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Speaker: Copywrong II

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  • Jimmy D,

    Nandor has just made my morning. Of course, the threat of that bill still hangs over our heads, but the man must be applauded for his efforts to introduce some sensible argument on this topic.

    When will we be brave enough to admit that there is no such thing as IP? Such a statement does not need to contradict an author or artist's rights to assert copyright or to make a living from their work. Let's see this trend toward the protection of 'IP' for what it is - ruthless capitalism applied to creative endeavour and the realm of ideas. Locking down memes, stifling invention and competition, and in the end, the control of personal thought and behaviour by corporations.

    Phew. Sounds like the new manifesto of the copyleftists. I'm going to take a few deep breaths and replace my morning cup with a decaf.

    Seriously though, who's with me? We need volunteers for the barricades...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 16 posts Report Reply

  • DPF,

    While I agree with many of the criticisms Nandor makes of the Copyright Bill (and look forward to working with him on highlighting these, and trying to gain amendments), I think it was regretable to vote against the bill at first reading because this gives the impression that the status quo is acceptable, and it isn't. The bill deserves select committee consideration.

    Also Dr Marshall's blog is not a legal blog, in that he is not a lawyer. This is not to discount his analysis - I have found much of it very usefu and am very grateful to him for the analysisl. However I have also had a lawyer specialising in this area say that there are some errors there. InternetNZ has commissioned a full legal review of the bill by a lawyer specialising in this area, and will make this analysis publicly available in time.

    I'm not a fan of the bill as currently drafted, but it is significantly better than the Australian and US equivalents.

    The key problem is the Commerce Select Committee has set a date for submission of mid February which is far too soon. I'm keen to have a workshop on the bill with interested parties, but it will be hard to schedule this before mid February. I am hopeful the deadline can be extended.

    A key challenge is going to be not just saying what we don't like in the bill, but providing amendments which will improve the bill and be fair to both content producers and consumers.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 78 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Austin,

    Great to see at least one politician has made a stand on the side of the consumer.

    Lets be clear on this: This is not an issue of right vs left, this is an example of an industry attempting to co-opt government to extend their commercial control over a market. It is rent seeking behaviour. Law needs to be written in such a way as to benefit all the people or groups covered by it's reach, not just the publishers. This is afterall, the Copyright Act, not the Music Industry Market Protecion Act.

    London • Since Nov 2006 • 1019 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Marshall,

    Also Dr Marshall's blog is not a legal blog, in that he is not a lawyer.

    Absolutely - although one does not have to be a lawyer to comment on the law - just to give legal advice. I get a bit tetchy about the idea that the law belongs to lawyers.

    that there are some errors there

    Be nice and suggest where - my guess is that the phrase "may be" is missing and that we'd have to get in front of a judge to be sure - something I'd much rather see addressed at the lawmaking stage, the experience of this type of law in the US and Australia is that it gets used as a blunt club to beat down anyone who's not a large publisher/media company irrespective of the legal rights and wrongs. After all, who, other than lawyers and large corporates, can afford to fight these cases?

    Stephen

    Wellington • Since Dec 2006 • 6 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    Ben - the argument might be that Nandor has not taken a stand for the consumer - the Greens opposed sending a bill to select committee that would mean owners of IPods weren't criminals.

    They currently are, and the Greens oppose even allowing public discussion of a law that would change that.

    I'm with DPF - point out all the flaws in the bill, but vote for it to be sent to select committee so they can be fixed.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Clarke,

    I think it was regretable to vote against the bill at first reading because this gives the impression that the status quo is acceptable, and it isn't. The bill deserves select committee consideration.

    In this case, DPF, I think you're wrong in your assessment. Nandor was completely correct in his vote against the Bill, as by any reasonable reading it's appallingly bad legislation. Parliament has a long and illustrious history of voting down ill-conceived legislation at the first reading, and it should have killed this thing stone-dead at the earliest opportunity. It's an appalling piece of drafting.

    Criminalising copyright infringement is the unreasonable use of the State's coercive power to enforce the business model of a small number of multinationals. The idea that the offence of bypassing the DRM on a CD in order to load it on my iPod deserves a criminal conviction, $150,000 fine and 5 years in jail is completely disproportionate to any harm caused.

    In comparison, if I get annoyed with my neighbour, smash his windows, set fire to the tree in his front yard and let down the tires of his car, I'll be charged with intentional damage and risk 3 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Why is this 150 times less harm than copying a CD?

