HOME Technology Nov 2009
Disconnect over downloads
Law change still in limbo

The ongoing drama about how to deal withover curbing illegal music downloads is still playing out with Internet service providers, users and the music industry at loggerheads about the way forward.

A new section of the Copyright (New Technologies) Amendment Act 2008, was to have come into force due to come into force at the end ofin February, but was forced back to the drawing board after public pressure from lobby groups concerned at the "guilt upon accusation" approach.

ISPs would have had to cut off service to anyone suspected of downloading illegal material, and the involvement of the Copyright Tribunal would have imposed high compliance costs on parties caught in the middle.

The law change was overturned, and after prolonged consultation and submissions, a revision is expected being considered byfrom the Government any week now, and a decision is imminent.

Supporters of harsher laws, including the Recording Industry Association (RIANZ) and the Australasian Publishing Right Association (APRA) representing record labels, songwriters and publishers, want strong action to protect intellectual property on the Internet to protect. They believe copyright infringement is doing serious harm to the creative industries, claiming about 19 of every 20 songs are downloaded illegally.

Others including InternetNZ and the ISPs believe terminating Internet accounts is not the way to go, claiming as this paves the way for misuse as with individuals and organisations, including schools, could potentially being locked out of the Internet access without sufficient proof.

InternetNZ says New Zealand narrowly escaped being becoming the guinea pig and setting a global precedent. It wants a ‘notice and notice’ system rather than the ‘notice and termination’ approach being proposed, claiming as this will cost less and achieve a better balance between the rights of users and content creators.

Termination is overkill

Termination is as "an inappropriate and disproportionate remedy that will not work," says InternetNZ spokesman Jordan Carter who insists the costs for government, ISPs and rights holders would outweigh possible benefits.

In the meantime InternetNZ has expressed concerned the secretive Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is shifting focus to back termination for non-commercial and individual infringement of copyright, rather than focusing on commercial piracy.

Worldwide the movie and music industries have been pushing ISPs to implement a ‘"three-strikes’" scheme for years but talks have stalled. Britain and Australia is are considering giving its regulatorlegislation to the power to force ISPs to terminate persistent offenders and Australia is considering similar legislation.

In direct conflict with their record labels, a British alliance of musicians, songwriters and representative organisations claim "the stick is now in danger of being way out of proportion to the carrot." The group, including Elton John and Paul McCartney, label the plan as illogical, expensive and "extraordinarily negative".

In Australia another group of ISPs, songwriters, consumer groups and academics is concernedfears legislation may lead to ‘a Kangaroo court’ where innocent people are caught up the process and disconnected merely through allegations of illegal downloading

The groups cite the failure of most many of the 30,000 US lawsuits against consumers as a clear indication this kind of policy doesn’t work, and urging urge the music recording industry to find new ways of licensing and selling their music.

The music industry claims it loses is losing hundreds of millions of dollars a year through illegal downloads and some lawsuits are continuing. to file sharing. ExistingI law suits continue to be pursued; in August a Boston University student was ordered to pay $US675,000 to four record companies for illegally downloading and sharing 30 songs on the internetInternet.

While new generation music subscription services are emerging, including licensing channels like MySpace Music which launched in New Zealand in October, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) in its 2009 report, says unlicensed music online is a big shadow hanging over the industry.

Based on studies in 16 countries over a three year period it estimates over 40 billion files were illegally file-shared in 2008, giving a piracy rate of around 95 percent. While there’s an agreement to make changes in New Zealand, the recording industry in particular still wants ISPs involved in ‘a take down role’ with harsher penalties for infringers.

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