Tomorrow is the start date for the controversial new copyright law which provides owners of copyrighted works such as movies, TV shows and music a quicker and easier way to penalise people infringing their copyright via online file sharing
Labour voted for that law. Because at the time we thought it was the best thing to do. We’ve learnt from the experiences and we have moved on.
Today Labour announces copyright policy which significantly shifts our position.
If elected, we will introduce a Bill within 90 days to remove the termination clauses from the Copyright Act. Those clauses, which give the District Court the ability to impose account suspension as a remedy for infringing file sharing – can’t work in the long term.
Right now they are inactive in the law and can only become active if the Minister decides to make them so. We negotiated this compromise position with the government. And this was our reason for supporting the Bill. The Bill was better for this compromise. Without it people would be risking account suspension from tomorrow. But we are totally committed to repealing this aspect of the legislation if we win election.
Labour will also undertake a review of the Copyright Act, with the aim of introducing a new Copyright Bill within 18 months that updates and extends the framework for digital copyright in New Zealand.
The first phase of the review will be to commission an independent analysis of the problems with the status quo from an eminent expert, such as the review Professor Hargreaves has recently conducted for the UK Prime Minister, and then consultation on a draft Bill before it is introduced.
New Zealand’s Copyright Act has been half-heartedly adapted for the Internet age. Instead of more piece-meal reforms, we need to transform our digital intellectual property framework, to bring it into the 21st century and to promote innovation and growth in our economy
Labour’s approach to copyright will promote our creative industries and put citizens interests at the centre of the policy debate.
We will have more to say about this in the launch of our ICT and innovation policies.
This is a debate is about shifting power, access to information, outdated business models and the immense potential of the Internet to change our world. Most politicians in our parliament don’t get that. Some are starting to. Nobody really knows what to do about it yet. But Labour is committed to having a go. The legality of the Irish three strikes system is currently being investigated after 300 users were wrongfully being sent a “first strike” letter (due to a ‘software failure’) accusing them of sharing music.
The last Labour Government tried to address the growing problem of Internet piracy by requiring Internet service providers to police illegal downloading and to have a policy for terminating the accounts of repeat offenders.
We acknowledge the commitment of that Labour Government to ensuring that the work of New Zealand artists was valued, allowing them to maintain control over their own works. This is a fundamental principle.
But the digital environment has changed our world. The old business model – where big companies had control over the distribution of creative works – doesn’t apply anymore. Governments have to recognise that their citizens are hungry for information and creative material via the Internet.
We’ve learned from our experience in originally passing Section 92A. Labour no longer believes that termination is appropriate as a remedy for infringing filesharing. Many parliaments around the world are grappling with these issues right now and none have got it right yet. The solutions are bigger than a re-write of one section of the current Copyright Act.
What we are seeing is a digital revolution and it is our responsibility to ensure there is a balanced environment for creators and consumers in our country. New Zealand’s legal and regulatory framework needs to enable creative expression and the industries that rely on it, not just penalise people for accessing information.
We believe in this country becoming a nation of makers. We must invest in our own economy. Invest in content. Invest in innovation and decide how we want to look in 5 or 10 years time.
Labour will properly address the issues of copyright in the digital age – and we’ll involve New Zealanders in that discussion.