New Zealand gov't withdraws copyright law

ISPs would be asked to close the accounts of offenders

AUCKLAND, New Zealand -- The New Zealand music industry is putting a brave face on a government cave-in on new legislation that would have required Internet service providers to terminate the accounts of repeat copyright offenders.

In a bitter blow for content owners, the government announced that Section 92A of the legislation -- which was set to be implemented this Friday -- is to be scrapped and a new clause drawn up.

Although both the copyright owners and industry body the Telecommunications Carriers Forum had been close to an agreement on a voluntary code of practice, commerce minister Simon Power says that allowing section 92A to come into force in its current format would not be appropriate given the level of uncertainty around its operation.

Campbell Smith, chief executive of the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand, is disappointed by the government's decision, but pledged to work with legislators on the revised law.

"The government acknowledges that New Zealand's creative industries are suffering because of the impact of online piracy and it recognizes that ISPs should play a key role in helping to address the problem," he says. "The delay required to implement the government's decision is obviously disappointing, but that's a price worth paying if the result is clear legislation that effectively addresses the problem."

Smith adds that the recording industry worked hard with its partners in the technology sector to come up with a voluntary code, but ultimately agreement could not be reached. The concept of a voluntary code was fatally wounded when the country's third largest ISP, TelstraClear, announced it would not sign up to it.

However, commerce minister Power reiterated the government's commitment to tackling illegal downloading.

"This behavior is very costly to New Zealand's creative industries and needs to be addressed," he says. "While the government remains intent on tackling this problem, the legislation itself needs to be re-examined and reworked to address concerns held by stakeholders and the government. I am confident that amendments to section 92A, which builds on the work of ISPs and rights-holders to date, will lead to a more workable piece of legislation."

Although the government will start work immediately on the amendments, it will be put out for public consultation.