Why did New Zealand pass copyright infringement legislation regulating the internet?
Politicians in New Zealand recognized the abuses intellectual property rights owners (like motion picture studios and record companies) suffered at the hands of internet pirates, and sought to better protect their interests.
In an age in which hackers and profiteers can illegally reproduce digital media with little effort, the government of New Zealand enacted legislation to curb that trend. With record companies, motion picture studios, and other organizations losing upwards of several billions of dollars per year to their product being distributed, free of charge, by pirates over the internet, the New Zealand government felt the only fair thing to do was to pass a law protecting those corporate interests.
What does the New Zealand copyright infringement law do?
The New Zealand copyright infringement law allows those rights holders to ask Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to send suspected internet pirates a series of three notifications to cease and desist illegal activities online. If the pirates ignore the series of warnings given them by their ISP, the rights holder has the option of bringing the controversy before the Copyright Tribunal. If found guilty, suspected pirates could suffer fines up to $15,000.
Originally, the bill faced opposition by New Zealand’s Labour Party, but when the authors of the bill removed account termination from the Copyright Tribunal’s list of sanctions, Labour helped pass the act. Labour concedes that an account can still be terminated, but to do so would require a cabinet minister and the Governor General collaborating and signing a specific order. To the Labour Party, the rareness of this occurrence seemed like adequate protection for the rights of alleged pirates.
Why does Google not like New Zealand’s new copyright infringement law?
Though New Zealand’s Labour Party accepted the bill despite its original reservation, Google has constantly opposed the act. Specifically, Google claims that the act presumes the guilt of alleged pirates without need of a positive finding of infringement. To Google and other groups, requiring alleged infringers to prove their innocence seems the very anathema of the Common Law legal system from which New Zealand law derives.
Google Australia and New Zealand public policy and government affairs manager Ishtar Vij has thus requested that the clause in New Zealand’s bill suggesting a presumption of guilt be removed. On behalf of Google, Vij requested that the Copyright Tribunal be required to find some positive evidence of copyright infringement before an accused individual suffers the potentially vast consequences the bill includes. Google fears that unless altered, New Zealand’s law will biasedly favor the interests of major media companies with large litigation capabilities against individuals merely suspected of piracy.
Of course, if you have any questions about New Zealand copyright laws and the Internet, you should talk with a Kiwi intellectual property attorney.