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Overdue digital copyright reform comes to New Zealand

11 April 2008

On Tuesday, April 8, Parliament passed the Copyright (New Technologies) Amendment Bill. The changes are designed to better protect creative works which are ever increasingly stored electronically and disseminated in digital format.

However, Chapman Tripp IP specialist, Matt Sumpter, believes the law reform falls short of the mark.

“It under-protects copyright and it’s out of stride with the changes made years ago to the copyright laws of our major trading partners including Australia, the US and Europe,” he says.

Sumpter says that the new law favours users over right-owners with Government officials apparently concerned about “digital lock up”, the idea that big companies might use technical protection measures (or “TPMs”) to stop people making “fair use” of copyright works, as they are entitled to do in certain discrete circumstances for private study, education and the like.

Controversy surrounds TPMs. Copyright owners say that the law needs to protect digital access controls which stop users from copying or on-selling, for example, music or software once they have bought it. Owners say that access control technology should be protected to encourage innovative digital distribution models. Officials were not keen on that idea as they believe it would have undermined New Zealand’s approach to parallel importation: genuine parallel imported products are legal here, whereas in most western countries they are not.

“The thinking is that if you protect access controls, you make it illegal for people to watch their Zone 1 DVDs or the like in New Zealand”, notes Sumpter. There were, though, ways of addressing Government’s digital lock up concerns, but they were ignored. “In the end” says Sumpter “a balance has to be struck. For now New Zealand has chosen to favour end-users over owners. While that’s a policy decision, New Zealand business needs the support of strong IP law. We have not heard the end of the copyright debate”.

For more information, contact our Web Editorwebeditor@chapmantripp.com+64 9 357 9622

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