Labour defends support for file sharing bill

By Paul Harper

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

The Labour Party has defended its support for the controversial Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill, saying otherwise New Zealanders could have had their internet disconnected for file sharing.

The bill was passed today, despite strong opposition from the Green Party and independent MPs, and an internet campaign against the bill.

The law will come into effect on September 1 and repeals Section 92A of the Copyright Act.

The legislation seeks to tackle illegal file sharing, including unauthorised movie and music downloads, with illegal file sharers receiving warnings for their first two infringements.

A third infringement will see the owner of the copyrighted material able to seek a court order to suspend the offender's internet account.

Only the Green Party and independent MPs Chris Carter and Hone Harawira voted against the bill.

Labour's Claire Curran said the party only supported the bill so "no New Zealander can be disconnected from the internet for illegal file sharing".

"Labour negotiated with the Government on this Bill. We could have chosen not to and simply opposed it," the Dunedin South MP wrote in a blog.

"If we had, today I would be lamenting that New Zealand now had a law where people could, and would be, disconnected from the internet.

"The government's bottom line was to have termination in the bill. Ours was to not support it. The compromise position was to leave it in but require the Minister to put what's called an Order In Council into effect to switch it on. This is very unlikely to happen."

Commerce Minister Simon Power said he looked forward to the Government's new online copyright regime coming into effect.

"Online copyright infringement has been damaging for the creative industry, which has experienced significant decline in revenue as file sharing has become more prevalent.

"This legislation will discourage illegal file sharing and provide more effective measures to help our creative industries enforce their copyright."

Mr Power said the legislation also extends the jurisdiction of the Copyright Tribunal so it provides an "efficient, low-cost" process to hear illegal file-sharing claims.

The tribunal will also be able to award penalties of up to $15,000 based on damages sustained by the copyright owner.

The notice regime will not apply to cellular mobile networks until October 2013.

Opponents said the law meant internet users could be disconnected without sufficient proof of any offence.

An amendment proposed by the Greens' Gareth Hughes sought to remove the clause that allows for suspension of internet accounts as a penalty, however, this was last night voted down by the same 111 to 11 margin.

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