Copyright laws updated for digital world

A bill that brings copyright laws into the digital age was passed by Parliament yesterday.

The Copyright (New Technologies) Amendment Bill changes the Copyright Act 1994 to clarify its application in the digital environment and to take account of international developments.

It does not change the balance between protection and access to copyright material, but makes sure the balance can continue to operate when new technologies are involved.

It introduces an offence, carrying a sentence of a maximum fine of $150,000 or up to five years imprisonment, or both, for commercial dealings in devices, services or information designed to circumvent technological protection measures.

The National Party supported the bill and it passed its third reading by 111 votes to 10. The Greens and the Maori Party opposed it.

The Internet Society of New Zealand, InternetNZ, said the bill did not fully grasp the nature of the new technologies it dealt with.

Executive director Keith Davidson said it failed to enshrine the right for consumers to format-shift all their digital media so they could listen or view it on the device of their choice.

"The legalising of format-shifting of audio files - such as from a purchased CD to an iPod - is a very modest step in the right direction," he said.

"It is a great pity...they have not extended format-shifting to other media such as video."