What NZ employers need to know about the new Copyright Laws

2011-11-01: New Copyright Laws - Employer Obligations

Employers are in a potentially vulnerable situation. NZ Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are required  to serve notice on account holders who are responsible for infringements.

In the case of work computers and systems, the employer is the account holder.

If an employee infringes copyright law using the employer's computers, the employer may not even be aware of the misuse of the internet - but could become liable regardless. The ISP can be required to close the employers account.

In addition to these concerns employees who download a lot of material can potentially cause significand data costs to their employer, as well as the exposure to viruses, worms and other seriously undesirable infections.

In the case of illegal downloading from work computers, at a minimum employers need to be able to prove to the Copyright Tribunal they have taken every precaution to prevent staff illegally downloading. At best this would provide a complete defence, at worst it would mitigate any damages claimed. 

Advice for employers:

1. Ensure employment agreements have an internet policy section and specifically include 'file sharing'.

2. Spell out consequences for employees who infringe copyright law and make the employee liable for costs/damages.

3. Develop a proper password and access procedure.

4. Put in place monitoring technology allowing individual users to be identified. Spell out to employees that monitoring occurs.

5. Employees must know that disciplinary action will follow any breach of the internet policy and such actions could justify dismissal as well as having to pay the costs involved

6. Put restrictions in place and block inappropriate websites if necessary.

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