NZ copyright law needs more work

NZ copyright law needs more work

Summary: Let's face it, we are all copycats and offenders when it comes to breaking copyright law, which is why New Zealand's revamped legislation has garnered so much controversy.


Let's face it, we are all copycats and offenders when it comes to breaking copyright law, which is why New Zealand's revamped legislation has garnered so much controversy.

Growing up in 70's Britain, I remember having a black Hitachi cassette recorder and when Top of the Pops came on, I would place it by the TV and record my favourite music.

A few years later, a more sophisticated Sanyo "music centre" allowed me to tape the Top 40 charts directly and the sound quality was so much better.

Come the 1980's, I have a Ferguson VCR and in time built up a decent collection of movies, "videoed" from the TV, along with Spitting Image, my favourite TV program of the time.

And over Christmas, while visiting friends, I quite enjoyed watching 2012 that one of their mates had downloaded over the internet, though I slept right through Avatar.

Like the campaign slogans say, we wouldn't steal something physical from anyone, but in effect we are still stealing when it comes to downloading movies, music or other copyrighted material from unofficial sources.

Now, the capitalist in me respects the property rights of the creative. The sound law and order man in me supports tough action against criminals.

But the practicalities of tackling such an issue, which might initially sound simple, means we are opening a very complex can of worms.

Over a year ago, the former Labour government in New Zealand produced Section 92A of the Copyright Act which could have led people to have their internet accounts closed on the say so of a music or movie company. And such a ban could have been forever and without challenge.

Protests, such as internet blackouts followed, and the incoming National government put the legislation on hold last year while it devised its own alternative.

Now, a new, revamped Bill, which includes "three strikes" for such abusers, has been introduced into parliament, with offenders facing a fine of up to NZ$15,000 on their third offence.

In response to earlier criticisms, a free tribunal service will address the concerns of those who feel they have been unjustly accused. Such a system will be patrolled by ISPs, which will have responsibility for keeping records of the sites their users visit and download.

However, such record keeping will be costly, especially for the smaller ISPs whose activities tend to be very lean. No wonder iiNet of Australia fought for its right not to police. Fortunately, it won it last month.

Despite the iiNet win, the issue has gained traction in a wide arena, being discussed at the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) talks, one of which will be held in New Zealand in April. These talks have even reportedly come up with a draft treaty which requires ISPs to show how they are taking action against abusers to avoid being sued by film studios.

Like I say, this could well be costly for such lean and mean operations we see in New Zealand.

Labour's ICT spokesperson Clare Curren came up with her own suggestion — a levy on internet use with proceeds used to satisfy the demands of the copyright holders.

Such a licence fee or levy is used overseas and I remember suggestions for similar taxes on blank audio cassette or video tapes decades ago. However, such taxes might be expensive to collect and distribute, and would penalise innocent non-users.

All things considered, I think New Zealand's current proposals seem to be a fair compromise from earlier legislation and perhaps the best we can expect. Even earlier campaigners against the old Section 92A seem satisfied, though there is room for refinement.

There will be, and already has been, further debate, with people pointing out pitfalls, such as whether people can encrypt their downloads and hide it from others, offenders can move to another ISP or whether termination means the axing of all internet services or just those services with which the user was breaching the law.

I expect loophole after loophole will be uncovered as the New Zealand Bill wends its way through parliamentary procedures. Like with many other government acts, I guess we will see the introduction of some bad law, as the government rushes to do something, rather than the right thing. But the government has listened to concerns that have been previously raised and, hopefully, parliament scrutiny will lead to some improvement. It had better.

Topics: Piracy, Security, Telcos, New Zealand

Darren Greenwood

About Darren Greenwood

Darren Greenwood has been in journalism, not all of it IT, since the days of typewriters and long before the web spun its way around the world.

Coming from Yorkshire, he can be blunt, and though having resided in New Zealand, as well as Australia, for quite some time, he insists he is not one of the 'sheeple!'

