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Curran calls for balance in copyright review

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 05:00 25/10/2012

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Labour communications and broadcasting spokeswoman Clare Curran says she has returned from a US State Department-funded tour of the US with "a greater respect for intellectual property".

Curran said she was also convinced that there were links between commercial-scale counterfeiting and organised crime, drugs and terrorism.

"There is no doubt intellectual property infringement is a serious issue and the US has an enormous issue trying to protect its brands and trademarks from copying."

However, Curran did not believe the organised crime or terrorist links extended to the activities of "cyberlocker" websites such as Megaupload and remained convinced a review of copyright law was required.

The Government has announced such a review next year, but Curran believed Labour and National were likely to approach that from different angles.

In particular, Curran said the balance between the economic interests of rights holders - which she believed dominated the policy agenda in the US - and the public interest needed to be reassessed.

The trip had also reinforced her view that there should be a clear ban on software patents to prevent lawyers having a "field day", she said.

InternetNZ chief executive Vikram Kumar said the whole point of trips such as the one organised by the US State Department was to convey the point of view of US interests. "Fair enough - everybody should be able to put their point of view forward."

Victoria University media studies lecturer Peter Thompson, a regular commentator on broadcasting regulation, believed Curran would have been well aware of the department's interests and motivations.

Curran was the only politician among the 19 international guests invited on the trip, which included visits to Microsoft and Nike and meetings with judges, policy makers and academics.

She went "to try understand the thinking in a country where so much content is created" but said she came away believing the debate over the conflicting interests of rights holders, the public, technology companies and internet providers was probably more mature in New Zealand.

"The voices of internet providers and user groups aren't that well-represented to the US government."

She put that down in part to the low-cost and wide availability of content in the US through services such as Netflix and Hulu.

"It seems to me that in the US the enforcement measures on fellow-Americans aren't as high as the enforcement regime that [it] is attempting to be exercised in other countries."

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- The Dominion Post

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