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Copyright law may mean end of free Wi-Fi

Aug 11th, 2011 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

FROM today, internet account holders could end up with a fine of $15,000 for infringing copyright.

Even though the Copyright Infringement Bill does not come into effect until September 1, copyright holders are allowed to backdate their claims.

The new law allows them to track addresses of infringers, which are available to anyone connecting to peer to peer networks such as BitTorrent.

IP addresses are collected by private copyright enforcement companies, such as Californian firm Bay TSP.

Once an IP has been noted as infringing, and the data has been bought by copyright holders, it is passed onto the service provider, whose job it is to issue a warning to that particular account holder.

After three warnings, the account holder can be taken to the Copyright Tribunal and ordered to pay a maximum fine of $15,000.

Telecom spokeswomen Anna Skerten says copyright holders pay a $25 fee per complaint, a level which was argued for by internet service providers because of the extra work and expense caused.

“Our customer’s privacy is paramount and Telecom will not disclose customer details unless a customer gives us permission to do so or we are ordered to do so by the Copyright Tribunal or a court,” she says.

Ms Skerton says Telecom would prefer copyright holders focused their time on making the content available through legal online channels in New Zealand.

New Zealand Federation Against Copyright Theft, which represents major film companies in New Zealand, is refusing to give interviews to any media outlet, says the organisation’s chief executive Tony Eaton.

Green Party MP Gareth Hughes opposes the bill, which was passed under urgency in February, and says the laws will be difficult to enforce.

“I think there will be a few high profile cases that will show the difficulty of the law as it stands.

“I could be infringing on my computer at work, and the account holder is actually parliamentary services or the Speaker of Parliament. I personally won’t be liable even if I infringe.”

Civil liberties group Tech Liberty NZ has been fielding “quite a few” enquires from people worried about publicly sharing its internet connections, says spokesman Thomas Beagle.

“One was from a man who runs a motel that offers free Wi-Fi internet – he wanted to know if there was any [way] he could continue to offer the service without being liable.

“The answer is, of course, no,” Mr Beagle says.

Ministry of Economic Development spokesperson Emilia Mazur says people should visit advocacy group NetSafe to make sure their accounts were secured.

“It is recommend [sic] that users of wireless networks use password protection to prevent any unauthorised activity on their account.”

A file sharer, who wishes to remain anonymous, plans to avoid notices by renting what is known as a ‘seed box’ – an offshore server, which can do the infringing in a country without such laws – and relaying the data back to New Zealand.

“My main motivation is the lack of access to international TV series in New Zealand. Yes, we get some of them, eventually, but a lot of the better ones never make it.”

Thomas Beagle of Tech Liberty agrees.

“The real problem is that downloading movies, television and music has become totally normal. Most people would be prepared to pay for this material, but the big content companies aren’t prepared to sell it.”

An IP address is not a person, and attempts to enforce laws such as this all over the world have proven difficult.

In July, le Parisian reported that one of the first 10 disconnections in France was a teacher who claimed he did not even know how to use peer to peer software.

The Sunday Times reported earlier this year that internet provider Eircom mistakenly sent out 300 first strike notices due to a systems failure.

In a recent report, the UN Human Rights Council criticised the disconnection clause of copyright infringement legislation, which it says violates free speech rights.

Tech Liberty opposes the law on judicial grounds, says Mr Beagle.

“The idea of penalising someone for something they didn’t do and have no real control over is abhorrent to any idea of justice.”

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is A Journalism Student at Whitireia in Wellington, New Zealand. His specialty areas are digital culture, politics and cyber-crime.
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  1. Pirating is heiness crime that kills millions per year. By supporting piracy you spit in the faces of the many that pirates have slaughtered over the year. You have blood on your hands, “Callum” “Valentine” if that is even your name (obvious fake name).”

  2. Hmm I plan to use one of those things which is known as a ‘seed box’. Can you download pron with it?

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