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Breaching Copyright through File Sharing

By - 12 Oct 2011

The Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act came into force on 1 September 2011. The revised legislation gives copyright owners a "special regime for taking enforcement action against people who infringe copyright through file sharing".

This law does not target activities like watching clips on YouTube or downloading material from a website. It's all about breaching copyright through file sharing - called "infringing file sharing".

What is filing sharing?

Here's how it works. Someone has some data stored on their computer - for example, a movie or some music. They make this data available over the internet by putting it in their public shared files. Another unknown person can then find and download the data onto their own computer by using a software programme to connect to the network.

This process is called "peer to peer" file sharing as the data is transferred directly between two individual computers with equal network access. Examples of peer to peer file sharing software include Frostwire, Transmission and Shareza.

How do I know if my file sharing infringes copyright?

File sharing in itself is not illegal. But if you don't own the copyright of a music track or movie file and upload it into your public shared files, you are making it available for others to access for free. That's when you will be infringing that music or movie owner's copyright.

If the copyright owner discovers that their work is being illegally shared, they can notify their Internet Protocol Address Provider (IPAP) such as Telecom or Telstraclear, asking them to take action against the alleged infringer.

The IPAP can then match the alleged infringing activity to one of their account holder's Internet Protocol addresses and instigate a "three strike" notice procedure against the account holder.

Help!  I've received a notice!

  1. Firstly, stop any infringing activity.
  2. If you receive a notice, don't ignore it - it won't just go away.
  3. If you wish to object, there are time limits to respond and you must provide evidence to disprove the alleged infringement.
  4. If you do not challenge the notice, you will be presumed to have committed an offence. If you keep infringing you could end up in the Copyright Tribunal.

How to protect yourself at work

  1. As a business owner, be aware that your business is liable for your employees' actions on their computers. That's because the IP address account holder is liable for all infringements that occur via their IP address.
  2. Update your IT/Internet policies and employment agreements.  Employees need to know that they must not install file sharing software on your systems, or commit infringing file sharing, and must understand the consequences of doing so.
  3. Check your firewalls and security software.
  4. Cap the data an internet user can use.  This will help to deter file sharing.

Protect yourself at home

  1. Stop any infringing activity and educate your family about copyright.
  2. Remove peer to peer file sharing software from your computers.
  3. Update the firewalls/security/filtering/blocking software on your PC.  If your computer is hacked, you could end up receiving infringement notices.
  4. Protect your wireless connection with a password.

Protection for schools/universities

  1. Visit Netsafe's website for information about what to do if your school receives an infringement notice
  2. The Ministry of Economic Development_ has further resources to help you understand and avoid infringing file sharing. Visit

Talk to Martelli McKegg

If you need advice about complying with the new legislation, what to do if you receive a notice or how to enforce your rights as a copyright owner, please contact Emma Hunter.


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