Major New Zealand ISP Pulls Out of Copyright Code Talks

WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- A major Internet service provider in New Zealand pulled out of copyright code talks Wednesday, calling a proposed law poorly written and bad for consumers.

TelstraClear is the third-largest ISP in New Zealand, behind Telecom and Vodafone. The communications company is questioning Section 92A of the Copyright Amendment (New Technologies) Act, which had been scheduled to take effect February 28.

The law was put on hold for review until March 27, following massive "blackout" protests staged online last month, according to the New Zealand Business Review. Voluntary code talks with copyright holders, conducted by the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand, were scheduled with the country's largest ISPs.

The provision would force ISPs and other Internet service companies and its staffs to disconnect users for copyright violations through illegal downloads. Opponents, who have included some Kiwi ISPs, say the section would empower cut-offs based on allegations without proof and also put ISPs in the position of being judge and jury.

"We have had an unprecedented large reaction from customers who knew it could force them to disconnect the Internet with no proof they did anything wrong. We cannot do this to our customers," said TelstraClear's head of corporate services, Matthew Boland.

ISP Telco also opposed Section 92A, but agreed to work out a code of practice to introduce mediation to the process. Additionally, the company wants music and film industries to pony up for costs, reports The New Zealand Herald.

The law was actually passed by the previous New Zealand government and inherited by the current administration led by Prime Minister John Key.

"The government needs to revisit the issue and provide a law that is clear," said TelstraClear's Boland. "We will comply with the law, but we are not going to increase the risk for our customers."

The office of New Zealand Commerce Minister Simon Power said progress was being made, despite TelstraClear's drop out of talks. The ISP's position is supported by the country's Telecommunications Users Association, whose CEO Ernie Newman said Section 92A is in need of revision and suggested code plans just be scrapped.

In related news, the French government is debating its own stern anti-piracy bill, which includes a "three strikes" disconnect policy for Internet violators and the establishment of a Web surveillance agency.