of thing are a lot smarter than the people who make the rules, I think, or they’re certainly a lot more IT savvy, anyway”.