Guest Post: Gareth Hughes on copyright

October 8th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

A guest post by Greens MP :

London School of Economics on .

A new report out by the London School of Economics busts some of the myths around copyright infringement and the laws passed that try to punish online file-sharing. 

The London School of Economics Media Policy Project has published a report entitled “Copyright & Creation: A Case for Promoting Inclusive Online Sharing”, which argues ‘The creative industries are innovating to adapt to a changing digital culture and evidence does not support claims about overall revenue reduction due to individual copyright infringement,’ and that a punitive approach risks ‘incentives for innovation and growth will be weakened.’

It’s a timely report that challenges the claims the music industry is at mortal peril from online file-sharers and that graduated response regimes like our Copyright (Infringing File-Sharing) Amendment Act, or more popularly known as the ‘Skynet Law’ are the best way forward to address the challenge of copyright infringement.

I am a Spotify premium subscriber and I just love being able to access a lot of the world’s music conveniently, portably and legally for a small monthly charge. It is one example where the music industry is innovating and adapting to the digital world profitably. The report notes in 2013, for the first time UK revenues for online music was higher than for CDs and vinyl combined as part of overall revenue growth. The report recommends a review of the UKs stalled Skynet-style law, the Digital Economy Act and that ‘a copyright enforcement model that is out of touch with today’s online culture will only supress innovation and dampen growth.’

Another recent paper, this one published from Australia’s Monash University on copyright enforcement also found graduated response or three-strike laws internationally, including New Zealand’s own ‘Skynet Law’ were not working. In New Zealand’s case the report found the law was hardly acting as an effective deterrent to reduce online copyright infringement and people were simply switching from Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file-sharing sites to other methods such as cyber-lockers to obtain content

The New Zealand Government unfortunately has decided to delay the anticipated copyright review and with more reports published challenging the effectiveness of graduated response regimes to copyright infringement as seen in our Skynet Law it’s time the Government reopened the copyright debate and let evidence set policy. I would much rather the Government put their energy into promoting legal content over punitive laws that stifle innovation and plainly don’t work.

The London School of Economics report is a very good read at debunking the myth of revenues dropping.

I wouldn’t rush to judgement on how the NZ law is working. The level of fines have been reasonably modest, and what I will be interested in is how many infringement notices in total got issued over a year, how many went to a second and a third strike.

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37 Responses to “Guest Post: Gareth Hughes on copyright”

  1. Redbaiter (9,080 comments) says:

    Copyright is a private issue.

    Not a government issue.

    Keep government out of copyright.

    No need for government regulation. Copyright Amendment Act as above is massive government over reach. Actually misuse of government.

    Manufacturers can specify the terms of purchase on their products (DVDs, CDs or whatever) and if purchasers infringe on those terms then the manufacturer sues them in a private action.

    No need for government involvement other than to provide court systems for the procedure.

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  2. wat dabney (3,774 comments) says:

    Why does Frogblog ban people who question their orthodoxy, for example those who present some of the mass of evidence against the global warming theory?

    Is it to do with copyright?

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  3. Fisiani (1,039 comments) says:

    If like me you saw the name Gareth Hughes and immediately, in a Pavlovian conditioned response due to past experience, glazed over, realising that further reading was pointless,then give me a thumbs up.

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  4. RightNow (6,994 comments) says:

    Fisiani, I read it even though he’s a knob.

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  5. wat dabney (3,774 comments) says:

    One of your bosses, Russel Norman, is a self-proclaimed Marxist-Leninist; a creed which has enslaved, murdered, oppressed, butchered and tortured more people than any other in history, making the Nazis look like naive amateurs.

    What is the Marxist-Leninist view of copyright?

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  6. wat dabney (3,774 comments) says:

    If everyone is too stupid even to decide what to feed themselves, requiring the state to decide for them via a ‘fat tax’, how can they be expected to consider complex issues like copyright?

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  7. labrator (1,850 comments) says:

    Spotify? You mean the one that is getting boycotted because so little of the money makes it to the artists and uses your bandwidth, via P2P, so it doesn’t have to support its own network at your expense

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  8. Sir Cullen's Sidekick (890 comments) says:

    Boring Gareth. Let us talk about new taxes man….

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  9. James Stephenson (2,186 comments) says:

    This is Gareth Hughes from the same Green Party that ripped of Game of Thrones advertising for their stall at that comic expo thing?

