Copyright changes

Been meaning to blog on this since the changes to the Copyright Act were passed on Tuesday with all but the Greens and the Maori Party against. It would be a very very close call, but if I was a (non whipped) MP I would probably have voted against as the law is so inconsistent. The major points:

  • One can now legally format shift music (say from a CD you purchase to an Ipod), but music labels can opt out of allowing this in their sale conditions.
  • However you can not format shift other works, such as a movie from a DVD to your laptop or to a Video Ipod.
  • It is legal to record a TV programme to watch it later, but you can only legally keep it for as long as is reasonable to have viewed it at a more convenient time.
  • ISPs have been given an exemeption for their technical operations, such as caching files, which in theory can breach copyright.
  • Content Hosters though have only limited liability for material uploaded by their customers. If they receive a complaint alleging a copyright infringement, the ISP becomes liable unless they delete the material. This means in the case of disputes, the ISP has to act as Judge and Jury or risk being sued, and there is some evidnece from overseas that (for example) the Church of Scientology uses such copyright laws as a way to silence critics.
  • A “notice and notice” regime was rejected in favour of the US style “notice and takedown described above. The NaN regime would have meant that if a content hoster receives a complaint, they must pass it onto their customer. If the customer does not respond or agrees to remove the material, then it is taken down. However if the customer disputes they are infringing copyright, then the ISP is not held liable, but merely provides the customer’s details to the complainant so they can negotiate or sort it out in court directly.
  • The law enshrines special protection for technological protection devices, even though they can sometimes restrict people from legal actions such as making backup copies, or format shifting. TPMs are hugely unpopular and most of the music industry are dropping them.

Has been lots of comments in various areas. First of all Canadian Professor Michael Geist (a expert and advocate for fair use copyright laws) says the law isn’t great but a lot better than what was planned for Canada. He thinks the parts dealing with circumventing TPMs are pretty good.

Steven Price has an excellent post on the notice and takedown regime, its strengths and weaknesses.  I think the Minister, Judith Tizard, has also indicated they will look in future at stronger fair use provisions, which could help.

Russell Brown blogged on the law also.  InternetNZ (I chaired their working group on this issue) calls it a missed opportunity, which it is.

On the bright side, the MPAA is looking a movie download site in NZ, where people can purchase movies. This is a laudable idea, as it is important that people are given legal avenues to access material. We have had the situation in the past where one could not purchase music legally for your Ipod in NZ, and where popular TV shows are not available here for months and months after they show overseas.  The world is a global market, and making works available globally for legal purchase and download will help reduce illegal downloads.