New Zealand Officials To Scrap Copyright Law; Start From Scratch

from the but-who-will-be-involved dept

There was a lot of controversy over the past few months concerning an attempt to change copyright law in New Zealand. After tremendous uproar over the fact that the law (a version of three strikes) basically would declare people guilty based on accusations, rather than proof or conviction, the government finally agreed to dump the plan with plans to revisit it. However, it looks like now the government has decided to completely start from scratch, and to recreate copyright law anew. This is quite surprising. Historically, changes in copyright law tend to be patches. Every time a new technology changes things such that copyright law doesn’t make sense, regulators duct tape on some “patch” that tries to deal with that new situation. Yet, New Zealand officials seem to be recognizing this, and want to see about rewriting copyright law from scratch:

The Copyright Act was written in the pre-internet age, and does not address any of the complexities surrounding file sharing, format shifting, and other modern issues such as DVD copying — problems the last government was attempting to fix in a piecemeal fashion.

Of course, the real question is who will rewrite the law and how the process will work. If it’s the industry, then you can expect the law to be much worse. But if it’s designed with the full spectrum of interests taken into account, New Zealand could represent a useful sandbox for really (finally) rethinking some of the myths and talismans that some copyright maximalists insist are true, but for which no evidence exists. Hopefully, the government will consider ideas from outside the industry, and recognize both the public interest and the intention of copyright law.

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Comments on “New Zealand Officials To Scrap Copyright Law; Start From Scratch”

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qyiet (profile) says:

I don't like the odds

Of them getting it right. When John Key (NZ Prime Minister) was first questioned about this whole debacle his solution was to delay the law so that the “stakeholders” could come to an agreement.

My problem is by stakeholders he ment copyright holders and ISPs. Nothing about the public.

But at least they didn’t screw it up completely, and are having another go.. it can’t be *worse*.

Qyiet (a NZer)

Ima Fish says:

Of course, the real question is who will rewrite the law and how the process will work.

Actually, that’s two questions. The answer to the latter comes from the blurb above. It would have been quite easy for the officials to say that a modern copyright system has to accommodate common activities such “file sharing, format shifting, and other modern issues such as DVD copying.” But they didn’t.

That’s because the officials have already determined that “file sharing, format shifting, and other modern issues such as DVD copying” are “problems.”

I expect NZ to become a copyright maximalist paradise.

Chargone says:

if memory of past experience and general impressions of the current government is any indication, the result will probably a be a mixed bag.

national has business [not necessarily big business, but business none the less] as a much higher priority than individual members of the public, i think. on the other hand, after 9 years of labour government, they’re kinda desperate not to appear to be more of the same, so excessive regulation is unlikely.

they’re at LEAST as prone to folding up when a free trade deal is dangled in front of them as labor was though.
of course, they also seem [Seem] less likely to ram something through in spite of public opposition because they think its right.

given that the ISPs [or at least some of them] basically revolted the last time they tried something silly with the internet things, and given NZ history [dvd players? i do believe that locking the Players to a single zone was deemed illegal (or at least, not legally supported) in NZ. it is legal to make copies for personal use, though format shifting is currently not, stuff like that] …

i would imagine [though i actually know nothing] that the end result will be something somewhat looser than what the big film companies etc want in terms of what you’re allowed to do, but a lot harsher than is really reasonable [but not so harsh that it causes problems like the three strikes thing] for the rest, and probably will still be more limiting than the ideal.

oh yeah:
“The Copyright Act was written in the pre-internet age, and does not address any of the complexities surrounding file sharing, format shifting, and other modern issues such as DVD copying — problems the last government was attempting to fix in a piecemeal fashion.”
worth keeping in mind how our government tends to talk and think [or at least, New Zealanders, which the government is a subset of… and, i suppose, so am i] . while this doesn’t Specifically say that the law has to accommodate things, it also doesn’t say those things are ‘problems’

it says that the way the copyright law Interacts with those things is a problem, but is noting that interaction with each thing is a Different problem.

that’s how i read it, anyway.

besides, national got in on the back of promising to do away with some of the more unpopular laws labour passed in recent times. if they pass something bad enough copyright wise, it wouldn’t surprise me to see them fall to the same trick. ‘course, labour currently isn’t looking all that terribly effective. and stupid lizard voting habits mean that anyone ELSE toppling them is vanishingly unlikely.

[disturbingly, i see Act as the most likely to be willing o jettison the whole copyright thing. unfortunately, they also want to privatize our water, for example… yeah… anyone surprised they don’t get many votes?]

lawgeeknz (profile) says:

False alarm

I think we are now coming to understand that NBR may have jumped the gun and I think it is unlikely that we will see any move to have a zero based review of the Copyright Act in the near future. As much as I live and breathe IP/ICT and would have a keen interest in such a review, even I wil admit that there are somewhat more important issues for NZ Govt to address at present 😉

Having been heavily involved in the s92A furore (drafting the TCF code among other activities), I do however share concerns expressed above that a full review would provide huge scope for the existing balances to be skewed in directions that those asking for such a review might not like at all. One only has to look at the US 301 report today and the supporting PR from the rights holder organisations WRT Canada to see how important every international beachhead is becoming.

Nick Taylor (user link) says:

And admit that the waters around you have grown

Trouble is (I think) we’re in a state of radical transition – and have a need for radical transition… not just in the way copyright works but in the way government works.

Until this happens (and god knows how it will) then what we’re going to get is going to be a patchwork of unsustainable and maladaptive compromises.

