New Zealand Scraps 'Three Strikes' Law

WELLINGTON, New Zealand - The New Zealand government has scrapped a "three strikes" law for Internet copyright violators.

The controversial Section 92a of New Zealand's Copyright Amendment Act would have disconnected users after a third violation downloading or uploading music, film or other digital material illegally.

The law was scheduled to take effect last month, then was postponed until late March due to massive Kiwi protests, including staged "blackouts" by Internet users.

The government now plans to rewrite the law from scratch, according to Yahoo/AFP.

"Section 92a is not going to come into force as originally written. We have now asked the minister of commerce to start work on a replacement section," Prime Minister John Key told the press.

"There is a need for legislation in this area," Key said. "Some progress was made between copyright holders and the ISPs but not enough to agree a code of conduct. While the government remains intent on tackling this problem, the legislation itself needs to be re-examined and reworked to address concerns held by stakeholders and the government."

The government plans to reintroduce the legislation following the rewrite and a review.

"Allowing section 92A to come into force in its current format would not be appropriate given the level of uncertainty around its operation," Commerce Minister Simon Power said in a statement.

The legislation not only faced public opposition, but major New Zealand ISP TelstraClear refused to take part in the law's demands, calling it "illegal," and adding to a crumbling government agenda over the matter.

Both users and ISPs believed the disconnect law was too broad and could effect businesses, public operations and even families whose connections might unknowingly be used to download illegal material.

A judge suggested the law was a violation of New Zealand contract law, according to ARSTechnica.

Meanwhile, other nations are wrestling with issues of how to prevent Internet copyright infringement. The Canadian government has taken part in negotiating an international Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement with New Zealand, the European Union, the U.S. and other countries, according to CBC.

Canada's minority conservative government plans to reintroduce copyright reform to replace that country's Bill C-61, which did not include a three-strikes provision, but did propose banning the breaking of digital locks on certain material.

A three-strikes policy may be unconstitutional in the Great White North, just as American lawyers have said the same about similar U.S. legislation proposals, said David Fewer, acting director of the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the University of Ottawa.

File-sharers use the Internet for more than just illegal downloading such as unrelated e-commerce, Fewer said, and that's where constitutional and business issues could occur.

Three-strikes proposals have so far been rejected in the U.S., U.K. and Germany, though France has been debating the approach.

Nonetheless, the Recording Industry Association of America has asked American ISPs to send warnings to customers who allegedly engage in any form of Internet copyright infringement. The RIAA also wants those customers' connection speeds slowed, eventually cutting them off completely. The organization claims it is coming to terms with several ISPs.