Hard News by Russell Brown


You can't always get what you want

While you probably weren't looking, the Copyright (New Technologies) Amendment Bill passed its third reading yesterday. The late changes in a Supplementary Order Paper yesterday are an extension of protection for the recording of material for educational purposes.

Also, ISPs are now required to have a policy for dealing with persistent copyright infringers, but it has been made clearer that in practice the key factor in whether an ISP "knows or has reason to believe that material infringes copyright" will be the receipt of a properly constituted infringement notice from the copyright owner. (An earlier amendment made it an offence to falsely claim copyright infringement.)

The wording on who can circumvent a Technical Protection Measure has been somewhat revised, but the "qualified person" silliness has been retained. (Short version: you have the right to format-shift music you have purchased to another device for personal use -- but if a music company has borked the CD so you can't rip it, you can take the CD to a librarian or a teacher who, providing she has been authorised by an Order in Council from the Governor General, will use a TPM circumvention device to rip it for you. But only after you have written to the copyright owner and received either a refusal to help or no reply within a reasonable time. But the copyright owner can still contract out of format-shifting on a basis that remains untested and hazy. Got that?)

I won't be able to help you though. I think …

(3) A person (A) must not publish information enabling or assisting another person to circumvent a technological protection measure if A intends that the information will be used to infringe copyright in a TPM work.

For reasons that aren't clear to me, the name of the bill was also changed, from the windier Copyright (New Technologies and Performers’ Rights) Amendment Bill.

I'm sure all parties to debate around the bill will be thinking that it could have been worse, but it could have been better too. The essential aim of creating technology-neutral copyright law is laudable, and it's perhaps the inevitable fate of copyright law that it will neither fully deliver on the expectations of copyright owners or tally with the real-world experience of users. Whatever. It's done.

Meanwhile, I find it amusing that the New Zealand Institute's FibreCo proposal, which has won the backing of David Farrar, Bernard Hickey and Rod Drury seems a bit, well, socialist to me.

Its emphasis on a single, monopoly provider of fibre-optic cable is surely not the only way to the prize -- what's wrong with multiple owners interconnecting on (if necessary) regulated terms? Still, it's not a showstopper. Any proposal that could leapfrog the present market impediments to a better telecommunications infrastructure is better than what we have now. And I'd like to hear what the respective Parliamentary parties have to say about it.

Further on the fibre fo' yo' mama tip, I suspect that David Cunliffe already had the publicly-owned Kordia on his mind when he promised government backing for a new trans-Tasman cable last year. The company's announcement of just such a project is, naturally, very welcome, both because it will finally provide real competition in international bandwidth, and for the security of supply it will bring. Officially, government support is not a done deal, but I doubt Cunliffe would have said what he did last year if the government did not intend to follow through.

Meanwhile, Peter Griffin's blog raises questions about whether Kordia should still be owning a retail ISP -- Orcon -- given its proposed expansion into the wholesale market. I gather there are a few Orcon customers having a bad time switching to its new unbundled services who don't real care who owns the company, they just want their internet back.

And finally, Freeview users can tonight (9.30, TVNZ7) see the second Media7, which features a panel discussion with Ganesh Nana, Bernard Hickey and Barry Colman (who is positively oracular these days) on the way the mainstream media report the economy, and a great little report by Simon Pound on the Waiheke Island media war. I'll put up the links tomorrow.

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