Three strikes law reintroduced in New Zealand

The New Zealand government has reintroduced its controversial "three-strikes" Internet law, Bill 92A. Previously defeated after widespread outcry, the new 92A was introduced minutes before Parliament recessed for the holidays, and makes no substantial improvements over the initial proposal. Under the revised proposal, if anyone in your house is accused of three acts of infringement (without any proof of wrongdoing), your entire household loses stands to lose Internet access for six months, and/or pays a NZ$15,000 fine (the previous version of the bill would have taken away your family's internet for life). The major change in the bill is the opportunity for a counter-notice, if you believe the accusation is false.

This "revised" law is still fundamentally flawed. The two important mistakes that this law makes are:

1. Assuming that taking away your household's Internet access is a just punishment for copyright infringement.
Even if you're guilty of infringing copyright, kicking your family off the Internet is a punishment vastly disproportionate to your crime. The Internet is increasingly tied to our earning power, our participation in civic affairs, our dealings with government, our education, and our connections to our community and families. Taking away your Internet access doesn't just deprive you of one means of copying movies or music: it could deprive your kids' of their ability to complete their homework; it could cost you your living; it could exclude your family from civic affairs such as Parliamentary hearings, local council initiatives, etc, and impair your ability to interact with government services from health to building permits.

And, of course, it is fundamentally unjust to punish an entire household for the deeds of one person.

2. It contains no real penalties for false accusations.
Earlier Internet copyright initiatives, such as the "notice-and-takedown" system for removing content from websites, have made no provision for punishment in the event of a false accusation of infringement. In the absence of such penalties, companies and other rightsholders have treated these copyright laws are carte blanche to send out abusive, sloppy, or spurious notices, because the cost of their mistakes would be borne by ISPs and web-site creators.

The record on this is clear: giving one group of people the power to punish another group without penalty for abuse of this power leads to abuse. As I've pointed out here before, Universal Music would never go for this law if it cut the other way -- if Universal stood to have all its New Zealand offices kicked off the Internet in the event that it makes three false accusations -- but without some check on power, terrible abuse is inevitable

Update: Thanks to commenter StuartM for pointing to a better source on the bill. While the bill retains the two fatal flaws above (collective punishment, no penalties for false accusations), it does contain some major improvements over the original 92A:

* Guilt must be proven to a copyright tribunal

* The definition of ISP has been narrowed to exclude universities, employers and other institutions that provide Internet access

* Rightsholders must pay a (unspecified) fee to file compliants.

Govt reveals revamped Section 92A (Thanks, Nic)

(Image: DSC_0723.JPG, a Creative Commons Attribution photo from Br3nda's photostream)


  1. wow… & i here i am thinking that Australia introducing mandatory censoring of the internet was bad. Now I don’t know which is worse.

    but I guess this won’t stop the ‘sneakernet’ as a means of swapping TV shows. (Hey we did it with VCR’s, why can’t we now?)

  2. Australia is also trying to sneak in some dodgy legislation at Christmas, in our case the appalling internet filetering nonsense.

  3. Christ fuck a pony this is mental. Screw the National Party and screw all the uninformed gimps who voted them in at the last election. They get what they deserve.

  4. Simple; once the law is enacted, the people should start accusing MPs and Universal Music execs of copyright infringement en masse. No proof is required and no penalty for false accusation…. see how fair they think the law is then!

  5. The proposed changes aren’t as bad you make out in this post. Unfortunately, your source (NZ Stuff website) can be a bit sensationalist with their reporting. Here is a blog post from one of the founders of the Creative Freedom Foundation who lead the protests against the original proposed law: Here’s the summary from that post:
    * Right holders will be able to request that internet service providers (ISPs) give alleged infringers notice to stop infringing activity.
    * The first notice will inform the account holder that infringing has occurred and is illegal. Two further notices may be sent.
    * If infringing continues after three notices, the right holder may seek a penalty of up to $15,000 at the Copyright Tribunal. The amount will be based on the damage to the copyright owner.
    * Where serious and continued breaches occur, right holders will be able to go to court to seek a range of remedies, including the suspension of accounts for up to six months.
    * Account holders will be able to issue counter notices, and can request a hearing if they feel they should not be penalised.

    1. Are you sure meant to say what you said? If no proof of wrongdoing is required accusations will fly fast and free since actual proof takes effort to obtain, whereas an accusation is easy (“She’s a witch!)

  6. What was parliament thinking?
    “Oh, maybe by the time recess is over, everyone will have gotten used to it, and thus we won’t get shouted out of our idiocy again?” Do they not realize how fundamentally stupid that is?

    The Onion did a piece on “Are our Senators letting our lobbiests down?” It’s US centric, of course, but its appeal is universal.


  7. Why are these same laws being proposed all over the world? Why is such a rabidly anti-citizen initiative being seriously considered in so many democratic countries countries?

    Always this ridiculous “three strikes you’re out” idea (as if it’s a good idea to base criminal punishment on sport analogies), always the lack of evidenciary requirements or due process…did some RIAA hack just print up a couple dozens copies of this awful legislation and post it to their lobbyists in each of the developed countries?

