The Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act or “Skynet” law, which aims to stamp out internet piracy, came into force on 1 September this year. We are now just starting to see its effects, with telecommunications companies receiving copyright infringement notices from the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand.

This Act could impact so many different businesses which have internet users. Businesses which have unlocked Wi-Fi accounts eg. shops, cafes, hotels and motels are particularly vulnerable, so it’s worth finding out a bit more about it.

What the new law means

There’s a 'three strikes' regime to stamp out illegal file-sharing. If the three strikes are used up there is potential for a penalty of up to $15,000 and up to a 6 month suspension of the user’s internet account. The law does not apply to cellphone networks until 2013. Harsher penalties could come into force in 2013 if this legislation does not deter illegal downloading.

The process
  1. Copyright owners detect an infringement and send the internet account holder’s IP (internet protocol) address to the relevant Internet Service Provider (ISP). This tells the ISP that someone is downloading material, such as films, videos or music, without paying for it through file-sharing.

  2. ISPs send detection notices to those customers telling them that a copyright owner has detected copyright infringement on the customer’s internet account.

  3. If there is a second infringement within 28 days to nine months after the initial infringement a warning notice is triggered.

  4. If there is a third infringement within 28 days to nine months after the second infringement, an enforcement notice is triggered. The copyright owner can then apply to the Copyright Tribunal for a penalty to be imposed on the account holder of up to $15,000. The copyright owner can also apply to the District Court for an order suspending the account holder’s internet account for up to 6 months.

  5. Internet account holders can challenge these notices, through their ISP, but the notices will stand unless withdrawn by the copyright owner.
If you'd like more information, visit New Zealand Legislation.