NZ recording industry fires first "guilty until proved innocent" shots at alleged pirates

Filed Under: Featured, Law & order

I'm currently in New Zealand for a variety of reasons, including attending Kiwicon, one of the best security conferences (OK, the best) in Australasia.

New Zealand has had a fair bit of coverage in internet-related news stories over the last past months, because the country's parliament passed a controversial law earlier this year: the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act 2011.

The Act received Royal Assent - meaning it formally passed into law - in April, but its provisions only became active two months ago, on 01 September 2011.

As the name implies, the new law is aimed at on-line piracy, and it works on what even the cricket-loving Kiwis are referring to as a "three strikes and you're out" principle.

Loosely speaking, the Act compels ISPs to accept complaints about piracy from a range of copyright holders, and to pass those complaints on to their users in a formalised way.

Firstly, you'll get a Detection Notice. Secondly, you'll get a Warning Notice. And if there's an allegation against you for a third time within a nine-month period, you'll receive an Enforcement Notice.

At this point, you'll probably end up in front of a Tribunal (not a court) and - since in these matters you are guilty unless you prove yourself innocent - you'll probably end up paying a so-called Award (not a fine) ranging from NZ$275 to NZ$15,000.

Importantly, infringements are the responsibility of the account holder, not the actual perpetrator.

Businesses are responsible for infringements committed on their networks by employees; householders are responsible for their family and friends - and, indeed, anyone who might connect to their wireless network, whether invited or not.

The Act also has provision for an additional sanction against alleged "three strikes" offenders, namely cutting them off from the internet altogether.

(As in Australia's last election, the internet has become a party political bargaining tool: if the opposition displaces the current government in New Zealand's next election in 23 days' time, it says it will repeal this so-called termination component. Big words, but not a huge promise. The opposition isn't saying it will dispose of this unpopular law altogether, just a part of it that isn't yet being used anyway.)

After a two-month warming-up period, the copyright holders have now started to use the law to their advantage. The first complaints have gone out to ISPs, and as a result - since the ISPs are mandated to pass on the allegations in the form of official notices - the first Detection Notices have reached the first alleged offenders.

Kiwis, watch out.

As many a down-at-heel gumshoe has said in many an American crime novel, "You've been served."

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7 Responses to NZ recording industry fires first "guilty until proved innocent" shots at alleged pirates

  1. artfrankmiami · 1093 days ago

    Definitely the problem in the law is blaming the computer/wireless owner who could be blameless, not the actual perpetrator.

    • Richard · 1093 days ago

      No, the problem is the "guilty until proven innocent" stance. Presumption of innocence is a fundamental part of any sane legal system. Throwing it out to pander to plutocrats who can't be bothered to back up their claims with evidence is ludicrous.

      Unfortunately, it seems the whole western world is going down this route.

  2. James · 1093 days ago

    Wasn't internet recently declared a human right? How could NZ cut you off? At least on paper, that's like refusing somebody water.

  3. Herzco · 1093 days ago

    I agree. The perpetrators should be found and punished. Here in the states, so many people I know have lost their careers in the music business, largely bc of piracy.

    on a different note: And what do these pirates get in the long run? They get free songs now and NO CHANCE of having their own careers in the business since they gutted it by stealing everything.

    • Kara · 1090 days ago

      Downloading music sucks. Films for the most part too.

      Certainly in the case of television in NZ, tThe people who download it online only do so because they CAN'T watch it on TV, CAN'T purchase it online or buy the DVDs. Many shows are never released in the country and if they are, are released years later, long after the show has been ruined by spoilers online. Some people feel they can justify having something without buying it when there is absolutely no means to purchase. In fact, most of them would much rather pay if the American companies would move into the 21st century and let them do so.

    • Yeah. · 1090 days ago

      Your anecdotal claim simply doesn't scale. In the US the entertainment industries are seeing massive sustained profits and in many cases it is growing more quickly than other historically strongly performing sectors.

      Study after study has shown that awful business models, ignorance (or contempt of) customers' desires, and a misunderstanding of digital markets is the result of any pain the entertainment industries have felt, not 13 year olds downloading Justin Bieber.

  4. Angry Voter · 1089 days ago

    Oh what a great precedent!

    I declare all MPAA & RIAA members guilty under the RICO Act.

    They are obvious fronts for organized crime.

    All their assets should be seized and then they should have to prove their innocence in a court of law.

    Repeat over and over until they're broken.

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About the author

Paul Ducklin is a passionate security proselytiser. (That's like an evangelist, but more so!) He lives and breathes computer security, and would be happy for you to do so, too. Paul won the inaugural AusCERT Director's Award for Individual Excellence in Computer Security in 2009. Follow him on Twitter: @duckblog