Hamish Fletcher

Hamish Fletcher is a business reporter for the NZ Herald

New rules on downloading now in force

Copyright law may mean much extra work as warnings given to offenders. Photo / Thinkstock
Copyright law may mean much extra work as warnings given to offenders. Photo / Thinkstock

Internet companies are required to comply with new copyright laws from today and although some say they are ready and waiting, one provider is anxious it could be overwhelmed with extra work.

The Government's "three strikes" system requires internet companies to issue warning notices to customers suspected of illegally downloading copyright content - such as movies or music - at the request of those who own the rights to it.

After a customer has been issued a third notice, rights holders can bring a case before the Copyright Tribunal, which has the power to fine an offender up to $15,000.

Under the new regime, internet companies can receive notices from today relating to alleged offending after August 11.

They have up to seven days to pass notices on to the accused, who can challenge them.

Despite concerns over recent months that internet companies will not have enough time to get ready for the law, a number of providers contacted this week said they were prepared.

Slingshot chief executive Mark Callander said the company was ready and waiting for the regulations and in a position to cope with the regime.

The head of TelstraClear's copyright team, Ewan Cowie, echoed this sentiment and said the company had a system ready to go live.

However, Orcon chief executive Scott Bartlett said he was nervous about the amount of notices that might arrive and was concerned his firm could become swamped.

"Our hope is that rights holders only focus on the most egregious of copyright infringers and don't dump thousands of notices on [internet companies]. We honestly just have no idea what kind of volume [of notices] is going to come through, it could be 100, it could be 1000," he said.

Fuelling Bartlett's concerns is the fact Orcon will need to manually process and send warning notices to customers.

It would be at least another three months before the company would have an automated system running to deal with each notice, Bartlett said.

Telecom's Anna Skerten said one of the main concerns with the law was the uncertainty over how many notices rights holders would send.

"We have tried to engage with the major rights holder groups to make sure we have sufficient capacity to cope with the notices they intend to send, but no firm estimates have been given to us," Skerten said.

The New Zealand Federation Against Copyright Theft (NZFACT), which represents the Motion Picture Association, could not be reached for comment.

Three strikes

* Internet companies issue warning notices to customers suspected of illegally downloading content.
* After a third notice, rights holders can bring a case before the Copyright Tribunal.
* Fines of up to $15,000 can be imposed.

- NZ Herald

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