NZ Passes ‘Three Strikes’ Law

In a move that sparked angry responses from fans, the New Zealand government has passed a “three strikes” law to counter online piracy.

Starting Sept. 1, copyright holders can demand that ISPs suspend the accounts of repeated copyright infringers for six months. ISPs are obliged to warn the accused offender if informed by copyright owners.

After three warnings, the copyright owner can take a claim to the Copyright Tribunal, which now has the power to fine the offender a maximum of NZ$15,000.

The Copyright Tribunal is expected to provide a “fast track, low cost process” on such claims. But critics wonder if the Tribunal could handle the extra workload, as it only consists of three part-time members.

The New Zealand Federation Against Copyright Theft (NZFACT), the local enforcement arm of the Motion Picture Association of America, estimates that there are approximately 150,000 illegal file transfers in the country each month.

In two years, if the law has not substantially slowed piracy, the NZ government has promised that stiffer penalties – including total suspension of Internet access to offenders – will be introduced. Legal circles also say that the law will work only if the cost to copyright holders on informing ISPs is low.

NZ’s move has inspired the Australian music industry to push harder for a similar law. So far, the Australian government has taken the view that the music industry and Australian-based ISPs should jointly work together to find a solution.