Don't make Kiwis wait

Last updated 13:36 10/01/2012

On a recent flight back from Africa, I was delighted to find the flight had the entire latest series of one of my favourite TV shows. I watched 22 episodes end to end and the flight passed painlessly.

The reason I was so excited is that this series had not yet aired in New Zealand. We are close to a year behind the US with it.

When I got back home, I noted that some further infringement notices for alleged file-sharing of copyrighted works had been issued, under the revised S92A of the Copyright Act.

Tech Liberty have pointed out that the notices are seriously deficient, and could well be thrown out if the case gets a third strike and goes to the Copyright Tribunal. The first case to go there will have huge media interest in it.

But that got me thinking about how there would be much less file-sharing of TV shows if New Zealanders could legally view or purchase them at the same time as the rest of the world, or specifically the US.

We hate reading on the internet about what has been happening in a TV series, but unable to view it for ourselves.

The world is now one global market, yet producers still try to segment it by country and region.

I'd happily pay $1/week to get the latest Big Bang Theory delivered to my inbox to view, the day it shows in the US.

Now the Government is currently negotiating a Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement with the US and several other countries. This may result in some great gains in trade access for New Zealand, but has some risks also.

The US is demanding further changes to our intellectual property laws, to benefit their entertainment industry.

Whether or not these form part of any agreement, we will not know until the negotiations are complete.

But this gave me an idea. Why not use the negotiations to make own demands in this arena.

New Zealand should ask for the US to commit to a law change that any copyrighted material released in the US for sale, can also be immediately sold (or re-sold) to New Zealand consumers.

So if a US studio releases an episode on iTunes for 99c the day after it is broadcast in the US, then no more blocking New Zealanders from being able to buy it.

Such a law change would probably do more to reduce infringing file-sharing of TV shows, than any amount of punitive measures.

It would be hugely popular in New Zealand, and would in fact allow US studios to develop a direct market in New Zealand, without needing the middle-men of NZ broadcasters. Or they could possibly do a deal with Sky to on-sell content on their behalf?

Most New Zealanders want to watch their favourite TV shows as soon as they are available.

If they are made legally available in a timely fashion, people will pay to get them early. It is when there is no legal way to acquire such a TV show, that so many people turn to torrents on the internet.

So do you think it would be a good idea for the NZ Government to push for the US to stop US businesses from blocking New Zealanders buying their online content? Would you pay $1/episode for your favourite TV show the day it shows in the US?

David Farrar is a centre-right blogger affiliated to the National Party. His disclosure statement is here.

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70 comments
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ek   #1   01:45 pm Jan 10 2012

I agree with you completely - i think a huge reason why people download shows because NZ either gets them VERY VERY late...or never. there are numerous great / high rating shows over in the US which we never get. Instead we get endless reruns of Friends and stuff we have seen before. I'm over it. Id be more than happy to pay a "reasonable" price (like $1 per episode) for my fave tv Shows.

People who make these rules really need to get up with the play , and that the world works differently now. Downloading should not be made illegal..it should be made available to everyone at a reasonable cost. Especially with TV shows.. which are technically free to air shows in the US anwyay. Its a different story with movies.

Same way as Itunes has done with music... (tho there is some overpriced stuff on there too!).

Sam   #2   01:46 pm Jan 10 2012

Yes i would definitely pay $1 for an episode the day it comes out in the US as opposed to downloading it. However i don't think its a simple as US businesses blocking New Zealanders buying the content. Its down to licensing issues. The shows on iTunes for example may be only licensed for viewing in the US and therefore only those in US may download them. If a NZ company, say, Canwest had bought the NZ rights to said TV show and was planning on airing it in the future then iTunes would be breaking the law by selling it to NZers as Canwest has the sole rights. Thats just an example but my point is while I would love to be able to purchase episode legally over the internet when they are released in USA, its not as simple as some may think.

ian of tawa   #3   01:48 pm Jan 10 2012

How hard can free-trade negotiation be? Either you are going to remove all traffs and limits on products from a country or you don't.

I want it Now!!!   #4   01:48 pm Jan 10 2012

Completely agree with you David.

I have a large group of friends who watch 'obtained' videos of their favourite shows - all because they cannot wait. What then happens is they visit our home for dinner, and ruin the current showing of CSI etc, because "OOoh, I've seen this one.... this is where so and so dies"...

I'd be happy to see the same day - or as close to, viewing or ready/pay avaialability of current shows in NZ.

Come on NZ Govt! Show them we're not a bunch of Pirates, but a country who loves the US entertainment export.

Matt   #5   01:52 pm Jan 10 2012

A large number of the shows I regularly download from the US/UK I will buy on DVD when they eventually become available, so I have no problem with paying a small fee to see these shows as soon as they air overseas.

The only real problem in New Zealand is that most of these systems will require one download per viewer/user vs the multiple people that can watch a single download under current alternative sources. If it's possible to distribute the files freely between people, but only watch them once you've paid your $1 or whatever to add it to your collection, then that would be a good middle ground until our broadband infrastructure is upgraded to be able to handle the data.

Katy   #6   01:54 pm Jan 10 2012

Yeah, this was my number one issue with the copyright infringement bill; the government did nothing to give NZ citizens better legal alternatives to downloading. I would happily pay for a Netflix account if it were available in NZ and streamed the same content as the US. Sadly, I doubt this is, or will be, very high on our dear government's agenda and so we'll continue to remain stuck in the dark ages of television simply because we happen to be in a different geographical location :(

Bruce   #7   01:56 pm Jan 10 2012

Great idea petitioning the US to prevent the ban from online buying of TV shows. Then, with any luck, we wouldn't have to put up with the crap on our TV's

Lizzie   #8   01:56 pm Jan 10 2012

We shouldnt have to pay. as TVNZ, tv3 and Sky should front up with the cash and buy shows when they are new.

But i would happily pay a $1 per show

J   #9   01:58 pm Jan 10 2012

In my flat we've given up watching broadcast tv altogether. Filled with ads and too far behind. Given that we already pay a few dollars to download each episode of what we watch the day it comes out (for bandwidth), a few extra dollars to make things legal would not be a big deal to us. Of course, no way in hell I'd go through i* crap.

Random   #10   01:59 pm Jan 10 2012

"The world is now one global market, yet producers still try to segment it by country and region."

Yep, the government should definitely step in and legislate against anti-competitive actions by industries trying gouge extra profits out of us from the high value of our dollar with their regional pricing. Surely it can't be that hard, particularly with digital content, to pass a law saying companies must sell to us at the lowest rate they sell to other countries.

It's a farce when some game developers sell digital downloads of their game for US$50 on release to American customers but try and charge Kiwi and Aussie customers US$100.

We saw it with the Adidas example, these companies are abusing their monopoly positions to prevent practices like paralell importing. So no, lefties, this is not a natural result of supply and demand in the free market making us worse off. Governments aren't the only groups guilty of erecting barriers in the free market. Legislation should be passed to prevent these barriers when they occur from non-government sources.

The NZ and Australian governments should have started collaborating on this a long time ago as we are both getting ripped off to the same degree and improving it would go a long way to reducing our trade deficit.


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