New Zealand Backs Down from Controversial “Three Strikes” Copyright Law

March 24, 2009

(ChattahBox)—New Zealand’s Commerce Minister Simon Power announced this week, the government was scrapping its controversial graduated response bill, dubbed the “three strikes bill,” which would have punished suspected Internet copyright infringers using peer to peer file sharing programs, by disconnecting them from the Internet. Section 92A as originally written, drew a huge outcry from ISPs, Internet users, and even some copyright holders, claiming the law unfairly would have forced ISPs to terminate users accounts after three complaints made by a copyright holder. The law didn’t indemnify ISPs from lawsuits, and relied completely on allegations from copyright holders, with no safeguards protecting users from false complaints. Critics dubbed it the “guilt by association law.”

The revision to New Zealand’s copyright laws really began to unravel these past few weeks when TelstraClear, a major ISP outright refused to sign on to the proposed legislation. Additionally, the search engine company, Google publicly came out against Section 92, claiming that Internet disconnection was a “disproportionate” penalty, and the law as written provided no judicial mechanism in deciding when user’s Internet accounts could be terminated.

After the ISPs and copyright holders, such as the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand were unable to agree on how the law would be implemented, the government delayed the implementation of the law from February to the end of March. However, the New Zealand government now realizes the law is fundamentally flawed and vague and it intends to re-write the law from scratch, while still preserving some semblance of a graduated response to copyright infringement.

Critics of the law are heralding the scrapping of Section 92, which they said unfairly forced ISPs to act as copyright judges and policemen. New Zealand Internet users staged various demonstrations against the law and organized an Internet blackout in protest. The Recording Industry Association of New Zealand, or RIANZ, as the original backers of Section 92 plan to continue to push for some sort of graduated response penalties.

Campbell Smith, the CEO of RIANZ recently claimed that copyright infringement complaints made by his organization would be fool proof. Smith went on to say that if false accusations were made by his organization he would “eat his hat.” Many critics of Section 92 expected Smith would have been forced to eat many meals involving hats if the law went into effect.


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