Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Controversial file-sharing law to pass today

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

The National Government's compromise solution to the controversial Section 92A illegal file sharing legislation is to pass into law this morning.

Parliament was sitting under urgency last night, and the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill was expected to pass its third and final stage.

The Government put several other bills on the urgency list which have been on the order paper for a long time, including the copyright legislation.

The copyright bill went through its second reading, committee stage and most of its third reading stage last night, and will be passed soon after Parliament resumes at 9am.

The bill was being debated tonight under urgency, called mainly to pass the Canterbury earthquake legislation.

The Government put several other bills on the urgency list which have been on the order paper for a long time, including the copyright legislation.

The bill went through its second reading, committee stage and most of its third reading stage tonight.

It will be passed soon after Parliament resumes at 9am tomorrow.


Section 92a of the Copyright Act, which would have required internet service providers (ISPs) to disconnect users who repeatedly downloaded pirated material such as films or songs, sparked protests ahead of its scheduled introduction two years ago, prompting the Government to rethink it.

Twitter users have again banded together to protest the legislation, "blacking out" their avatars by changing the images into black squares and tweeting using the hashtag #blackout.

"This is not what democracy is about," wrote Lydia Nobbs.

"This is legislation for foreign corporate interests to the detriment of NZ citizens. And we're not being given a chance to object," said Steffen Rusten.

A Facebook group called Opposing The Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill has also been set up.

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

They also warned it might unfairly punish businesses or families when the downloading was done without their knowledge by an employee or family member or by someone hacking into their connection.

Late last year Parliament's Commerce select committee came up with a replacement which went some way toward addressing concerns.

While the ability for copyright holders to apply to have repeat offenders disconnected remains in the legislation, it will not come into effect unless after two years it is shown that other less severe sanctions are ineffective.

Those sanctions include warning notices from ISPs to their customers informing them they have infringed copyright, and an extension of the Copyright Tribunal's jurisdiction to provide a fast-track, 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.

However, despite a softening of some of the law's aspects, Green MP Gareth Hughes confirmed he would move an amendment to remove the clause that allows for suspension of internet accounts as a penalty.

A spokesman for Commerce Minister Simon Power said Mr Hughes' amendment would be opposed.

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