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  10. unaha-closp (1,165 comments) says:

    Finally a serious posting about genetic modification referenced to the solid work done at the LSE.

    It truly is tragic how the suppression of information, restriction and all round panicked response to new innovation is having damaging effects in the 3rd World. Millions are dying whilst new technologies are restricted by out-moded practices and protectionist scum.

    Oh, oops.

    Internet music sharing restrictions are pointless and wrong too, I suppose.

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  11. Cato (1,095 comments) says:

    For me, the key thing about copyright law is that it’s positive law – made by the state, not natural law – determined by nature and universal in application.

    If the Crimes Act 1961 was repealed, theft would still be illegal. If the Copyright Act 1994 was repealed, then copying wouldn’t be. Copying is not the same as theft because in the former, unlike the latter, the true owner’s use of the thing is undiminished. So intellectual property isn’t ‘property’ in any real sense, it’s more like a limited statutory monopoly.

    And it’s the ‘limited’ part that’s easy to lose sight of. We only permit artists to have a copyright because we want to encourage them to produce artistic works – and so it should only extend to the bare minimum required to create that encouragement. However, this really is something that should be governed by the public interest The idea that somebody (or some publisher) wouldn’t create something because they can only benefit from it for, say, 30 years (not life of the author plus 50 years) is absurd.

    When you consider the fact that copyright law in the US has even been extended retrospectively, you see how far we have moved from the original rationale of copyright laws.

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  12. gazzmaniac (2,307 comments) says:

    Gareth – did Clint OK this post?

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  13. Chi Hsu (101 comments) says:

    gazzmaniac (1,806) Says:
    October 8th, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    Gareth – did Clint OK this post?

    Hahaha! Good one!

    …He probably did.

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  14. freemark (581 comments) says:

    “The New Zealand Government unfortunately has decided to delay the anticipated copyright review …” If the NZ Govt didn’t have to waste so much time dealing with the shit the Left are spouting they may have a bit more time to address these things.

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  15. RRM (9,932 comments) says:

    Hey Clint –

    Jeanette Fitzsimons must facepalm uncontrollably whenever she thinks about what a pointless, general leftist party you hopelessly academic fools have turned the Green Party into.

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  16. OneTrack (3,111 comments) says:

    ” What is the Marxist-Leninist view of copyright?”

    That all works created by citizens of the state belongs to the state?

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  17. Antarg (38 comments) says:

    Copyright would not be necessary if all content creation was crowdfunded.

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  18. RRM (9,932 comments) says:

    I would remind you of your concerns recently that rock phosphate mining might jeopardize the profitability of bottom trawlers.

    Green in name only.

    Just an Orwellian ruling class. Four legs good, two legs better.

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  19. Daigotsu (459 comments) says:

    Dear Gareth, please resign and look into a career more suited to your intellectual talents, like cleaning toilets.

    DPF, please stop giving socialist scum a platform.

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  20. Nigel Kearney (1,016 comments) says:

    Music is a bad example to use when talking about copyright generally, because musicians can earn income from live performances but other content creators cannot. The true loss from copying is not the revenue impact, it is the products that are never created at all because theft makes it unprofitable. The quantity is not measurable.

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  21. davidp (3,581 comments) says:

    Let me Google the Green Party…

    https://www.greens.org.nz/

    What do I find on their home page…

    “Copyright © 1996-2013 The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand”

    What about if I follow the Image attribution hyperlink…

    “Images used in our publications, both online and print, belong to the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand, unless otherwise credited.”

    I’ve decided to open source the Green Party’s IP. People… feel free to borrow anything you like off the Green’s web site and use it how you see fit. Images. Logos. Whatever. Just go for it. You might want to pop the Green logo on your own web site, or use it to brand a press release you’ve written. If anyone complains, tell them Hughes said that inclusive online sharing was okay.

    Oh, and not connected to copyright… Their web site incorporates Google search. Which means they’re cooperating with the NSA to spy on NZers. What are the chances they host the site in the US as well?

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  22. Jim (398 comments) says:

    Totally agreed with rb on this:

    Copyright is a private issue.

    Not a government issue.

    Keep government out of copyright.

    Repeal the copyright act in fact. It is a private issue.

    Don’t like that I ripped your blu-ray to watch with Plex instead of some clunky home appliance: sue me for breach of contract.

