Copyright law - here we go again

Commerce minister Simon Power, has asked the Ministry of Economic Development (MED) to provide a clear understanding of the process to review section 92A of the Copyright Act.

The section required ISPs to handle complaints of illegal downloading of copyright material by their customers and to cut off the internet access of "repeat infringers", without what some parties considered adequate proof of guilt.

After a prolonged but unsuccessful process coordinated by the Telecommunications Carriers Forum attempting to define terms acceptable to all parties, the section was withdrawn earlier this year.

Now, MED officials are working with a working group of intellectual property and internet law experts to develop a set of proposals and questions for discussion, says a letter from the minister and MED to selected stakeholders.

The letter has gone to a number of organisations representing ISPs, copyright owners and internet users, says an MED spokeswoman.

The note says its purpose is "to update targeted parties ... on the proposed process which will guide policy development to deal with online copyright infringement".

The working group includes Judge David Harvey, Andrew Brown QC from Russell McVeagh, Clive Elliott from Shortland Chambers, Susi Frankel from the Copyright Tribunal, Paul Sumpter from Chapman Tripp and Justice Tom Gault.

It is anticipated that stakeholders will have the opportunity to provide input over a three-week period starting next month.

Following assessment of stakeholder submissions, MED officials will seek approval from Cabinet during August on the proposed policy to deal with online copyright infringement;

It is anticipated that a Bill will be ready for introduction into the House during September or October, the communication says.

From October, the Bill will move through the parliamentary processes including Select Committee. This is likely to take at least six months and so will not conclude until the first half of 2010.

The process "is intended to be thorough and will consider the concerns of rights-holder groups, ISPs and the public that have previously been raised with regard to section 92A".

Guiding principles are that the scope of any legislation leading to the termination of internet accounts of repeat copyright infringers "is explicit and takes into account issues of due process, practicality and enforceability.

"The terms used in legislation are clearly defined;

"The process leading to account termination is clear to all parties concerned."

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