Well last Friday the Commerce Select Committee reported back on the now titled Copyright (New Technologies) Bill.
While there have been some improvements, which I will detail, the bill as a whole is still bad law. It would be better for the bill to fail than to proceed.
New Zealand has been fortunate that up until now both the Government and Parliament has passed sensible legislation with regard to the Internet. The Film, Videos and Publications Classification Act was sensibly amended. The Telecommunications Act was forward looking, and the Minister, David Cunliffe, has provided good leadership in this area. The anti-spam legislation was excellent. The changes to the Crimes Act were well balanced.
But with this bill, Parliament will be passing a law which owes more to keeping one particular industry in one particular country happy (the US music industry), than good law making.
The committee has made some improvements, and for that they should be thanked: They are:
- better rules for libraries and archives around digital copying
- an exception for testing of a computer program
- deletion of the two year expiry date for the format shifting exemption
- ISP definition expanded to include content hosters
- deletion of the requirement for an ISP to *automatically* terminate an account of a repeat infringer
- increased fines for people who file false infringement notices on ISPs
- definition of a protected technological protection measure altered to exclude the use of them for price discrimination or market segmentation
- More neutral language for TPM circumvention devices (were called spoilers)
- An easier process for people to try and get a TPM circumvented if for a permitted act
These are not unhelpful changes. The addition of content hosters as ISPs is especially useful as it will protect even bloggers like me for liability over comments which may infringe copyright – until such time as I am alerted to them.
But let us look at the changes they did not make:
- the transient reproduction exemption section (s43A) is so tightly defined that it may be difficult for an ISP to use as a defence. Likewise for the caching exemption (s92D)
- retained a notice and takedown system such as the US DMCA has. This can have chilling effects on free speech as ISPs get forced to make decisions on copyright infringement, and tend to automatically take down material complained about, even if the complaint is not justified.
- did not expand the format shifting provision to all works, instead of sound recording only. This means even if you buy a DVD you can’t copy the movie to your video ipod.
- still allows the copyright holder to exempt themselves from format shifting by contract so even if you buy the CD, it may still be illegal to copy the song to your ipod.
- maintains that one can only keep a recording of a TV show for as long as is reasonable necessary to view it at a more convenient time.
The original policy discussion papers by the Government were a B+. But over time as the Government got lobbied they got more and more watered down and the bill which emerged was a D-. The changes by the select committee make it a D+, maybe a C-.
Peter Griffin blogs on the bill and attacks the provisions which allow copyright holders to contract out of format shifting.
Russell Brown managed to take a break from not commenting on David Benson-Pope or electoral financing to review the bill and calls it a mixed bag. He suggests that if any music copyright holder wishes to contract out of format shifting they should be forced to have big labels on their CDs saying “YOU MAY NOT COPY THIS MUSIC TO YOUR IPOD”. A great idea – see how people buy those CDs then.
InternetNZ labels the revisions a failure to right the wrongs.
Tom Pullar-Strecker in the Dom Post reports it as a victory for the recording industry.
So just remember boys and girls. You need to delete all your TV programmes off your cassettes or DVDs, once you have had a reasonable chance to watch them. Keep them for more than a week and the copyright police may come knocking!