    Bad legislation is bad legislation. It should never have gone to select committee and wasted taxpayer time and money on trying to get it amended. And as you note, the closing date for submissions is far too early, which makes me think that the Bill is simply being railroaded.

    Nandor absolutely did the right thing.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 85 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Austin,

    Graeme,

    Having read the full text of the speeches from the Minister, and other MPs I would definately agree that the formatshifting issue is the best way to approach MPs about this. They all seemed highly concerned with it, and the effect on consumers.

    There is also the national interest argument - if we are serious about a FTA with the US we shouldn't give away a key bargaining position like this for free. I do not think the US Federal government has the power to make the concessions NZ would want in a FTA deal, over agriculture at least, so I don't think a FTA is a good idea for us, given the concessions we would need to make. Anyway, the IP changes are a big part of any US FTA and NZ will need all the bargaining chips it has, if it treats with the US.

    London • Since Nov 2006 • 1019 posts Report Reply

  • Ian,

    Personally I'm not a great fan Of Nandor but this piece is well presented and he should be applauded in taking this stand. The draft is an appalling piece of badly written legislation. Rather than having it go to select committee it should be thrown out all together and the authors given a rap over the knuckles for wasting taxpayers time and money.

    Hamilton • Since Dec 2006 • 2 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    ...and the authors given a rap over the knuckles for wasting taxpayers time and money...

    Now that, I would like to see happen, just once, in my lifetime.

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • Juha Saarinen,

    DPF's faith in the political process is touching, but amounts to painting lipstick on a pig. You cannot sort out at select committee stage legislation that is fundamentally flawed, as Tanczsos has kindly pointed out to us.

    Since Nov 2006 • 529 posts Report Reply

  • DPF,

    Clarke - IIRC those offences only apply to those who manufacture and sell or commercially deal in such circumvention devices - it in no ways applies to someone who just uses it.

    Now I agree the penalties are still over the top even for commercial manufacture and supply of anti-DRM software, but the scare scenario of going to prison just because you hacked a CD you purchased is wrong.

    In fact the intro to the bill specifically says actual circumvention is not prohibited.

    Stephen M - yes the lawyers have raised issues aroound interpretation that you are taking an overly negative view on some issues. As you say the Judge is the final arbiter. I've actually been meaning to call you to discuss the issues further. As I said I did find your posts very very useful.

    Juha - I do not rule out that the bill which leaves select committee may be unacceptable and if so I'd oppose it being passed. But I think the status quo of no format or time shifting exemptions is an appalling one, and provides far greater risks to consumers being stung.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 78 posts Report Reply

  • Moz,

    DPF,
    "In fact the intro to the bill specifically says actual circumvention is not prohibited."

    Correct me if I'm wrong here, but where the text of the bill explicitly disagrees with the introduction I thought the introduction has no force? It's only when there's a question of how something should be interpreted that weight can be given to the intro?

    In this case "to facilitate the actual exercise of permitted acts where TPMs have been applied" will die in the face of 226C - it's an offence to help anyone break a TPM unless the person is a library, archive or educational establishment. Which is astonishingly narrow given the claim in the introduction.

    So while you or me may have the right to rip our new HD-DVD disk to our portable video player, there is no legal way for us to obtain the software to let us do that. As well, 226G means that you'd have to keep the TPM, regardless of whether it's supported by your portable device, you can't decrypt it and store it in an open format.

    226G.2b "does not know AND has no reason to believe... enable infringement" wipes out the possible exemption there.

    Again, you'll know this and I don't, but can the committee completely rewrite the bill? Substantive rewrites require a new bill to be submitted? Specifically, they can't amend it to say the opposite of what their incoming draft said. So in this case it starts as "Big Media is in charge" and the best they can do is water it down to "most of what Big Media says (without a couple of minor sections)".

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1193 posts Report Reply

  • Nandor Tanczos,

    Kia ora koutou and thanks for the comments

    When you have real problems with a bill the question of whether to support it to select committee and use the first reading to highlight problems, or alternatively to vote against first reading, is always a tricky one. Ultimately its a subjective decision and I stand by mine and the Green Party's final position. Having said that, I acknowledge that for others the balance might have been different, for all sorts of good reasons, and respect that. At the end of the day I don't think any of us here are in fundamental disagreement.