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  23. ChardonnayGuy (1,207 comments) says:

    No, it is not a “private” issue. When someone expends time and effort on her or his creative activity, then he or she has a right to market their own intellectual property as such under copyright and intellectual property legislation, except where they have chosen to waive that right in certain public interest situations, or in the context of fair comment. I’ve had cause to read the Riot Act to certain social conservatives who seemed ignorant of existing copyright law and ripped off my work. I was heartened to see that Nzconservative’s Lucia Maria and Muriel Newman saw the justice and propriety of my case and refrained from further such activity, or from hosting it on NZCPR. Individual creators stand to lose more if copyright law is relaxed.

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  24. Antarg (38 comments) says:

    Open source licensing agreements make a lot of sense in a crowd-sourcing context.

    If you’re crowdfunding a project, it’s already been paid for when the project is completed. Any extra sales are just gravy and can be based on physical media or additional content.
    Open source licensing agreements would require reference to the creative sources in subsequent uses by others, while digital distribution wouldn’t be limited by copyright.

    Something artists should think about when they’re creating projects is that allowing people to watch or listen for free is going to make people more aware of your creative abilities. These people may then go on to contribute to your future creative works.

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  25. Cato (1,095 comments) says:

    CG – actually, it is a private issue insofar as that copyright infringement, while an offence, is generally enforced through recourse to civil remedies. I agree that copyright laws assist individual creators but, here’s the thing, intellectual property isn’t “property”. Creators don’t have an inherent monopoly on their ideas arising out of natural law. They have a legal right that exists for utlitarian purposes – but it needs to remain under consistent review to ensure that it doesn’t unduly inconvenience the public in a manner disproportionate to the ends it achieves.

    The expansion of the extent of copyright in recent decades is not consistent with that principle.

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  26. Weihana (4,546 comments) says:

    ChardonnayGuy (708) Says:
    October 9th, 2013 at 8:41 am

    When someone expends time and effort on her or his creative activity, then he or she has a right to market their own intellectual property…

    One is not owed something simply because they “expend time and effort”. The question is whether a property right arises out of something they have done. The introduction of some notion of “time” or “effort” is simply a distraction because if a property right does arise it has no relation to the time or effort spent but rather it is the nature of the thing that has been done.

    Lets imagine I want to make a wooden chair to sell at a market. I expend time and effort but since this is not under any contract I have no expectation of reward but I do have a property right to the chair. This property right means that someone else cannot take my wooden chair off of me without my consent or trade. They cannot take the chair because if they take the chair I lose a chair. I lose something that belonged to me. They can however copy me and sell their own wooden chair. This is despite the fact that I expended time and effort to build a chair to sell.

    Now if someone creates a song they likewise have no expectation to reward if not contracted to do so. But what property rights arise out of this creation? The song cannot be “taken” as it is not material, it is information. So one cannot “lose” their song. But arguably if the song is copied then it may become difficult to market the song. The originator still gets to “keep” the song they created but may be unable to profit from the song.

    But the key point is that there was never any inherent right to profit from ones creation, no matter how much time or effort is expended. This does not mean it isn’t a concern because if one cannot profit then one might not bother creating it in the first place and the music loving public loses out. But this concern is utilitarian and is not the same as what one might regard as a “natural law” that people get to keep what belongs to them.

    Of course as a socialist pinko knuckle dragging commie prog I also think this distinction is somewhat specious and that all property rights are utilitarian. :)

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  27. Cato (1,095 comments) says:

    You had me right up until the end there.

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  28. Cato (1,095 comments) says:

    But you hit the nail on the head about the difference between intellectual property and tangible property. Theft is the taking of something with the intention of permanently depriving the true owner of its use. Copying just doesn’t fit into that paradigm of theft.

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  29. Nigel Kearney (1,016 comments) says:

    A lot of confused thinking in this thread. There are two separate issues:

    1) When there should be legal protection for creative works
    2) The method of enforcement

    The first question cannot be answered with philosophical arguments about the meaning of words such as ‘property’, ‘theft’ or ‘right’. The distinction between positive and natural law doesn’t help either. In reality, if people are allowed to rip off the Hobbit and broadcast it their own cinemas and run off DVDs and sell them without paying the producer a cent, then nobody in their right mind would commit hundreds of millions of dollars to make the movie. The fact that Peter Jackson still has his copy on the shelf at home makes no difference.

