From PMs Office

What is the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill?

The Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill repeals Section 92A of the Copyright Act and replaces it with a new process to deal with online copyright infringements and deter illegal file-sharing.

The three-notice regime involves ISPs sending warning notices to their customers informing them they may have infringed copyright. The legislation also extends the jurisdiction of the Copyright Tribunal so it provides an efficient, low-cost process to hear illegal file-sharing claims.

Those accused of copyright infringements will have an opportunity to answer any claims (eg. If the account holder is unaware that someone is infringing copyright on their computer).

The tribunal will be able to make awards of up to $15,000 based on damage sustained by the copyright owner.

The bill includes a power for a district court to suspend an internet account for up to six months, in appropriate circumstances. However, this element of the legislation will not be brought into force unless the notice process and the remedies by the Copyright Tribunal are found to be ineffective.

The bill was passed into law on Thursday 14 April 2011. 

Why was the legislation passed under urgency?

This copyright issue has been dealt with a considered and careful manner.

The House was in urgency this week to deal with the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Bill. However, as the Earthquake Bill was sent to select committee for a day, the Government sought the support of the House to progress a number of other bills that have broad political support to fill in the time before the Earthquake Bill reported back, rather than putting the House in and out of urgency. The Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill was one of those bills.

There has been significant consultation since March 2009 when the Government acted to stop the previous Government’s legislation from coming into force.

Consultation has included:
- A series of facilitated round tables.
- The formation of a working group.
- Stakeholder meetings with officials and the Minister.
- A public discussion document.
- The bill being sent to the Commerce select committee for the standard of consideration of six months. See:
- The Commerce Committee also sought further information from a number of parties.

How likely is it that the power for district courts to suspend an internet account will come into force?

This power will only be brought in if the remedies by the Copyright Tribunal are ineffective.

This will enable the Government to work with stakeholders to monitor and review the situation and determine when a further deterrent may be needed. 

It's expected the issue will be reviewed in two years, coinciding with the five-year review of the digital copyright amendments that were passed in 2008. 

How do the notices work?

Essentially, each notice under the regime has a 28-day time period where no further action can be taken.  However, all three notices must have been sent within nine months of the first notice, otherwise they will expire.

Eg: If I receive my first notice on 1 May, I might decide to ignore it and keep infringing.  If I infringe at any time after 28 May I might receive my second notice, and so on.  If I stop infringing for 9 months from 1 May, my notice expires.  Then, when I infringe again, I’ll receive another first notice.

It's correct to say that the shortest time someone may go through the system (if they are constantly file sharing and receive each notice straight away) is about three months.  The copyright owner can then choose to apply to the Tribunal.

There are also useful timing examples such as this included in the Bill itself.

When can I get more information?