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)