A flurry of online protest has erupted over the government
pushing controversial copyright legislation through
While the legislation is a watered down version of a bill that created international debate two years ago, it is still drawing criticism.
The Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill repeals Section 92A of the Copyright Act and was passed today after an urgent sitting last night. It comes into effect from September 1.
Many have joined a "blackout" campaign to show their opposition to the move, replacing their profile pictures on Facebook and Twitter with black squares.
One Facebook campaign site has almost 2500 supporters.
The new laws mean from September 1 downloading copyright-protected material will be punishable with fines of up to $15,000, and copyright holders will be able to approach Internet Service Providers (ISPs) if they believe an ISP's client has been illegally downloading their material.
Cabinet Minister Wayne Mapp said those believed to be breaking the law will get three warnings from their ISP before further action is taken.
He said if the warnings are ignored, the copyright holder will be able to take the alleged freeloader to a special tribunal, and if they are found to have broken the law the tribunal can award costs of up to $15,000 against them.
Repeat offenders could have their internet connections cut for six months.
However on online poll on tvnz.co.nz shows most people already download music legally (67%). Nineteen percent said they will be deterred by the fine, while 14% said they will not be deterred.
The legislation drew huge protest two years ago, even copping
criticism from UK comedian Stephen Fry.
However protesters admit the new legislation is an improvement.
"Internet termination is something that we're fundamentally opposed to...we always have been and we always will be. We think it's unnecessary and it's disproportionate," Bronwyn Holloway-Smith of Creative Freedom Foundation told ONE News.
The laws were agreed while parliament was sitting under urgency to pass legislation to help the rebuild of Christchurch.
Many people online have questioned why the issue of illegal downloads, and such an important amendment to the Copyright Act, was placed on the list for discussion.
"The abuse of urgency is starting to really concern me. What possible justification can they have for it?" wrote George Dewar on ONE News' Facebook page.
James Curry says: "It will be hard to enforce this because there are so many copyright laws...you could breaching them right now and you wouldn't know."
"Not only is the urgency process being abused," said Pirate Party secretary Noel Zeng on his website, "but our government is also exploiting the people of Christchurch by using their unfortunate situation to pass underhanded legislation."
There is also growing doubt about the effectiveness of the law.
Public Address blogger Russell Brown doesn't think the law will be particularly effective at stopping piracy.
He thinks it will be next to impossible to track downloading direct from websites and has concerns that innocent people could be prosecuted.
"It's an inadequate piece of law, albeit one markedly better than what it was designed to replace - passed overnight in vile circumstances," Brown says.
And David Farrar of Kiwiblog says the government has scored an "own goal" by pushing the legislation through under urgency - whipping up the protests.
Meanwhile, The New Zealand Federation Against Copyright Theft (NZFACT) is welcoming the enactment of the bill.
"We commend the government and the legislature for honouring their commitment to promoting and protecting the continued growth of New Zealand's creative industries," said NZFACT executive director Tony Eaton.
"The legislation enacted today will prove invaluable to our efforts to educate consumers about the value of intellectual property while at the same time deterring copyright infringement. We now look forward to its full implementation and to working with all sectors of the industry to make that happen.
ISPs say they are happy to play their part in enforcing the new laws but are concerned over who will pay the costs. Chief executive of the Telecommunication Carriers' Forum, David Stone, has said he is concerned about who will cover the costs of providing the information.
ISPs will need to provide customers' details to copyright holders, and send a warning to the user if they are suspected of breaching the law.
- with Newstalk ZB
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