New  copyright law on peer-to-peer file sharing is controversial and it's creating some anxiety.  But the prepared and the sensible should find it is business as usual.  This Brief Counsel will tell you what has changed and what you should do.

What's changed?

People using the Internet for illegal file-sharing (and let's be clear, this principally means downloading music and movies without permission or payment) will soon face infringement notices from copyright holders.  ISPs are responsible for delivering those notices to customers identified by right holders.

Rack up enough notices in the requisite short space of time and you could be liable for a fine from the Copyright Tribunal.  In an extreme case, you could even have your Internet access terminated.

Are businesses included?

Yes, if you have Internet access.  That means an employee using a work computer connected to the Internet to download a pirated movie could put your business in the gun.  And a problem like this can cost time and money.

So what should I do?

Don't panic.  We think the anticipation will be worse than the experience.  Follow this checklist:

  • If you don't have a business IT policy, get one.
  • If you do have one, update it to make it clear that:
    • 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 ask what constitutes acceptable behaviour if they are unsure of the rules.
  • Don't let your IT policy gather dust.  Publish it to employees and discuss the changes with them.  The whole purpose of this new regime is to educate people about copyright.
  • If you receive an infringement notice, take it seriously.  You may be able to challenge the notice, or alternatively, you may need to educate or discipline the culprit (and advise the Copyright Tribunal that you have done this).

Do get help if you need it.

The information in this article is for informative purposes only and should not be relied on as legal advice. Please contact Chapman Tripp for advice tailored to your situation.