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • A copyright "levy"?

    For years, blank tapes had a copyright levy on them. Burnable CDs didn't, but "recordable" CDs did.

    We are already paying 10000% over other countries for Internet access, and one of the very few who have to pay for DATA on top of that.

    Someone between the Servers and the End Users is making an obscene profit--make sure the "copyright levy" is paid by him/her/them.

    Do you know why there are so many small and slim IAPs? Because for those who can afford the start-up capital, running an IAP is a "licence to print money".

    We already pay too much for Internet Access. Fix that first before you expect to add further financial loadings.
  • NZ - a land of idiots

    As a former Kiwi this is typical of a land that has suffered from years of brain drain.

    An extortion racket, suffer the potential of a $15K fine for something you may or may not have done or bend over and let us record all your internet activities - to protect you of course. Followed up by the good old nothing to hide, nothing to fear argument.

    Gun confiscation works the same way. First is the registration process to save us from criminals then comes the changes to outlaw possession of an increasing range of firearms all wrapped up in the softest guberment knows best socialism. Sometime after that you discover what the guberment has done and why it is so scared of the people, but by then its too late.

    Wasnt this the same country that adopted an ETS to solve a problem that doesnt exist despite having sod-all carbon emissions? Kiwis should resist this latest attempt to herd them into ever smaller pens, but they probably wont.
  • Movie industry piracy of fair use and free trade rights

    The actions by the film/music industry would be a lot easier to accept if they did not act like pirates themselves, working to pirate the traditional (and often legally recognised) fair use rights of consumers. For example, the right to resell something you've bought later (try that with your iTunes library), or the right to purchase from anywhere in the world (DVD and Bluray region coding is set up to stop this competition, probably infringing Free Trade treaties).

    Until there is some balance restored between the rights of purchasers and creators, there will always be a battle. The media industry have set themselves up to be hated by consumers, so they don't get a lot of sympathy- and human nature being what it is says "if you are unfair to me why should I be fair to you".

    I for one am sick of legally buying a DVD and being forced to endure commercials and trailers and ultra-loud "piracy is bad" ads each time I load my disc into the player.

    So, give purchasers of copyright material the right to shift content between their devices easily, the right to resell what they've bought, the right to view without enforced advertising/propaganda, and the right to purchase wherever they want, and THEN we can talk about more measures to stop large scale copying.

    Piracy is happening on both sides of the copyright battle- one side pirates copyrights while the other pirates fair use rights. It will take both sides to stop it- and right now the copyright industry is the one that is acting like a high-taxing tyrannical empire and encouraging a generation of buccaneers to take up piracy in protest.
  • Copyright

    Since writing the piece yesterday, further news on the matter is hardening my view.
    I was distrubed to see how the British version of the law could effectively do away with free wireless in cafes and other places as they will be responsible for what ios downloaded.
    ZDNet UK covered this issue yesterday.

    Bruce is right about bad law. We will see the innocent punished rather than the criminal. This has happened when governments produce kneejerk legislation following dog attacks of mass shooting innocents.

    The crims keep their guns and savage dogs all the same.

    Anonymous, I agree about the gouging by Hollywood.

    If the cost of movies and CDs weren't as great we would be more likely to pay for the genuine article.

    After all, we buy fake Rolexes , Louis Vuitton and the like, but we get the geneuine article from Target, not that I ever go there!
  • Cost of movies

    Anyone who was around in the 70s and 80s will remember the huge cost of a VHS movie, about $100 in today's money. It was only when copying started to sting, and the movie industry failed in suing Sony that they decided to bring the prices down.
  • Levies - bah!

    As one who absolutely hates the nihilistic abominations masquerading as modern popular (or modern classical) music, why should I subsidize them through levies administered by some peer-operated, politically-appointed NGO?

    I also agree that Region Coding is an illegal fraud - perhaps we should just import pirated material from China