    The second question is about private vs criminal enforcement. In New Zealand, private enforcement currently will not get you more than what you have lost due to the actions of the defendant. In these kind of cases, this is far too little to provide a disincentive to copy. If I can sell pirated DVDs at the Saturday market and risk only being sued for the sale price of those DVDs I can be proven to have sold then it’s heads I win, tails I break even. If the copying is even smaller scale, e.g. downloading via bittorrent instead of paying, then the transaction costs are too high to bring any kind of case against the individual. So civil claims instead of criminal prosecution are not realistic.

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  30. gazzmaniac (2,307 comments) says:

    If the Copyright Act was repealed tomorrow, the right to copy could be covered by a licencing agreement. Copyright can be covered by natural law – and can be enforced by civil courts.
    In fact, if the Copyright act was repealed a 100 year or indefinite copyright could be put on works. By defining a fixed length if time the Copyright Act could be considered to be stripping right to choose how long producers control their work!

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  31. Cato (1,095 comments) says:

    Ok – but what if I am a stranger to the licence agreement who happens on a publicly available copy. If I torrent a movie then I’m not privy to any licence agreement am I – notwithstanding that the torrent was made available in breach of contract.

    Nigel – I don’t take your point. The fact that copyright is positive law is relevant to the extent that we are willing to grant it. If it’s a natural right, we should instinctively look to strengthen it. If it’s a positive right, we need to justify the law (and more importantly, any extension to the law) on utilitarian grounds. To flip your example on its head, I doubt the Hobbit would have remained unmade if the copyright in it would have expired after 28 years.

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  32. Weihana (4,546 comments) says:

    Nigel Kearney (498) Says:
    October 9th, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    1) When there should be legal protection for creative works
    2) The method of enforcement

    The first question cannot be answered with philosophical arguments about the meaning of words such as ‘property’, ‘theft’ or ‘right’.

    When a property right arises, and thus legal protection, is very much a philosophical question though I agree semantics alone will not provide an answer.

    The fact that Peter Jackson still has his copy on the shelf at home makes no difference.

    It does make a difference in that it means we are talking about different things. Legal protection for copyrighted works is often premised on the notion that piracy is “theft”. But this is a shallow justification and ignores the considerable difference between material things and information.

    In reality, if people are allowed to rip off the Hobbit and broadcast it their own cinemas and run off DVDs and sell them without paying the producer a cent, then nobody in their right mind would commit hundreds of millions of dollars to make the movie.

    In reality, do you think pirates selling broadcasts in their own cinemas, or selling pirated DVDs is the source of real concern? It has been possible to do this for decades. It is the ONLINE sharing that is the modern development and that has caused the worry. In particular it is peer to peer sharing.

    It can be observed that, “in reality”, this has been done on an enormous scale for well over a decade and for some strange reason people do in fact still commit hundreds of millions of dollars to make movies.

    http://boxofficemojo.com/yearly/chart/?yr=2013&p=.htm

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  33. Cato (1,095 comments) says:

    Right, because huge special effects will still pack a cinema. Those movies are much less profitable than their box office take would suggest though. For a while it looked as if this was going to choke off movies about things other than comic books and alien invasions, but it turns out that those movies are going through a real renaissance through alternative funding and distribution methods.

    The people who are hurting most are established movie studios. However, capitalist though I am, I fail to see why we should involve the criminal law in propping up a distribution and payment model that defies technological realities.

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  34. Cato (1,095 comments) says:

    Also –

    “then the transaction costs are too high to bring any kind of case against the individual. So civil claims instead of criminal prosecution are not realistic”

    Guess what, that’s the same with any kind of civil action. Why should movie studios get special treatment through the involvement of the criminal law, when the victims of ordinary tortfeasors and contract breachers don’t have that privilege. If you’re in business, it is hardly economic to bring an action against every debtor. Instead – you only go against the major individuals who have a material impact of your business. The same ought to go for copyright holders.

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  35. gazzmaniac (2,307 comments) says:

    Cato – if the agreement is embedded in the media it could be done. Easy with movies, hard with music.

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  36. gazzmaniac (2,307 comments) says:

    Cato again – Hollywood was making really shit movies for a while, at the same time as cinemas were jacking up their prices and file sharing was becoming popular. If they continue to make good movies and cinemas remain reasonably priced them people will pay to see them at the cinema.

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  37. Cato (1,095 comments) says:

    I don’t think that would work as a matter of contract law and at best you would have a shrink wrap contract.

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