In 2008 New Zealand’s Copyright law was changed. The changes take effect on 28 February 2009 and have important implications for community organisations, businesses and individuals.
The law in question is the ‘Copyright (New Technologies) Amendment Act 2008 No 27, Public Act — New Zealand Legislation’. The specific section you need to know about is Section 92A. You can read the Act in full at legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2008/0027/latest/DLM1122502.html, but here’s what S92A says:
“ Internet service provider liability
“92A Internet service provider must have policy for terminating accounts of repeat infringers
- “ (1) 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.
- “ (2) In subsection (1), repeat infringer means a person who repeatedly infringes the copyright in a work by using 1 or more of the Internet services of the Internet service provider to do a restricted act without the consent of the copyright owner.
In more ordinary language this Section says that your ISP must have a policy that can cut off your Internet access if you repeatedly use your Internet connection to breach copyright.
An example of breach of copyright might be if someone in your household or organisation goes online and finds a place where they can download for free software you would normally pay for. Or perhaps they download the number one hit on the music charts without paying for it. Or perhaps they make a video that includes a current pop song playing in the background and upload that video to YouTube or send it to a friend.
If they do this more than once, ie they repeat the copyright infringement, and the copyright holder approaches your ISP, then your Internet account may be terminated.
Training and vigilance.
For many years Kiwis have taken a rather ‘easy osy’ approach to such things. We may not have looked too closely at what family members or staff or volunteers in our organisations were doing. Perhaps we have said things like
don’t download music or movies illegally, but haven’t actually scrutinised things too closely.
Now the stakes will be much higher. A brief lecture on copyright may be insufficient if your home or business may be cut off from the Internet as a consequence of wrong-doing.
You need to read this new piece of legislation carefully, analyse how it may affect your home or organisation, and then take steps to manage the risks.
Train your staff and volunteers about how to identify copyright material, and what the consequences may be of breaching copyright. A good starting point is that everything on the Internet is copyright, unless it explicitly says it is not or grants a license to use it.
If your organisation makes Internet access available to the public, then consider how you will police their use. Perhaps you already have policies, or software in place to prevent access to objectionable material. What policies do you have in place around copyright?
Your web tracks
When we visit web pages, they are able to determine a huge amount of information about us, through picking up the IP address of our computers or network.
Discover what ‘they’ know about you by visiting this IP address reverse lookup site: ip-adress.com. It’ll give you a number similar to (but different from) this: 126.96.36.199. That’s the IP address of your computer or network. If you have another computer nearby try checking its IP address too. It may be the same or different.
At the bottom of that web page, click the link for more tools and you’ll see even more information about you and your computer. When I do that it places me on a map with GPS co-ordinates (incorrect, fortunately — it places me in Lower Hutt rather than Wellington). It also reveals which web browser I’m using, my computer’s Operating System, and a whole lot more.
Identifying the miscreant
A copyright owner can use information like this to identify a computer or network that did illegal things with their copyrighted work. They cannot however know who was using that computer at the time.
If they accuse you of copyright breach it may be that a child, visitor, colleague or other person who wasn’t you was the responsible party.
If you have several computers on a network check to see if they all share the same IP address. If they do then the alleged miscreant may be another person within your organisation. You may not be able to identify the individual responsible for the copyright breach.
You may have struck this kind of situation during your childhood when a teacher would keep a whole class in because the one kid who threw the chalk wouldn’t own up.
The malware problem
Some viruses and other malware may allow a crook to use your computer as a ‘zombie’ to distribute copyrighted works such as music, movies or books. Your computer may become infected with this malware unless you take stringent precautions to protect it.
If your computer is vulnerable to viruses and other ‘bad stuff’, then you should consult your IT support and learn what software will effectively prevent your computer from transmitting copyrighted material, without your even knowing about it.
In June 2008 ZDNet Australia said:
While the total malware count for PCs, according to security company F-Secure, is 850,000, its count for current versions of Mac OS X is under 100 — a list which is dominated by variants of a single trojan it labelled OSX/DNSChanger, which was discovered last year by security company Intego.
They didn’t include statistics for those using Linux, but it is generally thought that very little malware, if any, exists for that platform.
In general, Windows users need to worry a lot, while those using the Macintosh Operating System or Linux should be cautious. Even if there’s no malware to worry about today, there may be tomorrow.
Whatever software you install, Windows users need to update it at least daily. Be sure to install the anti-malware software from a reputable source, as some malware pretends to be anti-virus software.
It’s your responsibility
Since you or your entire organisation may be cut off from the Internet as a result of complaints under Section 92A, it’s imperative that you ensure every single person who may have access to your Internet connection does not breach copyright in any way, shape or form.
Unless, of course, losing your access to the Internet doesn’t matter to you.
Written by Miraz Jordan for, and reproduced from CommunityNet Aotearoa Panui, February 2009. This article has been considerably modified for publication here.
The other cause for concern is that the copyright holders need only accuse you; not prove a case in a court of law.
If this all concerns you — and it should — find more information at the Creative Freedom Foundation:
…soon ISPs will be forced to take down internet connections and websites of anyone accused (not convicted) of copyright infringement. Copyright law is now having the effect of limiting artists, restricting businesses, and harming public rights.
It is the Internet Service providers who will be obliged by law to disconnect those accused of copyright infringement. They are writing a Code of Practice to work to. Read more about it at TCF – Copyright.
And finally, everyone seems to think the copyright discussion here is about music and movies, probably because the music and movie industries are the loudest of those lobbying. In fact copyright covers all kinds of artistic works including novels, poems, blog articles, photos, drawings, designs, and a whole bunch of other stuff.