Fines of up to $15,000 and Internet disconnection for up to six months are the penalties planned for repeat offenders under changes to Section 92A of the Copyright Act, just released by the government.
The changes will go before parliament in the new year. They are aimed at stopping the downloading of copyright material (music, videos, etc) from illicit sources.
The main points of the proposal are:
· Right holders will be able to request that internet service providers (ISPs) give alleged infringers notice to stop infringing activity.
· The first notice will inform the account holder that infringing has occurred and is illegal. Two further notices may be sent.
· If infringing continues after three notices, the right holder may seek a penalty of up to $15,000 at the Copyright Tribunal. The amount will be based on the damage to the copyright owner.
· Where serious and continued breaches occur, right holders will be able to go to court to seek a range of remedies, including the suspension of accounts for up to six months.
· Account holders will be able to issue counter notices, and can request a hearing if they feel they should not be penalised.
Commerce Minister Simon Power said the three-notice procedure was the key to the process.
"The procedure will both educate and warn file-sharers that unauthorised sharing of copyright works is illegal, and in turn stop a large proportion of illegal file sharing,” he said.
"A great deal of work has gone into finding a fair, effective, and credible process for the enforcement of copyright against illegal peer-to-peer file-sharers.”
Power said although right holders will be able to seek suspension of accounts through the courts, he expected that would happen only in cases of serious offending.
"I want to stress that account holders will have the opportunity during each of these processes to defend claims by right holders.
"This was a complex issue to work through, and industry groups, intellectual property experts, and officials worked hard to ensure the issues raised in the submissions were addressed.
"I'm confident we now have a workable solution."
The public will be able to make further submissions at the select committee stage.
A copy of the Cabinet Paper is available here.