If this Ars Technica story is correct, reporting on a National Business Review claim, New Zealand is about to see a wholesale review of its copyright legislation. The NBR story, which appeared last Friday, claimed that the National government has put a freeze on any more patch-ups to the existing law and is now planning to rewrite to the entire Copyright Act to bring it into the digital age.
Certainly there’s been plenty of controversy over the various patch-ups to the Copyright Act put in place by the previous Labout government. The controversy over the Section 92a amendment, which would have seen websites pulled by ISPs just on the basis of allegations of copyright infringment, seems to have galvanised National and moved the copyright law changes up the priority list. I don’t know how well-supported the NBR claim but it has merit when you look at the string of patch-ups and problems that have come from Labour’s attempts to bring the law up to date.
The Ars Technica story is interesting as a quick summary of copyright law changes to date here in New Zealand compared to some other countries’ changes. And for highlighting five “crucial” things that a complete rewrite will have to address. Here’s its list.
- Fair use. The public will demand robust (and flexible) fair use rules, while content owners will generally push for specific exemptions and tighter wording.
- DRM circumvention. Rightsholders don’t want it (see the US DMCA), while the public will demand its right to make backups, bypass CD rootkits, and crack songs after authentication servers go down.
- Safe harbor. One of the DMCA’s best features is the safe harbor it gives to “service providers” for content that users exchange over its pipes. While content owners have begun pushing for more ISP involvement in piracy issues, such safe harbors exist in both the US and Europe and seem likely to be a part of any copyright overhaul in New Zealand.
- Copyright term extensions. Hugely controversial. The EU just added 20 years of protection to musical copyright, guaranteeing Sir Paul a continuing stream of Beatles cash. If New Zealand is really opening up the whole Copyright Act to a rewrite, terms of protection could be on the table once more.
- Format shifting, time shifting. So ingrained is CD ripping and DVR usage that it’s impossible to believe the law won’t sanction them in some way—but it could be limited. Under the Copyright Amendment Act (now pulled) only musical format shifting would have been allowed; video would not have been included.