Copyright law an 'opportunity', not a problem

Rights-holders accentuate the positive. Computer Society says law is 'illogical'

Provisions in new copyright laws requiring internet service providers to cut service to people accused of breaching copyright are "an opportunity for ISPs and rights holders to work together" to address online piracy, a coalition of organisations calling itself New Zealand Creative Industries (NZCI) says.

"This is an urgent issue and it cannot be solved without help from ISPs," NZCI, which includes The Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ), Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) and New Zealand Federation Against Copyright Theft (NZFACT), says.

NZCI says the issue, which has generated a virtually united front of opposition from ISPs, and ICT industry groups, is not about ISPs policing the internet, it’s about ISPs "responding to a high standard of evidence of infringement and illegal activity on their networks supplied by rights holders".

The goups says it is also about educating users.

"ISPs must play a role in this. It is estimated that 19 out of every 20 music downloads is an illegal download. Between 60-80% of all internet traffic is peer-to-peer sharing of copyright infringing files. This deprives the songwriters, record artists, actors and all those who work in the creative industries the opportunity for payment for their creativity and effort to produce the songs, movies and software you enjoy."

Section 92a, NZCI says, is intended to help address these issues.

Those traffic and piracy estimates appear to come from IFPI, an organisation representing the recording industry worldwide.

Anthony Healey, director of NZ operations for the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA), says such figures are difficult to accurately determine, but it is widely accepted that it is a vast amount of traffic. APRA manages the collection and distribution of royalties for musicians.

As the heat builds over the contentious law change, which Computerworld covered extensively last year, the New Zealand Computer Society (NZCS) described the Act as "illogical" — and potentially ethically flawed.

NZCS chief executive Paul Matthews has written to new ICT Minister Steven Joyce asking him to intervene to prevent the changes coming into force in February.

“NZCS strongly believes in the concept of copyright, and ensuring artists have access to adequate protection”, Matthews says. “However this law is a giant step too far and badly upsets the balance between protecting copyright holders’ rights, and the rights of computer and internet users in New Zealand.

“Placing ISPs in the position where they have to act on accusation alone, without proper judicial process, places them in an impossible situation where they are expected to take an unethical stance and action by potentially denying an essential service from kiwi families and businesses, based on the accusation of a third party.

“So either they risk breaching ethical standards of behaviour, or risk breaching the law”.

Matthews says guilt by accusation is not acceptable in any other area of law, is not appropriate in New Zealand, and should be rejected.

NZCI says it is in discussions with the Telecommunications Carriers’ Forum (TCF) and ISPs to agree a code of practice for ISPs which helps them and internet users fulfil their obligations under the new Copyright Act.

"This industry-wide participation is needed in order to secure a level playing field for responsible ISPs. At the same time, the creative industries are changing their business models to meet the challenges and opportunities the internet provides. However there needs to be a fair chance for the creative industries to compete against the ‘free market’ of illegal downloading and file-sharing," NZCI says.

The group says evidence of people engaged in copying will be put before ISPs and a "graduated response" to will start, beginning with the issuing of an education letter.

"Ultimately, if the illegal activity continues despite these warnings, the ISPs will then terminate the user’s internet account."

The new law is also being opposed by a coalition of artists, the Creative Freedom Foundation (Computerworld 19 December), which is hosting a petition against the law on its website.

See also:

Artists mount campaign against S92

Judith Tizard meets with copyright expert Lawrence Lessig

Carrier group may take on take down

Websites threatened by new Copyright Act

Secret IP pact involving NZ draws lawsuits

ICT issues debated at online forum, amendment delayed

Copyright Act change shifts software rights

Controversial copyright clause to be amended

ICT groups slam "legislative minefield of Copyright Act

ACTA sumitters split over IP protection

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