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Copyright law changes

Published 03 Sep 2011

On 1st September 2011 changes to the Copyright Act came into effect. The intent of these changes to the Act is to provide a more effective means for copyright owners to enforce their rights against people involved in unauthorised sharing of copyright material via the Internet (infringing file sharing).

Sections of this Act include the new enforcement measure. The revised Act requires Internet Service Providers (ISPs), which the act refers to as IPAPs (Internet Protocol Address Providers), to pass on copyright infringement detection notices from rights owners to IPAP account holders.

The intention of the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act 2011 is to cover copyright infringement by online file sharing in peer to peer applications and networks.

Please note, copyright infringements, whether or not they are peer to peer applications and networks, are still covered by the Copyright (New Technologies) Amendment Act 2008 e.g. general infringement, storing infringing material and caching. Rights owners can continue to seek enforcement through the Courts.

Under the new amendment, internet users using the web for illegal file-sharing (not only downloading music and movies without permission or payment, but also all kinds of artistic works including novels, poems, blog articles, photos, drawings, designs and a whole raft of other material e.g. copyrighted systems policies and procedures) could soon receive infringement notices from the copyright holders. ISPs are responsible for delivering those notices to customers identified by the copyright holders.

A cause for concern is that the copyright holders need only accuse the user - not prove a case in a court of law.

Employers who receive 3 notices, could be liable for a fine of up to $15,000.00 from the Copyright Tribunal, or in future in extreme circumstances, Employers' Internet access could even be revoked. Most businesses are now heavily reliant on the internet, so losing internet connectivity could put the business in jeopardy, costing time and money.

Employers must ensure that all employees with internet access comply with copyright law. The risks need to be minimised - employees using a work computer or other device connected to the Internet to download a pirated movie or song could cause serious implications for the Employer.

The steps employers need to take are simple, but be aware the time to take them is now.
  • If employers don't have a workplace Information, Communications & Technology (ICT) policy, get one.
  • If employers do have one, update it to make it clear that:
    • peer-to-peer file sharing has been addressed
    • employee Internet access is for business purposes only
    • employees are expected to respect copyright and not to engage in illegal file-sharing, and
    • employees should be advised what constitutes acceptable behaviour.
  • Circulate the ICT policy to employees and discuss the changes with them. The whole purpose of this new regime is to educate people about copyright and, if appropriate, get agreement from users as a condition for continued Internet access.
  • If employers receive an infringement notice, take it seriously. Employers have the right to challenge the notice, or alternatively, may need to educate or discipline the culprit (and advise the Copyright Tribunal that this has been done).
  • If employers are going to penalise an infringing person in some way, they may need to take legal advice now to ensure the contract or terms of access allow them to do so.
  • Employers need to document all the steps taken so that they can demonstrate to the Copyright Tribunal that everything possible was done to stop copyright infringement. This is particularly important if Employers plan to use the "manifestly unjust" defence the new law provides.
Please contact Employers Assistance Ltd if you need help.

Get your own Information, Communications & Technology policy in place now. Buy our ICT Policy, (Free to Employers Support Package members - see the library section of the Employers Toolbox)