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Monday, 23 March 2009 10:38

NZ Gov't scraps Internet copyright legislation

After months of intense lobbying by industry the New Zealand Government has finally abandoned its plans for new copyright laws that would have required ISPs to terminate users' access based on allegations they had illegally downloaded copyright material.

Commerce minister, Simon Power said: "Cabinet today decided that section 92A of the Copyright Act 1994 will not come into force on 27 March as scheduled, but will be amended to address areas of concern...Allowing section 92A to come into force in its current format would not be appropriate given the level of uncertainty around its operation."

He said the legislation would be "re-examined and reworked to address concerns held by stakeholders and the government," and that the Government would begin an immediate review "to amend the section immediately to address areas of concern. "I am confident that amendments to section 92A, which builds on the work of ISPs and rights-holders to date, will lead to a more workable piece of legislation," Power said.

The Government had earlier put back the scheduled implementation date from 27 February to give industry time to finalise a code of practice to guide ISP in their application of the new rules, but numerous players made submissions branding any such code as unworkable.

InternetNZ executive chairman, Keith Davidson, welcomed the Government's decision saying: "Terminating an Internet account was always a disproportionate response to copyright infringement and to force ISPs and other organisations to be copyright judges and policemen was never an acceptable situation."

He claimed that the trend internationally was away from attempting to legislate for termination of Internet accounts for those alleged to be infringing copyright. "New Zealand has narrowly escaped being the global guinea pig for this approach and precedent setter for its advocates."

According to Davidson, the whole debacle has been the result of New Zealand trying to meet obligations required of it under international trade treaties. "Section 92A was opposed by the overwhelming majority of...submissions [to the Telecommunications Carriers' Forum] and by the earlier Commerce Select Committee's opinion. It was unfortunate that it was reinserted into the Act at the last minute, leading to incredible wastage in people's time and effort over the past year."

On a positive note, he added: "New Zealanders are now far more aware of the importance of protecting the openness of the Internet."

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