Copyright was a burning issue from early in the piece yesterday when the country's internet community met to discuss the issues shaping web use in New Zealand.

NetHui, a three-day conference examining online affairs, kicked off in Auckland yesterday and brought together lawyers, economists, entrepreneurs and tech commentators for discussion and debate.

There was no shortage of opinion from facilitators and the audience, especially when it came to policing the internet and enforcing copyright.

Co-founder of internetNZ, Colin Jackson, chaired a discussion on the collision of the internet with the law, and began with the polemical statement that governments have no sovereignty on the web.

Following this, intellectual property lawyer Rick Shera facilitated a debate on New Zealand's copyright policies, which took place in the shadow of the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill which Parliament passed in April.

The "three strikes" law may see those who download copyrighted content face a fine of up to $15,000.

Shera himself suggested a "fair use" clause should be included in the law books, as opposed to New Zealand's "fair dealing" provisions.

He said fair use was general, principle-based law, which could be applied on a case-by-case basis to any situation where small parts of a copyrighted work had been used without an owners permission.

This was opposed to "fair-dealing", which was simply a list of scenarios where small amounts of copyrighted works could be legally reproduced.

However, an independent government adviser on information technology, Laurence Millar, said adopting fair use was a "timid approach" to copyright.

"I think we need to go further than that. If we start making laws based on behaviour at the moment we'll soon be out of date. If we've got a giant copying machine then the law isn't going to stop people copying, you can no longer protect content ... my personal view is that copyright is dead - trying to mess and improve the way that copyright is operating is trying to promote something that should be put down," Millar said.

Others discussions yesterday looked at content distribution in an ever-changing digital world and privacy issues as more personal information goes up on the internet.