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NZ Authors Want Internet Licensing Fee

by Mary Swire,, Hong Kong

11 August 2010

New Zealand’s Society of Authors is advocating the introduction of a licence fee for internet users to access content online.

The Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill is presently being considered by a New Zealand parliamentary select committee. At the moment, it provides for copyright holders to ask for the issuance of infringement notices by internet service providers (ISPs) if offenders are caught accessing material without permission, for a tribunal to set penalties and for a court to be asked to suspend an internet account.

However, the Society points out that the accessing of material usually occurs without the copyright holder being aware, and that the above sanctions would therefore be ineffectual. In a reported submission to the committee, it therefore suggests that an overall licence fee, also known as an ‘ISP tax’, could be the answer.

The Society is intent on extending the scope of the bill to books, given the increased availability of ebooks being read online, as the amendment to the bill is currently applicable only to music, film and software. The fee, it says, would function in the same way as the licensing system for photocopying, where the intermediary (possibly, in that case, a university) pays a fee to obtain permission to copy written works.

However, the difficulty posed by charging all internet users for the infringements of the few through the payment by their ISPs of a blanket fee is not addressed; nor is the mechanism whereby such revenue would be allocated to authors, given that they will be unaware when and how frequently their copyright is being infringed.

TAGS: court | tax | commerce | law | intellectual property | copyright | fees | internet | e-commerce | licensing | legislation | New Zealand | penalties

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