Libraries fear internet closure over download law

Discontinuation of internet service in public libraries raised in submission to Ministry of Economic Development

Libraries may have to close their public internet services if the process used to identify offenders infringing copyright by downloading and uploading is allowed to stand, says the Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa (Lianza).

In a submission on the Ministry of Economic Development’s discussion document about scales of penalties and charges for policing the law, Lianza continues to claim the definitions in the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Regulations and the associated parts of the amended Copyright Act are misconceived and potentially unfair to libraries and their users.

Its argument is a reiteration of the one in a supplementary submission to Parliament on the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Bill in May last year, but the threat to disruption of internet services is a new element in this latest submission.

Tony Millet, chair of the Lianza committee on copyright, says he didn’t raise the possibility of discontinuation of internet access in libraries before, as they had hoped their original submission would be heeded.

He says it will not be the libraries that will discontinue internet use, it will be their councils that govern them, “should fines (up to a maximum of $15,000) be awarded against libraries and their governing bodies by the Copyright Tribunal, or should a District Court require internet access to be cut off for up to six months for a library and probably also its governing body.”

It appears a “user” in the proposed law and regulations is understood as the same as an “account holder” with an internet protocol address provider, says Lianza in its submission.

“This … is certainly not true of organisations such as libraries, schools [or] universities”, it says. The University of Auckland’s library, for example, provides service for 45,000 students – “45,000 users, but only one account holder”.

This, Lianza says, presents obvious difficulties with identifying an offending user by his or her IP address and in identifying “repeat infringers” – a key concept in the system of progressive warning notices set up in the Act.

In practical terms it will be impossible for a library to identify an offender, Lianza says, and this means the library itself may be held liable for infringement by any of its users unless it is specifically protected against this.

“It is hoped that rights holders, the Copyright Tribunal and District Courts will recognise that taking all reasonable and practicable steps by libraries to minimise copyright infringement is a lawful defence against charges of liability,” says Lianza’s submission.

A scheme of requesting identification from every user is theoretically possible, but this, Lianza says, would “prevent use by non-library members and those who do not have appropriate identification, such as overseas visitors, with consequent impact on our tourist industry.”

Being forced to withdraw internet service would “hugely impede one of the major roles of libraries, which is to make information (including digital information) as widely and freely available as possible,” the submission says.

Millet says in the meantime Lianza is recommending libraries put in place measures to minimise copyright infringement in their institutions.

“Libraries also need to consider whether they should set up processes and systems requiring all users of internet-access computers to provide contact information, supported by appropriate ID, and that they record this information, together with the date and time and computer used, in case the library (after 1 September) receives infringement notices alleging unlawful downloading or file sharing,” he says.

“There will, of course, be considerable compliance costs in setting up such systems to record, store and retrieve this data, and also an increased burden on library staff checking and recording identification details of users who are not registered library borrowers.”


Marco Overdale


In the USA you can access the internet via T-Mobile. However you might find yourself unable to access a host of educational material carrying a list of topics ranging from Abortion through Pornography to Terrorism.

Freedom of speech is fine, it appears, but access to licit free expression is impeded, based, it would seem, on ideology.

Export of such ideology is occurring.

John Logie


Actions taken in unnecessary haste will always have far reaching consequences, public submissions and due considerations of all view points do to a large degree mitigate the problems this new and hastily introduced law now present. Will the politicians never learn from their mistakes.

Geoff Thornburrow


The discussion around requiring proof of identification before gaining internet access in a library is pointless. The law clearly states that the liability for copyright infringement sits with the account holder of the internet connection, which in this case is the library. Unless of course the library can identify the user and seeks compensation for fines via the small claims court.



Webmarshal - block all downloads (mp3, exe, PDF etc). Solution in place.



...any publicity-averse public sector body would take comfort in knowling it's not aiding copyright infringement, especially a library. Perhaps responsible ISPs could provide the previously mentioned content filtering services free of charge, as they do with spam.



so the solution to this problem is make the content available to NZ, why do people download torrents for movies and tv, because they cant get the content locally, isky tried and failed and failed hard as the quality and choice was utter crap, US viewers have access to hulu and to netflix, and I for one would pay the $10 a month to get access to this content.



If the download is not made illegally i can't see why there is a reason for libraries to fear something. <a href="" rel="nofollow">Google Earth</a>



I find it really disturbing that libraries will have to get ID from users to supposedly be able to follow up if they have been illegally downloading. USA has the Patriot Act to snoop into library users' borrowing habits - the Thought Police, as it were. So libraries have been deliberately not keeping records of user borrowing habits over there, and to be fair, I don't think a library has been asked to hand over such info yet. But the state power remains. This feels like a stealth attack on privacy of citizens and library users in NZ, masquerading as copyright law enforcement. I am also really concerned about the "guilty until proven innocent" aspect. And it's not just internet cafes and libraries at risk. People who take international and local students into their homes as boarders, and allow internet access. With turnover of these homestay young people, each one, (up to 3) only needs to do one illegal download each, and the family loses their internet connection and are fined to boot. It's crazy!

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