New Zealand copyright bill reaches parliament

January 2007

All areas

New Zealand’s Copyright (New Technologies and Performers’ Rights) Amendment Bill which is awaiting its first reading in Parliament, puts a maximum penalty of a $150,000 fine and five years in prison for anyone caught selling devices or publishing information which could be used to circumvent technology used to protect digital copyright. The current Copyright Act bans this but has no criminal penalties. However the new bill is not without critics and Colin Jackson, president of non-profit society InternetNZ, calls the anti-circumvention clauses a “toxic provision” and warns they could be used to “suppress all kinds of legitimate valuable work and speech”. The Copyright Amendment Bill also stops people from removing information from files, such as terms and conditions of use or who owns the copyright. The Bill does allows people to crack digital rights for personal use, and libraries, archives and educational institutions can also crack codes provided this is to correct software errors, make software interoperable or to do encryption research. The bill would allow format shifting – converting CDs to MP3s, for example and consumers would be able to make one copy of a song they own for personal use for each device they own – although this can be overridden by contract provisions – for example if a music download service banned format-shifting in its terms. Format shifting video files – from DVD to Dvix, for example – would still be illegal, as would format-shifting audio tracks to sell or give to others. Under the bill, an Internet service provider isn’t liable for material posted by its users unless it has reason to believe it infringes copyright and fails to remove infringing material. ISPs are allowed to cache pages. This makes ISPs subject to the same take-down notices as their US counterparts (which tend to favour copyright owners as ISP’s err on the side of caution and remove almost anything which is alleged to offend or defame.,1478,3894864a28,00.html

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