    Seriously, how do these things even get taken seriously?

    1. Why? Because the music/movie industry is slow and old. The are behaving much like an elderly person with Alzheimers who revert to being a toddler and lash out in anger because they can no longer cope with daily life. OR Lashing out in all directions like a drowning person, taking down all who come close.

    2. One word Zyodei, Money. The record industry and movie industry is interested in making profits, and only making profits. They don’t bat an eye at claiming poverty while raking in millions in profit from record sales. Its easy for them to poor money into lobbyists and politicians to support their own agenda, because it ensures that they can continue to use a dying market strategy to make money. I think they are trying to come up with a new strategy on how to continue their same profit margins in the new digital age. They haven’t found a way to continue to make the same money they once did, hence the apparent flailing of a dying horse.

  8. Given the additional information provided by stuartm, I think this is actually a pretty decent application of copyright law.

    If you oppose the idea of copyright, then obviously your take is going to differ. I don’t think that this punishment is so severe as to offend the conscious of those who don’t have any principle objection to the law itself.

    1) If you need to provide proof of infringement, then it is unlikely that copyright owners will target innocents. It’s just not an economic use of their time. If they do, it will be thrown out.

    Collective punishment:
    Collective punishment sounds horrible, but I’m not sure that taking away internet-access is comparable to retaliatory strikes on innocents.
    * The legal system does not take the effects on family members into account when the punishment is necessary to deter or punish a crime. If I lose a civil court case, and because of that I can’t pay the internet bill – the law doesn’t care. If my car is used in poaching, and they take it, depriving my family of rides to school – they’re cool with that too.
    * This system is actually better then that, since the warnings provide ample opportunity for the family to exercise social or technological control over downloading. And then it gives them that opportunity again, just in case.

    As to the lack of penalties for false accusations, I think the court costs and filing fee fill the same functionality. Especially if the court adopts the legal standard and makes an unsuccessful plaintiff pay costs.

  9. Firstly – I think the new law is a lot better than it was. Most importantly there is a chance for people to defend themselves, and any punishments must be done by a proper tribunal and/or court of law. The lack of due process in the first draft was abhorrent.

    Secondly – yes, it is a problem that Internet disconnection is left in as an option. However, it’s not easy to get disconnected. To be fined you must have infringed multiple times, to be disconnected you must have been fined multiple times. I suspect it won’t happen.

    The discussion paper even admits there are Bill of Rights implications with disconnections.

    One argument from a purely practical point of view: “If fining someone thousands of dollars doesn’t stop them, do you think that removing one Internet connection will?”

    Of course, at Tech Liberty NZ ( we’re going to be opposing disconnection being an option at all. We agree that Internet access is vital to participation in civil society.

  10. Despite Stuartm this bill is patently unfair. It only applies to homes – apparently the law believes its only right to accuse people who can’t fight back – if you are a university or business (presumably with lawyers of your own) then it doesn’t apply – only to people who on the most part can’t afford to fight/

    “Right holders will be able to request that internet service providers (ISPs) give alleged infringers notice to stop infringing activity.” notice there is no “proving that infringing is going on” in the statement – it’s the same old thing, the recording industry starts sending out blanket cease-and-desist orders and its up to the ISP’s and end-users to prove they are innocent (at their own cost).

  11. Sometimes I wonder if the only thing that will stop this pandemic of three-strikes laws is for one country to actually adopt the practice and have their entire electronic infrastructure collapse and then everyone will realize how daft the whole idea was.
    I wonder what sort of repercussions would befall someone from another country who accused NZ MPs of copyright infringement. This would be a great cyber-warfare tool for terrorists who want to shut down another countries internet. It’s like they’re saying “Hey, here’s the weakest spot of our underbelly; it only takes a few clicks of the mouse to paralyze us!” Of course I don’t want that to happen, which is why I’m warning here that this will be the result of the law.

  12. Just as a note, there’s a few more improvements in the law than you’ve noted:

    – The right to privacy is maintained during the notice periods, ISPs pass counter notices back anonymously.
    – Rights Holders cannot ask for disconnection straight up. You must actually have been convicted by the Copyright Tribunal (which cannot disconnect you, and cannot impose a fine of greater than $15,000) before disconnection is a possible penality.
    – Disconnection can ONLY be imposed by the District Court, putting it well beyond a trivial thing to obtain. Even then, the Court cannot impose a fine greater than $200,000, so there is no mumbo jumbo made up million dollar bullshit you see in other countries. Secondly, the Court is obligied under the Bill of Rights to consider everyone affected by such a decision to disconnect, it probably will never be used as the Court would weigh up the Bill of Rights as being more important.

  13. It says after “three notices” of possible infringement.

    Are these three notices of the same content? Of content from the same copyright owner? How far apart can the notices be?

    If I copy something when I’m 12 and then 25 years later, then another five years later am I still going to get disconnected?

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