Government can't please everyone on copyright reform, ministers warn

Copyright law has struggled to keep up with the technology revolution, critics of its existing provisions say.

Copyright law has struggled to keep up with the technology revolution, critics of its existing provisions say.

Old and new sores are likely to be opened up by a long-awaited review of the country's copyright law, which has now taken a step forward.

Media companies, Hollywood interests and consumers have struggled to agree on what is fair treatment of copyrighted works in the internet age.

Consumer Affairs Minister Jacqui Dean set out the terms of reference for a review and said public consultations would begin early next year.

But a Cabinet paper warned copyright was a complex area and the Government would "not be able to resolve all issues to everybody's satisfaction".

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The review had been held up by the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) negotiations.

Sky Television is suing publishers Fairfax New Zealand and NZME and Television New Zealand over their use of clips from Sky Sports on their websites.

The dispute stems from a disagreement over what the current law allows.

There has also been long-standing doubt over whether or not the existing law allows businesses to help people get around "geo-blocks" on the likes of foreign internet television services.

Hollywood interests are understood to be worried New Zealand lawmakers might go down the same path recommended by Australia's productivity commission last year, and consider including a broad "fair use" clause in the Copyright Act.

You can't always get what you want, a Cabinet paper released by Consumer Affairs Minister Jacqui Dean warns.
MARJORIE COOK/FAIRFAX NZ

You can't always get what you want, a Cabinet paper released by Consumer Affairs Minister Jacqui Dean warns.

In a sign of the battle to come, Green Party MP Gareth Hughes tried unsuccessfully in November to amend New Zealand legislation that paved the wave for the TPPA by introducing such a clause.

He noted that similar provisions existed in the US, Canada and Singapore.

New York consultant Benenson Strategy Group interviewed Kiwi "influencers" who it believed might shape the debate about copyright here in October.

Benenson didn't reveal its client but its questions showed it was representing Hollywood interests.

One of its client's concerns appeared to be that a broad fair-use clause might make it easier for people to convert and store copies of movies and other content they had previously bought by uploading them to cloud storage services.

While not necessarily of major concern in itself, that could blunt the tools copyright owners have in their arsenal to detect and control outright piracy.

The Business, Innovation and Employment Ministry said the objective of the legal review would be to "strike a balance".

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But neither the three-page terms-of-reference for the review released by the ministry nor the Cabinet paper provided much detail on officials' or the Government's thinking – sticking instead to outlining "high-level principles".

More clues are likely to be revealed in an "issues paper" that will published next year, ahead of the public consultations.

InternetNZ welcomed the review, which it had previously said was overdue.

"A modern balance for copyright could unlock further benefits of new technology for New Zealand, particularly in our schools and businesses, while maintaining protections for our local creative industries," deputy chief executive Andrew Cushen said in a statement.

 

 - Stuff

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