New Zealand’s Three Strike Policy and Striking Back

Thursday, November 1, 2012, by Catherine Clodfelter

The issue of illegal file sharing prosecution is near and dear to my heart. I am, I admit, an accused, though innocent, violator. While some internet users are willing and able to mount defenses to accusations of copyright infringement due to illegal file sharing, many of us might be coerced into signing agreements against future file sharing or making small payments where we otherwise have no idea what file sharing was and cannot see how that even happened on our account.

There is a lot of good reasoning that states anyone holding an internet account should not only be accurately informed of illegal file sharing, including what it is and how it works, but also be able to control all users of their account to prevent file sharing. (Let’s keep in mind reality that there are now a lot of us lagging technologically but recognizing that we become individually dependent on internet in modern times—there’s even a dysfunction associated with it). But what if you are a user of the account that is accused of file sharing illegally when you do not even own the software (as was my sad saga)? Or what if, as in the recent case from New Zealand, your friends or roommates are the ones file sharing and refuse to admit to their trespasses? How do you protect yourself, besides simply passing on the burden of holding an account to another user, most likely your friend or family member?

With an attempt to put penalties on illegal activity in a digital world comes some risk that you are accusing the wrong person, and the only solutions seem to be guarded internet accounts and active defense against unwarranted notices. 

This issue is nothing new. So why do I bring it up? With an attempt to put penalties on illegal activity in a digital world comes some risk that you are accusing the wrong person, and the only solutions seem to be guarded internet accounts and active defense against unwarranted notices.

I bring this blog in reflection of news that one case of many that New Zealand recording industry group Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (“RIANZ”) against accused file-sharers has been dropped. Notably and most pertinently, the recording industry made two mistakes when sending notifications of violations which would need to count toward the country’s three strike’s policy. This program has been quite successful at preventing piracy. New Zealand implemented its Copyright Amendment Act in 2011, but rights holders have been somewhat reluctant to act on the Act and send out warnings. The slow trickle of right holder warnings may be due in part to the cost of sending a warning and the relatively harsher punishments someone may encounter in New Zealand as opposed to France, which also recently changed its illegal file sharing tactics.

The largest question that remains in my mind, due to my sordid file sharing past, is how well can people defend themselves in typical situations: you are the internet holder and your friend is a dirty liar who wants to watch her favorite movie on a Sunday without leaving the futon (which you also own) and without paying. Or in a more personal case, the dean of your college requests that you either admit to file sharing that you could not possibly have done (first, you do not have the programs on your computer and second, you do not listen to and would not try to share the song “Touch It” by Busta rhymes) and open yourself to possible future litigation, or you have your internet privileges revoked. I solved the problem all together by never signing any statement of admission and never attempting to log my laptop onto the campus server again. I fear that solution will not be practical for future generations.