New Zealand's biggest university, the University of Auckland, is worried it could be stung by anti-piracy rules coming into force next month and says policymakers are not addressing its concerns.

The Government's "three strikes" copyright regime comes into effect on September 1 and requires internet companies to issue warning notices to customers suspected of illegally downloading material, if rights holders - such as movie studios or record companies - request it.

After a customer has been issued a third notice, rights holders can bring the case before the Copyright Tribunal, which can fine an offender up to $15,000. But under the law, universities rather than their students are liable for any illegal downloading that occurs on their networks.

According to the Ministry of Economic Development, universities are "account holders" and unlike internet companies, they will not be able to charge rights holders a $25 fee for processing copyright notices.


The University of Auckland's executive officer, Grant Wills, is concerned the new regime may hit them in the pocket and estimates dealing with each notice could cost the tertiary institution up to $50.

"We've have to process [these notices] manually and the numbers at present are small but when you use a senior person and tie them up for an hour on processing a particular complaint to be sure where it was, when it was, who it was and all the rest, it gets very expensive."

Wills said the new laws would not work if the university was treated as an account holder, but claimed the ministry did not appear to listen.

Despite its best efforts, Auckland University said it would not be able to stop students from illegally downloading copyrighted content.

Meanwhile, in a Government submission on the new laws, Unitec Institute of Technology said it might be forced to limit internet access.

Quoting the national library association, Unitec said if it was liable for student copyright breaches it might "have no option but to discontinue the provision of internet access to all library users".