Hollywood and Google have different interests when it comes to influencing the shape of copyright legislation around the the world.
Copyright owners appear to have scored a goal against Google and other internet advocates.
Government officials who are reviewing the country’s copyright laws say supporters of a broader and looser “fair use” clause have yet to prove their case.
However, they have also hinted they may recommend the Government makes it legal for people to back-up copies of movies, music and software that they own to the cloud – potentially levelling the scores.
That is despite concerns from rights holders that such a rule-change could make it harder for them to detect and prosecute internet piracy.
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The Government is reviewing the Copyright Act, and Commerce Minister Kris Faafoi released a discussion document on Friday to pave the way for possible reforms.
Officials from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) said in the document that there had been a lot of debate about whether New Zealand should follow some other countries, including the United States, by incorporating a broad “fair use” clause into the law.
Such clauses are designed to give people a high degree of flexibility in the arguments they can use when claiming they should be allowed to use copyright material.
The alternative approach – which New Zealand currently follows – is for the law to instead list specific situations in which it may be allowable to freely use copyright material, for example in news reporting.
Internet society InternetNZ has described a broad fair use clause as “vital” to ensure copyright rules are flexible.
Google senior vice president Kent Walker also argued for “fair-use type provisions” when he met Faafoi in June, according to officials’ notes released under the Official Information Act.
But the MBIE discussion document released by Faafoi indicated that the burden of proof would fall on submitters who wanted a changed approach to prove that it was necessary.
“We need a much better understanding of the problems with the current exceptions regime before we consider alternative options,” it said.
MBIE noted that critics of a broad fair-use regime argued it would create “a greater requirement to go to court to determine whether fair use might apply”.
They also argued it might make it harder for copyright owners to prove infringement, as they would have to establish that the alleged infringing use was not fair use, it said.
Walker’s visit to New Zealand – during which he hosted a “Chatham House rules” dinner at Wellington’s swanky Wellington Club for some ministers and officials – may not have been wasted, however.
In a possible win for Google, the ministry has asked for views on whether internet search engines should be protected from copyright claims, as in some others countries.
At the moment, it is unclear whether providing a link to infringing content is in itself an infringement of copyright, the ministry said.
InternetNZ has argued the Copyright Act should also be updated to let people back-up music, movies, games, apps and software that they have bought to cloud storage services.
At the moment, that particular type of “format shifting” was likely to be illegal, it said. “We think all New Zealanders should be able to follow good back-up practice without worrying about copyright issues.”
But US movie studios are understood to be deeply concerned that if people were allowed to store copies of films in the cloud, it could become harder for them to detect and crack down on internet piracy.
Nevertheless, the ministry appeared to accept changes were necessary.
“The combination of technological changes since 2008, the speed and reliability of broadband connections, and the development of cloud services suggest that the format-shifting exception needs to be reviewed in light of current consumer practices,” it said.
Submissions can be made on the discussion document until April 5.