NZ music biz cautious about piracy plan

Government unveils 'three-warnings' policy

AUCKLAND, New Zealand -- The New Zealand music industry has reacted cautiously to revised copyright legislation which offers a "three warnings" solution to online piracy -- but only a limited "struck out" component.

The government unveiled the new-look Section 92A of the Copyright Act on Wednesday, in which rights-holders will be able to request Internet service providers to send notices to alleged infringers, who will receive three warnings.

If the pirate activity continues, content owners will be able to take alleged offenders to a new-look Copyright Tribunal, which will have the power to issue penalties of up to $15,000 New Zealand ($10,680). However, the suspension of Internet accounts will only be possible if rights owners are prepared to takes a serious and persistent copyright offender to court.

The new legislation does not go as far as the original Section 92A clause, which effectively would have provided a 'three-strikes' solution to P2P piracy. The Recording Industry Association of New Zealand was unavailable for comment, but Billboard.biz understands that the industry is taking some comfort from the fact that the 'three warnings' approach will serve as an important deterrent.

However, there are serious concerns about the costs involved -- most of which will have to be met by rights owners -- and the complicated structure of the disputes procedure.

Anthony Healey, director of NZ operations for the Australasian Performing Right Assn., gave the new proposals a cautious thumbs up.

"It sends a strong message that illegal file-sharing is a serious issue and has a negative impact on the entire creative community," he tells Billboard.biz. "It will also encourage the development of new online business models. However some of the detail in the proposed legislation in unworkable and we will continue to work with government to ensure the law is a fair and reasonable one."

The revamped law, however, have been welcomed by the telecommunications industry and the artist organization the Creative Freedom Foundation, which was involved in a high profile campaign against the original legislation.

Commerce minister Simon Power believes that the legislation provides a fair and workable solution to the problem of online piracy, though he expects that the suspension of accounts will only happen in serious cases. He also stresses that those people receiving warning letters will have opportunities to defend claims made against them by rights owners.

"The procedure will both educate and warn file-sharers that unauthorized sharing of copyright works is illegal, and in turn stop a large proportion of illegal file sharing," he added.

The industry and public will be able to make further submissions at the select committee stage of the legislation, which is expected to get under way in March.
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