People wanting to watch TV blockbusters such as Game of Thrones at the same time as the rest of the world will benefit from changes to copyright law proposed by the Internet Party.
Along with a raft of reforms for the outdated, patched-up Copyright Act, the Internet Party’s draft Copyright and Open Research Policy promises to get rid of any potential legal liability Kiwis face if they try to get around a practice called “geo-blocking”.
The entertainment industry uses geo-blocking to split the world into convenient zones so it can dictate when films, TV programmes and other entertainment content are released.
“A Kiwi who wants to watch the latest season of first run TV shows like Games of Thrones, for example, shouldn’t be forced to jump through hoops to access what should be legally and easily available online,” says Laila Harré, Internet Party leader.
“It’s a ridiculous situation in this day and age. A key issue is that legal opinion is still divided in New Zealand on whether this is breaking the current law, so we will remove any doubt by making it clear that there is no legal liability on people who circumvent geo-blocking to access non-infringing digital content from overseas.”
Harré believes the Copyright Act was no longer up with the play and needed to be overhauled as a priority.
“The Internet and digital technologies have completely changed the landscape since the Copyright Act came into effect in 1994," she says.
"No amount of tinkering can change its paper and printing origin. In a digital age it’s now an anachronism.
"We will make it fit for our digital future, with the first step being an independent review of first principles to guide future lawmaking and without making the assumption that copyright is the best, only or even necessary way to effectively promote creativity and new creative works.”
The Internet Party’s focus will seek to boost availability of legal content online so that there are options for getting it easily at reasonable cost, without delay, and in multiple formats.
“To achieve this we will talk with local and overseas copyright owners and other interested parties to identify and remove barriers," she adds.
"It is time for a first principles review of copyright. As is the case with the parallel importing of physical goods, we will allow for the parallel importation of non-infringing digital goods, services and content.”
Copyright infringement was, first and foremost, related to the issue of availability.
“Some excellent work has been done by some copyright owners and content providers to make good legal options available to New Zealanders," she adds.
"But there’s still a long way to go, especially for some types of content such as globally popular first run television shows broadcast overseas but not available in New Zealand for weeks or months, if at all.
“Other countries have moved ahead in assessing the changes required to set balanced copyright rules in a digital age. But here in New Zealand, the only change we’ve seen in the past six years has been the ‘three strikes’ peer-to-peer filesharing amendment.
“This Government has allowed New Zealand to fall behind globally in keeping our law up-to-date, so we will initiate a range of amendments to the Copyright Act as a priority, including the introduction of a general ‘fair use’ provision, the full range of ‘fair dealing’ exceptions and changes to the three strikes law.”
Another important element of the policy is the right of public access to taxpayer-funded research.
“The Internet was developed as a way to share and develop knowledge,” Harré adds. “Access to knowledge is a fundamental tenet of democracy and social fairness.
"We will ensure that all taxpayer-funded research is available to the public to freely access and reuse, unless prohibited under any required ethical consent or approval, with a taskforce created to oversee the process fairly and responsibly.”