New Zealand to Adopt ‘3 Strikes’ Policy for Online Copyright Violators

WELLINGTON, New Zealand - New Zealand will implement a "three strikes" policy against copyright infringement starting Feb. 28.

The nation is the latest of many to consider a "graduated response" approach to content piracy, with ISPs required to terminate Internet service for repeat offenders. New Zealand ISPs and free-speech proponents in the country say the legislation is too vague and are lobbying for a delay in enforcement.

New Zealand's Associate Minister of Commerce Judith Tizard, who oversees copyright law, introduced the three-strikes measure in October, following the amendment of the country's 1984 Copyright Act to include language addressing Internet service providers.

Section 92A of the Act states: "An Internet service provider must adopt and reasonably implement a policy that provides for termination, in appropriate circumstances, of the account with that Internet service provider of a repeat infringer."

New Zealand libraries have expressed concerns about losing Internet access over individual misuse of library computers. According to Ars Technica, a representative of the New Zealand Computer Society remarked that a similar policy would force a retail outlet to ban a shopper for copying a store-bought DVDs.

Representatives of New Zealand's music and movie industries say the graduated response is about ISPs responding to copyright violations rather than attempting to police the Internet. The 'three strikes' aspect of the law ensures that responsible businesses and organizations such as hospitals, schools and libraries would not lose Internet service, they claim.

ISPs are concerned that the law does not afford them legal protection from owners of intellectual copyrights or end users.

Last week, Irish ISP Eircom agreed to a three-strikes plan, and the European Parliament will soon be voting on similar legislation based on an extensive report on Internet piracy.

Both France and Italy are leaning toward establishing similar policies. Germany has struck down such legislation with support from Secretary of Justice Brigitte Zypries, according to German news service Heise.

"I don't think that is a fitting model for Germany or even Europe," Zypries said. "Preventing someone from accessing the Internet seems like a completely unreasonable punishment to me. It would be highly problematic due to both constitutional and political aspects. I'm sure that once the first disconnects are going to happen in France, we will be hearing the outcry all the way to Berlin."

Government offices in the United States and the United Kingdom continue to examine the issue of online piracy and copyright infringement, under pressure from the music and film industries. Experts and pundits predict that the enactment of any law targeting Internet users will eventually be contested in the highest courts.