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Copyright Act finally under review

Sarah Putt, Contributor. 29 November 2018, 7:58 pm

The Coalition Government has announced a review of the Copyright Act 1994, and has released an issues paper as the opening salvo in what has the potential to be a vigorous and contentious public debate.

The last time the Act was revisited, in 2011, it resulted in the controversial "three strikes law", which means that if an internet user is served with three infringement notices in reference to peer-to-peer file sharing technologies, he or she may be liable for a fine of up to $15,000. The law change was hotly debated and after it came into effect in 2012 it was deployed by copyright owners for a only a short time before being largely abandoned. The issues paper released by the Government notes this was due to the cost incurred by copyright owners, mistakes made by ISPs in sending notices to user's accounts, as well as delays and dissatisfaction with the decisions made by the Copyright Tribunal.

The next full review of the Act was scheduled for 2013 but the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement negotiations put paid to that. So, the National Government agreed to a review it in June 2017, but that Government didn't survive the election and now it is the turn of the Coalition Government. Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi announced the review in a press release issued last Friday.

Documents with the issues paper include the Cabinet paper, in which Faafoi notes: "Although stakeholders' views on copyright are highly polarised, I consider that releasing the Issues Paper to the public is low-risk. This is because the primary purpose of the Issues Paper is to seek information on and evidence of any problems from stakeholders."

He then draws attention to what is likely to be one of the most fascinating areas of the review - the section dealing with the Wai 262 enquiry. "Including the copyright and Wai 262 inquiry section in the Issues Paper will create an expectation among stakeholders and Māori that the Government will develop policy to protect taonga works, taonga-derived works and mātauranga Māori, and that this work will be coordinated with the Copyright Act review."

Given that the Wai 262 decision was released by the Waitangi Tribunal in 2011, many New Zealanders may think it's about time that issues around cultural appropriation are publicly debated.

Other aspects of copyright law that are likely to be canvassed include issues faced by the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums) sector when dealing with copyrighted material, the intersection between Privacy Law and Copyright Law, Fair use vs Fair Dealing, and Satire and Parody

There is plenty of time to make submissions to the issues paper, as the cut-off date is 5 April.


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