    I look forward to working with others to highlight concerns and to achieve positive amendments where we can. It is possible that the bill might be amended enough to allow the Greens to vote for it - I hope so, and will work to that end. I do think that having forced a vote in parliament on it was a useful thing to do. If we had not opposed it, it would simply have passed on the voices and any concerns may have been less audible.

    It does the government no credit that they have allowed only a foreshortened select committee process. Unfortunately the Greens do not have representation on the Commerce Committee but I will see if my timetable (and the Business Committee) allows me to sit on as a non-voting member. If so I look forward to seeing some of you there.


    Have a good summer all
    Nandor

    Aotearoa • Since Dec 2006 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Have a good summer all
    Nandor

    Thanks Nandor. When I launched PA System, I wanted an environment where MPs might occasionally feel comfortable posting - but I thought I'd have to do a lot of cajoling before that happened.

    Plus, I'm just excited about "malware" appearing in Hansard.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22749 posts Report Reply

  • Robert Harvey,

    One corollary aspect of the IP debate is that royalties due to the artists and publishers goes to collection agencies to be divided up amongst the various deserving. However the administration of these funds seem not to be as transparent or audited, from the artists point of view, as it might be, viz Olivia Newton-John's sueing her label for unpaid royalties from 'Grease'. For the great body of less wealthy artists things are much worse. So it would be great if at the same time that we got IP rights sorted out we could also get the distribution of royalties sorted out. Some background at:
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/11/03/peter_jenner/

    Westmere • Since Nov 2006 • 57 posts Report Reply

  • DPF,

    Thanks Nandor for the comments. It would be great to have you included as a non voting member. Likewise also great to get the timeframe extended.

    In terms of how much a select committee can rewrite a bill, there are few limits so long as they don't tinker with with the purpose of the bill. So you can't turn the anti-spam bill into the educational vouchers bill.

    In regards to the question about the introductionary intent not being reflected in the clauses you are right in that the clauses set the law. However Judges do look at the intent of the act. More relevant is that if we can demonstrate that the clauses do not reflect the intent, it should be easier to persuade the select cmte of changes.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 78 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Marshall,

    Stephen M - yes the lawyers have raised issues aroound interpretation that you are taking an overly negative view on some issues. As you say the Judge is the final arbiter.

    David - happy to talk offline as well (particularly if it leads to a strong submission to the select committee...) - my reason for being negative is based on my reading of IP cases. With very few exceptions Judges lean towards a strong protection of economic interests, possibly as a consequence of the explicit invocation of copyright as a property right - something the Government chose to re-emphasize as the first sentence of the current Bill. Cases like the one taken by Copyright Licensing Limited vs Auckland Uni (and others) illustrate this with the judge choosing a very narrow interpretation.

    As well, the risk is that we will be held to a very negative interpretation of the law by others in our lives - employers are hardly likely to take risks over employee access to music on iPods after all. Currently my employer bans digital music files on their property because of conservative legal advice. I'd much rather see clear and unambiguous law granting all of us reasonable freedoms - much as the US grants its own citizens most of the time (DMCA and Homeland Security notwithstanding).

    I have to say also its been good to hear from Nandor - nice to see an MP actively engaging on issues in modern forums.

    Wellington • Since Dec 2006 • 6 posts Report Reply

  • Clarke,

    Clarke - IIRC those offences only apply to those who manufacture and sell or commercially deal in such circumvention devices - it in no ways applies to someone who just uses it.
    Now I agree the penalties are still over the top even for commercial manufacture and supply of anti-DRM software, but the scare scenario of going to prison just because you hacked a CD you purchased is wrong.

    The way I read the Bill, you're right on the Fair Use front but wrong on the TPM front - that is, the penalties laid down in s226 have no requirement that information on how to circumvent a TPM has to be made available for commercial gain. The wording is:

    s226A(2): A person ... must not provide a service, including the publication of information, if --
    (a) the service or the information is intended to enable or assist persons to circumvent a technological protection measure; and
    (b) knows or has reason to believe that the service or the information will, or is likely to, be used to infringe copyright in a work that is protected by a technological protection measure." [emphasis mine]

    There's nothing in there that says money has to change hands for the offence to occur.

    And just as a complete aside, Bill Gates thinks DRM is a waste of time:

    Gates said that no one is satisfied with the current state of DRM, which “causes too much pain for legitmate buyers” while trying to distinguish between legal and illegal uses. He says no one has done it right, yet. There are “huge problems” with DRM, he says, and “we need more flexible models, such as the ability to “buy an artist out for life” (not sure what he means). He also criticized DRM schemes that try to install intelligence in each copy so that it is device specific.

