New Zealand Puts Internet Piracy Law on Hold

AUCKLAND, New Zealand - The New Zealand government has put a hold on a law designed to stop Internet piracy, following a "blackout" protest staged by numerous websites on Sunday.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key called the law "problematic."

Section 92a of the Copyright Act of 2008 would require Internet service providers to disconnect users who download pirated material such as movies or songs.

Most of New Zealand's major blogs took down their sites over the weekend in protest, replacing them with a notice directing visitors to an online petition organized by the Creative Freedom Foundation.

Opponents claim the clause, by its language, establishes guilt upon accusation. They argue a business or family could be liable when the downloading is done without their knowledge by an employee or family member or even a person hacking into their system connection.

Supporters counter the measure only targets large-scale copyright piracy and repeat offenders.

Section 92a was scheduled to take effect Feb. 28, but has now been delayed so that ISPs and copyright holders can work together to develop a voluntary agreement on enforcement. If no agreement is reached, the clause will be suspended, then reviewed in six months.

"Our preference is for the parties to reach a compromise and the law to work properly. If it doesn't, we will change it," the Prime Minister said.

Anthony Healey of the Australasian Performing Rights Association told Billboard magazine, "We are not opposed to this approach provided the process is fair and timely."

New Zealand's Recording Industry Association claims 19 of every 20 music downloads are illegal.

The New Zealand Herald reports "blackout" protests by Kiwi websites have been ongoing, culminating in Sunday's massive protest.

Section 92a was actually removed from New Zealand's copyright legislation by a Parliament committee last year, then reinstated.

Protest organizer Bronwyn Holloway-Smith told the Herald more than 16,000 signed the protest petition, adding, "Section 92a is broken and it needs to be fixed."

The nation's Telecommunications Carriers' Forum, representing ISPs such as Telecom, TelstraClear and Vodafone, considers the section "ambiguous and not sustainable." reports Vodophone said the law would be "extremely difficult, if not impossible, to enforce," while TelstraClear called it "appalling."