New Zealand’s copyright laws were updated on the 1st September 2011 with the introduction of the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act 2011.

The wording of the new Act says it:

“provides rights owners with a special regime for taking enforcement action against people who infringe copyright through file sharing”

It is quite specific because it only applies to infringing material (protected by copyright) which is uploaded or downloaded via file sharing applications or networks.

There are two concepts there – first, the material has to be infringing, second the infringing material has to be file shared.

What does “infringing” mean?

The copyright owner has the exclusive right to copy, play, share , distribute or adapt that work, or to permit anyone else to do it. If anyone else copy’s shares or distributes a copyright protected work, without the permission of the copyright holder, then they are infringing on the owner’s copyright. The Act relates to the uploading or downloading of a piece of work in a file sharing network that infringes the copyright in that work.

What is “file sharing”?

In the law, file sharing is defined as:

“where –
“(a) material is uploaded via, or downloaded from, the Internet using an application or network that enables the simultaneous sharing of material between multiple users; and
“(b) uploading and downloading may, but need not, occur at the same time”

The focus of The Act is primarily peer to peer (P2P) technologies that allow multiple people to share a file across the internet at the same time. When an infringing file (e.g. movie or music file) is uploaded or downloaded using this type of network or application the legislation has been contravened.

Not all file sharing is illegal. For example, if you create an original work, and choose to share it across a file sharing (peer-to-peer) network, then you are not breaking the law as you are the rights owner.

Examples of activity which contravenes the new law;

  • Using BitTorrent client software to download material protected by copyright.
  • Using peer-to-peer software (For example; uTorrent, Frostwire, Transmission) to share files protected by copyright over a peer-to-peer network (e.g. Gnutella or BitTorrent)

Examples of activity which does not contravene the new law

  • Viewing media on web based streaming services (such as YouTube)
  • Participating in a video conversation using software which uses peer-to-peer technology (For example, Skype)