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.

Filed Under: copyright, copyright law, new zealand


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  1. identicon
    nasch, 1 May 2009 @ 10:15am

    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.

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