More on file sharing…

By Charles Hwang

Reviewed by Jennifer Williams

Last week I wrote a blog entry about Hollywood trying to grasp at the wallets of Internet Service Providers in Australia in an effort to hold them responsible for illicit file sharing by their customers (see https://artherworldblog.wordpress.com/2011/07/12/are-you-breaking-the-law/).

Recently, New Zealand passed the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill. This new bill will implement a three-strike penalty system of warning letters and fines. Internet Provider (“IP”) addresses will be used to track down offenders. The problem with this method is that many people, groups, and organizations can share an IP address. This means that if you share an IP address with someone and that person infringes on a copyright, you will also be held responsible.

Many potential infringers come to mind, but I can imagine that students who use networks provided by their universities and patrons of local libraries make up a large portion of that group. One solution would be to restrict public internet access at these facilities, but what does that mean with regard to freedom of access to the Internet and in turn freedom of access to information? If several bad apples cause universities and libraries to be fined, these fines could eat away at limited resources that could be used toward other goals such as maintaining/upgrading facilities, and improving services.

Though monitoring the Internet activities of every user would be costly, restricting access all together would cause its own fair share of problems. Neither is an acceptable solution. Though this may make the situation more complicated, New Zealand’s legislature must figure out a way to protect innocent IP users, especially public entities, from the harm caused by offending users.

A proper solution will take into consideration public policy and the value of free Internet access to the public, not just the paying public. Perhaps an amendment to the bill that allows forgiveness for public institutions with offending users would be an appropriate measure. This will protect the public’s interest in freedom of information and still allow the Copyright Amendment Bill to bear its teeth.

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