    His short term advice: “People should just buy a cd and rip it. You are legal then.”

    The article is here.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 85 posts Report Reply

  • FletcherB,

    So, if supplying a device, or information, to get around TPM is illegal.... and some of the pathetic root-kit installers on CD's are circumventable simply by not executing a file when inserting the disk, which can be set in the operating system as a permanent option, or done on a case-by-case basis by holding down the shift key....

    Doesnt that make Microsoft or your PC manufacturer liable?

    Seems a mighty big call?

    West Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 887 posts Report Reply

  • Clarke,

    Doesnt that make Microsoft or your PC manufacturer liable?
    Seems a mighty big call?

    I think the wording in the bill demonstrates that neither the lobbyists nor the drafters are terribly clear on how this stuff actually works.

    Anyway, after some further thought, here's my suggestion for how the Bill should be changed:

    Principle 1: Fair Use is desirable and should be legalised. This includes format shifting and time shifting for all types of media (not just CDs), and there's no sunset clause on this. By Fair Use I mean transferring content that you have purchased or otherwise legally acquired between devices that you own or effectively control.

    Principle 2: Obtaining content without paying for it or otherwise legally obtaining it for personal use - either by shoplifting or digitally - is illegal and carries criminal penalties, the same way that shoplifting does now. As is the case with other forms of petty theft, the penalties are set in the Sentencing Act 2005 and are commensurate with how much you've "obtained".

    Principle 3: Copying content for commercial gain is definitely, completely and unequivocably illegal, and carries the whole $150K fine/5 years in jail penalty, along with confiscation of the equipment used to do the copying/manufacturing. People who rip off other people's creativity to make a dollar are scumbags and should be punished accordingly, IMHO.

    Principle 4: TPMs have no special protection under the law. Companies are free to add them as they see fit, but consumers are free to remove them as they see fit to restore their Fair Use rights. For the avoidance of doubt, this means that Fair Use trumps TPMs. There are no penalties or otherwise associated with TPM circumvention, on the basis that this area should be decided by the market and there should be equal power under the law for both producers and consumers.

    Just my 2c worth.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 85 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    Clarke- spot on. The details are a lot trickier.... but the principles should be this clearly articulated first. Just my h'penny farthing's worth.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2090 posts Report Reply

  • Moz,

    Clarke, I agree. It would be really good to see something like that in law. I expect it would be vigorously presented as a removal of existing rights by the copyright intermediaries however, on the basis that they can currently write whatever contract they like and the new law interferes with this. I suspect people like Microsoft would also get upset, as it would very likely mean that you could legally run a cracked copy of Windows that had the activation (etc) disabled. So some tweaking would be needed just to avoid a huge slanging match.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1193 posts Report Reply

  • Clarke,

    I suspect people like Microsoft would also get upset, as it would very likely mean that you could legally run a cracked copy of Windows that had the activation (etc) disabled.

    Actually, I don't thinnk it would. When you agree to a Microsoft OEM license, it explicitly says that it is licensed to the machine and not the user - there are other kinds of license that you can purchase from Microsoft that don't have this restriction.

    So cracking the product activation is actually a breach of contract law, and Microsoft are well within their rights to drag you through the courts as a result. It's just that it's a civil action rather than a criminal prosecution. And IRIC this is the state of affairs that exists today - any breach of copyright is a civil matter, not a criminal one. So the status quo remains.

    And let's be really clear about this - New Zealand is a very law-abiding place, internationally speaking. The annual surveys run by people like the BSA indicate we're in the top 5 in the world for playing by the rules and not pirating software - and this is without a DMCA-style law on the books.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 85 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    Which begs the question, we need this and why?

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • John Holley,

    Well if we needed further evidence of the problems DRM legislation can cause, we only have to look at a case from Australia in the last few days where their Appeals Court has said that linking to copyright material at another site, without permission, can be illegal.

    This goes back to the problems, from memory around 2000, when commercial organisations, not understanding one of the raison d'etres for the Web and why linking is so important, took umbrage at other sites linking to them.

    Well, they lost that battle but now we are seeing modified copyright/DRM laws being used to criminalise folk who haven't done anything beyond linking to copyrighted material.

    So, in the future, when I post a link on my personal website at a NZ Herald article which they hold the copyright for, can I see letter coming from their lawyers?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 142 posts Report Reply

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