Dotcom Dilemmas in Your Workplace

March 16th, 2016 - Barbara Buckett

Preventing Illegal Downloading at Work: How Employers May Be at Risk

The recent Kim Dotcom saga has placed the issue of illegal downloading back in the media spotlight. Although the Megaupload case involved a global business that allegedly facilitated millions of illegal downloads per day, the issue of illegal downloading has implications much closer to home or indeed the workplace.

The Issue in New Zealand

The Copyright Amendment Act 2011 which came into force in September last year aims to crack down on illegal file sharing, (for example downloading music, movies, and software. In this new regime the employer, who comes into the definition of ‘account holder’, can be found responsible for an employee’s illegal use of the internet.

Who Are You Responsible To?

Copyright owners of the downloaded or uploaded content can seek compensation under the Act.  As an employer YOU could be hit with a fine of up to $15,000.

  • FIRST… The internet service provider (eg Telecom, Telstra Clear, Slingshot) will be issued a detection notice of illegal file sharing by a copyright owner.

  • THEN…Under the Act the ISP is required to serve notice of the infringement on their account holder. In an employment context THIS WILL BE YOU and not the individual employee. The notice will follow a’ three strike’ regime.



First detection notice for a first infringement


Warning notice for a second infringement


Enforcement notice for a third infringement

If it gets to an enforcement notice, the copyright owner can take their case to the copyright tribunal which has the power to fine you up to $15,000. Under this law the District Court also has the power to suspend your internet account for up to 6 months. This is currently not in force and is not expected to be until 2013. However the Government can bring it into force at any time if it sees fit.

Is This An Issue In My Workplace?

Red Flags

If your employees are accessing their favourite TV programmes, movies, or music on sites like Kim’s megaupload without paying for them then there is potential for copyright infringement. Names like limewire, utorrent, bittorrent or frostwire on your workplace computer system are warning signs that this could be happening. If so, it is better to nip this practice in the bud before it becomes a financial headache for your business.


  • Know the rules,  nip any potentially illegal practice in the bud

  • Audit all workplace computers to check for installation of any file-sharing programmes, if you find them uninstall immediately

  • Consider an addendum to your employee internet usage policy clearly outlining that illegal file sharing could be considered grounds for serious misconduct

  • Make sure your current internet usage policy is as clear and concise as possible

  • If you receive a notice, do not ignore it but bear in mind it can be challenged


Our Copyright Infringement Kit

We can work with you to…

  • provide clear policies on internet use

  • offer employment agreements spelling out permitted use and penalties

  • give advice on protecting your business from loss and damage resulting from internet infringement.


Contact the team Buckett Law- the employment law specialists and get the policies not the problem!

Note: BuckettLaw takes no responsibility for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of our articles. Any views expressed or comments made in an article are the writers option only. The content in our articles does not constitute legal advice. If you need legal or expert advice you should obtain specific advice about your case or matter from a professional. For legal advice based on your individual situation please contact us to speak with one of our expert lawyers.

Enjoy a complimentary 15-minute phone call as a first-time offer.

Barbara Buckett

Barbara Buckett is a highly experienced senior employment lawyer with over 35 years of practice in New Zealand. She provides expert advice on all areas of employment law and has a proven track record of delivering excellent results for clients. Barbara has extensive experience in resolving workplace issues and is an experienced litigator. In her free time, she enjoys reading, traveling, working out, and fine wine and dining with friends.

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