Are New Zealanders being had by new copyright law?

, posted: 16-Dec-2006 16:54

PIRACY!Judith Tizard's Copyright (New Technologies and Performer's Rights) Amendment Bill is making its way through the Parliament at the moment after stewing in various instances for years.

I don't think anyone thinks the Bill is totally good, with the possible exception of the recording industry and its enforcers, but the format-shifting part has been hailed as progress. Finally, we can use our iPods and MP3 players without being criminals! But... is it really quite that rosy?

Doesn't look like it: first, we'll only be allowed to format-shift for two years after the law goes through:

There is a sunset clause attached to new section 81A(1)---under new section 81A(3) it expires after 2 years after the date on which it comes into force, unless renewed by the Governor-General by Order in Council.

What happens to content that's been format shifted (copied over to another device) during that two-year period should we no longer allowed to do so? Do we have to delete it?

Richard Wood of InternetNZ pointed out that Kiwis may not be allowed to format-shift even before the section 81A(1) expires:

(2) Subsection (1) does not apply if the owner of the sound recording is bound by a contract that specifies the circumstances in which the sound recording may be copied.

Lovely - so all it takes is a one-line licence agreement saying "thou shalt not format-shift" and that's that.

Reading the Bill, I got the impression that people wouldn't be allowed to remove "rootkits" like the DRM one planted through SonyBMG music CDs, but lawyer Ken Moon of AJ Park tells me this isn't the case, most likely. It would have to be shown that removing the DRM was done for the purpose of copyright infringing Moon says.

Stephen Marshall's blog has further thoughts on the Bill, including format shifting. For instance, it's not clear from the Bill that you're allowed to play back content on your work computer - it could be that you are limited to devices that you yourself own.

We'll see how it goes but apparent loopholes like the above don't exactly fill me with confidence. After all, the new law will carry five-year prison sentences and $150,000 fines as penalties.

More information

Other related posts:
Wikileaks keeps publishing despite Assange's arrest
Letter to Simon Power, minister of commerce re: Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill
NZ government could create new last-mile monopoly with UFB

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