Imagine that the new season of your favourite television show has just started screening in the United States but you know it will be at least a year – maybe more – until it screens in New Zealand. If at all.
You have a few choices: Wait patiently until one of the New Zealand networks deigns to air the show here or spend cash to buy or rent the DVD, if available.
Or you can head online, find a website that lets you illegally download the program; then watch it.
That’s what many New Zealand television and movie fans do. They illegally download HBO’s fantastic new series Game of Thrones or the new seasons of Curb Your Enthusiasm. It’s estimated that 10,000 copyrighted items are downloaded in New Zealand every day.
But come Thursday, things suddenly change and new laws passed in April means owners of copyrighted material can come down harder on offenders.
The new legislation is called the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act 2011 and it amends the Copyright Act 1994 to provide owners of copyrighted works such as movies, TV shows and music an easier way to penalise people found downloading copyrighted material using online file-sharing services such as Gnutella, BitTorrent, FrostWire, LimeWire and Vuze.
Those programs use what is called a peer-to-peer (P2P) network – two or more computers connected together, sharing resources, without going through a central server computer.
The act, branded the “three-strikes law” by many commentators, works like this: If you’re suspected of downloading copyrighted material from a peer-to-peer site, you’ll get an notice from your internet service provider (ISP) that you have been detected downloading copyrighted material. If you continue to download illegally, the next notice you’ll receive from your ISP will be a warning notice –stop downloading copyrighted material or else! The third notice is the enforcement notice. It allows the copyright owner to take you to the Copyright Tribunal. If found guilty, you could be fined as little as $275 or up to $15,000, payable to the copyright owner. You can challenge any notice at any time.
Although the act doesn’t come into force until Thursday, copyright owners started monitoring under the act on August 11.
The Ministry of Economic Development says the law doesn’t apply to direct downloads, video/music streaming websites such as YouTube or online file lockers.
“What this means is that watching videos on YouTube or via blinkx, streaming music from Grooveshark, and downloading from online file lockers like MediaFire and 4shared will not be subject to the changes,” said InternetNZ’s chief executive Vikram Kumar.
But where things get murky is that it’s the person – or company – that owns the internet connection that is liable for any infringement, not the downloader.
Paul Brislen, chief executive of the Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand (Tuanz), said while the act is enforceable, it was a “complete waste of time and money” that supported an antiquated business model.
“This is about an old business model that does not work today. The old model was that if I had a physical film to distribute worldwide I’d stagger the rollout from country to country. But now distribution is through file transfer.
“All the hype about the film has already come to New Zealand through marketing but the company says, `We’ll release the movie in six months time’.
“People here say, ‘Stuff you. I’ll get it offline for free’.”
Read the rest of this article over @ Stuff