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New Zealand piracy laws in effect starting tomorrow

Tomorrow is the day that the new piracy laws come into effect in New Zealand. What piracy laws, you ask? You may recall a few months back the New Zealand government pushed through controversial anti-piracy laws overnight under "urgency" which was allowed thanks to the Christchurch earthquake situation. This allowed the government to pass a law that would usually have taken months to create and would require public consulatation to be pushed through within 24 hours and without notification of the public.

Not only is there drama surrounding the actual passing of the law, it turns out that the US government coerced the New Zealand government to create the law in the first place, with the country offering to develop and fund the IP law and enforcement. Ars Technica recently revealed that a UN report that is signed by the US, Sweden and New Zealand condemns the "three strikes" law regimes, which states clearly that "All users should have greatest possible access to Internet-based content, applications and services," and goes on to say "cutting off users from access to the Internet is generally not a proportionate sanction."

The UN has criticized the New Zealand government over the laws, saying that the UN "was alarmed by proposals to disconnect users from internet access if they violate intellectual property rights." The government responded by saying "it will not alter its internet copyright legislation, despite UN criticism that such laws are an attack on human rights."

Today, the day before copyright infringements "start counting" towards infringement notices on September 1, many are not clear on how exactly the law will work, and ISP's still do not have systems in place to handle requests from copyright holders. Businesses and institutes are increasingly worried about the effects on them, as the law doesn't accuse the person who downloaded the material but the connection owner. This means if a student downloads a movie at university, whoever signed the contract in the IT department is accountable for their actions. UniTec said that if it was liable for student copyright breaches it might "have no option but to discontinue the provision of internet access to all library users".

According to the New Zealand Herald, Andrew Cornwell, Sony Pictures general manager said that they weren't targetting the worst offenders, but instead "The whole thrust of it is aimed at middle New Zealand who might do the occasional download." The law only covers peer to peer users, which means many are flocking to direct download sites such as Rapidshare and Mediafire for their downloads.

Originally, the law was provisioned to give users two warnings before a third notice with permanent disconnection of their internet services. However, under the revised law users will be charged up to $15,000 for repeat offenses, with the option for courts to revoke the users connection for up to six months. New Zealand Federation Against Copyright Theft (NZFact) will be actively monitoring torrents, collecting information and notifiying copyright holders about infringments so they may take action.

3Strikes NZ says that "notices can be sent for alleged infringements occurring in the 21 days before the notice," which means that "allegations of infringements from 11 August 2011 onwards count under the new law." Organizations need to be aware that their staff can put them at risk if they use software for Peer to Peer activities, and must mitigate the risk by blocking installation of the software or tracking their users.

The best advice on the new law for home users is to use dilligence with your internet connection. Ensure all members of your household are informed, and don't let anyone use your connection without understanding that P2P software puts you at risk.

Update: For further evidence that the New Zealand government is unaware of what they're doing with the law, watch the video below from parliament last week. At one point, the minister of commerce is asked "What is the government doing to encourage legal sharing or downloads?" and he replies "I have no idea what [Netflix] is."

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