14 Apr 2011

Internet copyright bill passes into law

12:45 pm on 14 April 2011

Parliament has passed controversial legislation dealing with online copyright infringement, which could ultimately result in people having their internet connections cut.

The Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill was passed under urgency on Thursday morning by 111 votes to 11.

Only the Greens and independent MPs Chris Carter and Hone Harawira opposed it.

The bill is intended to deter illegal file sharing, including music, videos and games.

It repeals section 92A of the Copyright Act, which allowed Internet Service Providers to disconnect clients accused of illegally downloading copyrighted material.

The Government revised the bill because of concerns innocent people could be disconnected on the basis of an accusation alone.

Under the new version, disconnection would occur by regulation after three warnings have been issued and the matter has been before the Copyright Tribunal.

Law still problematic, say critics

A spokesperson for Tech Liberty, Thomas Beagle, says his group is deeply concerned the new legislation still has internet disconnection as an option, given the internet is increasingly important for participation in civil society.

He says the legislation holds internet account owners responsible for everyone who uses the connection, even without their knowledge.

Creative Freedom Foundation spokesperson Bronwyn Holloway-Smith says there is a lack of guidance on the possible fines of up to $15,000, a presumption of guilt remains and internet termination is "lingering in the background."

The foundation spearheaded the protest against Section 92A. More than 2300 people have joined a page condemning the law on the social networking site Facebook.