I think our governments stopped looking after our interests quite a while ago. The whole thing has turned into an excercise in “what they can gt away with” at the behest of corporate interests who are attempting to enact a non-democratic series of laws via global trade agreements.

We don’t need this. We don’t need the politicians who collude with this… but in every country that I belong to (3? 4?) our democratic choices are limited to two Business-Parties one slightly worse than the other.

Crosbie Fitch (user link) says:

Re: Re:

Which therefore justifies intellectual property laws being rewritten for the individual (protection of their rights) rather than the publishing corporation (protection of their monopolies).

IP laws should be about protecting the individual’s natural right to exploit and control their IP (that they create, purchase, or discover). It shouldn’t be about giving anyone a monopoly or control over the use of their IP once they’ve sold it.

For example, if I sell you a copy of a poem I’ve written, you can do what the heck you want with it (copy it, perform it, improve it, etc.), however, you’ve no right to steal it from me instead (even if you don’t like the price I’m offering it to you for).

GPL software is a good clue as to how culture would work without copyright. Free as in speech, not as in beer.

The infamous Joe says:

Re: Re: Re:

you’ve no right to steal it from me instead

You seemed pretty sensible until that part. After I read that, I immediately rejected everything you said. I couldn’t help it– if you don’t know the difference between copyright infringement and theft, your thoughts on the subject will be inherently incorrect.

Allow me to explain:

For example, if I sell you a copy of a poem I’ve written, you can do what the heck you want with it (copy it, perform it, improve it, etc.)

Does “what the heck I want” include giving a copy to my friend for free? If I improve it, can I sell it? If I copy it, can I sell it? If I perform it, can I earn money doing it? If I don’t like the price you’re offering, can I go buy it from someone who has already paid your price, but has repackaged it with his own product?

You see, it can’t be both ways. Either there is no monopoly, or there is.

nasch says:

Re: Re: Re:

For example, if I sell you a copy of a poem I’ve written, you can do what the heck you want with it (copy it, perform it, improve it, etc.), however, you’ve no right to steal it from me instead (even if you don’t like the price I’m offering it to you for).

First of all, nobody would be allowed to steal anything even if you abolished all copyright laws, since they don’t cover theft.

Secondly, your distinction when applied to digital goods is academic. If anyone can buy your work and do what he wants with it, then if it’s any good (and probably even if it’s not) then someone will upload it for worldwide free distribution. At that point, you can continue to charge whatever you want, but it will be available for free elsewhere. And under your copyright idea, it would be legal too.

The only thing that would accomplish is to provide remedies for someone illegally acquiring unpublished IP without the creator’s permission (such as by breaking into their computer system). Two problems with that. One, the act of getting that IP is probably already illegal – you would have to physically burglarize someplace, or gain unauthorized entry to a computer system of some kind, or steal a storage device. So, no need to prohibit what’s already prohibited. The law would then only be used to either add additional damages for copying the work, or provide a means to prevent it being published. But, in the modern age, it’s probably already published and cannot be unpublished.

So in short, it would have very narrow scope and be mostly ineffective even within that scope. Better IMO to just get rid of copyright entirely. Since that obviously isn’t going to happen, I’m hoping someday we can shorten the term drastically.

Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I agree that copyright should be abolished. However, the ownership of intellectual works and consequently intellectual property does need recognising. The US constitution was right in recognising an author’s/inventor’s exclusive right to their writings/designs, however, the subsequent copyright/patent legislation that granted them a reproduction monopoly over their published works was an unconstitutional abomination.

DOn says:

Copyright law enforces the provisions of the GPL

Without copyright law, the GPL becomes meaningless. The GPL is itself copyrighted. It’s provisions can only be enforced using copyright laws.

If people want to copyright stuff, they should be able to do so. The problem with S92a was it treated people as guilty on accusation, with no need to provide evidence or opportunity for the accused to respond.

Another problem with copyright is the media companies are trying to restrict fair use, and to restrict the availability of equipment that *could* be used to violate copyright. If they had their way, you would not be able to buy DVD and CD burners, and you would only be able to use material on ‘approved’ devices.

We used to criticize the Soviet Union for restricting access to photocopiers. If the media moguls could’ve, they would have done exactly the same, and effectively are trying to do to burners.

The other problem with the whole IP/Copyright debate is the US patent office seem to let people patent anything they can think of. It is supposed to protect the non obvious, the inventive step, but instead people are able to patent discoveries and minor variations of existing ideas. We in New Zealand cannot do a lot about this.

Personally, I’m a fan of Open Source and Open Content. But if Microsoft want to use restricted EULA’s and copyrights, as far as I am concerned they can. I think it will be the death of them in the long run.

Finally, I am told that New Zealand is the only country in the world you can buy an iPhone that is not tied to a Telecoms carrier. Our Commerce Commission decided this would be illegal. I cannot verify this – but I know people who have come to New Zealand on holiday and buying an iPhone was a ‘must do’ on the itinerary.

That is the sort of thing that happens when you have a government of the people, by the people and for the people. In New Zealand, we are fortunate that it has not perished from the earth.

lawyer Christchurch (user link) says:

Lawyer Christchurch says

I heard a stat recently that 500 000 (or a similar crazy number) of songs are downloaded every 10 minutes.

If the courts are unable to cope with the current volume of people before them there is no way they could process the cases of copyright infringement.

Perhaps the industry should invest some energy in digitally protecting their IP rather than lobbying government. The new 3d movies are a way I believe the industry is addressing movie theft.

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