Media: ISPs throwing pirates overboard

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Big telcos such as Telecom, Vodafone - and especially TelstraClear - are shuddering at new rules forcing them to clamp down on illegal downloads of movies, TV shows and music from their networks.

But while telcos and copyright owners are still negotiating a Code of Practice for handling Section 92a of the Copyright Act - which forces internet service providers to act on allegations from copyright owners and shut down accounts - some ISPs are already doing it.

Paul Clarkin of WorldXChange, which has 20,000 customers, says the company is using a system in some ways more draconian than Section 92a. The code may make the new rule easier to administer, he says.

"We took the commercial risk of terminating customers but there is nothing to stop those customers taking a swing at us. But most of my customers are residential - you just would not do it to a commercial player."

Clarkin said that big copyright-owning companies such as Sony BMG closely monitor sites used to pirate music. "They give you an IP address that comes to us - we search with that address and date."

Clarkin says what most people say - the Copyright Act is "piss poor" with the extra costs laid at the door of telcos who were deemed to have deep pockets.

COSTLY CALL

A broadband customer of WorldXChange's Xnet said his internet connection was shut down last year and he had no idea why. "I phoned them up and the technician told me they had received notification of someone from my ISP downloading material that infringed copyright.

"They said that they'd reinstate my internet, but that if they got one more it would be cut off permanently - two strikes, you are out."

The Xnet customer says he stuck with the ISP and hasn't been accused of another breach.

Clarkin says it is three strikes before customers are switched off.

TelstraClear announced on Wednesday it would not be ratifying a code of practice that will administer Section 92a of the Copyright Act.

Telecom, Vodafone and other smaller ISPs including WorldXChange are going ahead with the code which affects every company that supplies internet to its staff, not just ISPs.

WorldXChange is small enough to easily check allegations of copyright breaches - and it does not act against commercial ventures. But as it stands, telcos could end up spending hundreds of thousands of dollars maintaining records of their customers' movements online.

TelstraClear said it was not going to harm customers. It will also be concerned that the Hollywood entertainment industry's success in getting the law introduced here will be repeated in Australia and cost parent company Telstra millions of dollars.

PRESIDENT LITTLE

Can Andrew Little act as a frontman for journalists while in his new role as president of the Labour Party?

Journalists are obliged to report the affairs of political parties so it seems a problem when the high-profile general secretary for the journalists' union - the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) - is a public figure in his own right.

The head of the EPMU media section, Radio New Zealand political editor Brent Edwards, has reiterated his view that the union ties - and now Little's dual role - do not create any conflict of interest.

He points out that journalist union fees are not included in the proportion of EPMU fees that are paid for the union affiliation to the Labour Party.

Journalists were not affiliated to the party, Edwards said.

Jim Tully, University of Canterbury head of political science and communications, said that it would be preferable if the Labour Party president did not speak on behalf of journalists.

Union activist Matt McCarten - who, like most commentators, gives Little the thumbs-up as a union leader - questioned in the Herald on Sunday last week whether he could do justice to his roles as EPMU general secretary and Labour Party president. The EPMU is heading a campaign for better journalism called "Journalism Matters".

EPIC TALE

The Epic beer brand had pride of place on Campbell Live this week with an item extolling the virtues of the beer and its improved sales in the face of the economic downturn. "Packs a punch", noted the Campbell Live reporter approvingly.

Separately, John Campbell promoted free tickets to the Munich Oktoberfest as a part of a competition for the New Zealand Beer Festival - whose other major sponsor is Liquorland.

The details for the competition listed TV3 owner MediaWorks as a promoter for the competition.

We wondered if the two matters were connected, but TV3 news and current affairs director Mark Jennings said they were not.

Executive producer Carol Hirschfeld says she was indeed told to put "promoter" on the website by TV3 legal counsel Clare Bradley.

"In essence I suppose we are promoting a competition to our viewers for a trip to the German beer festival but we are not promoting any beer brand or liquor company.

"I'm not sure what the issue is here ... from what I understand, you think it is a problem that the competition followed a story on a boutique brewery? This was basically coincidental."

We wondered if the advertising folk had any role in the line-up.

"The sales department have not had and never do have any input into these things.

"Organisers of the competition had rung us [with the idea for the Epic story] and Carol agreed. The competition was already running," Jennings said.

TV3 marketing boss Roger Beaumont said Campbell had presented other competitions on air in the past.

IN THE FAMILY

The NZ Film Commission has appointed a new chief executive, Graeme Mason, with a background in the commercial world to take over the role vacated by Ruth Harley.

The appointment comes at a pivotal time for the commission, whose enabling legislation is under review.

NZFC Board chairman David Cullwick said Mason worked seven years with PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, culminating as senior vice-president for more than three years.

In this role he acquired or oversaw the production of films to augment in-house projects including Trainspotting, The Usual Suspects, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Spice World The Movie.

He has also worked with the UK's Channel 4. Cullwick confirmed Mason is the brother-in-law of another NZ Film Commission board member, Wendy Palmer.

ONLINE FACTOR

Newspapers dipped in Advertising Standards Authority figures for advertising spending during 2008.

But interactive media - including news websites owned by traditional media - grew last year from a share of 5.8 per cent to 8.3 per cent.

It may be wishful thinking from a newspaper man but it begs the question how much the rise from Fairfax's Stuff and APN News & Media's nzherald.co.nz is helping newspapers' share of total ad revenue.

Interactive Advertising Bureau chief executive Greig Buckley said there was increasing competition between websites that dominate local online advertising, which drew a high proportion of traffic and advertising revenue.

- NZ Herald

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