Creative Freedom Foundation submission on Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Regulations

Submissions on the Infringing File Sharing regulations discussion document are due on Friday, and here’s the CFF’s response (PDF). The introduction follows,

DOWNLOAD CFF SUBMISSION


The Internet is the most efficient copying machine the world has ever known. Most copyright law was written for the century when copying music (and books, and movies) was expensive but possible. Now it’s inexpensive and widely accessible. Rather than being a threat, new technologies offer artists new avenues and opportunities to export their work to broader audiences. It would be unsustainable to allow private entities to rely on Government intervention to support their outdated business models, at the expense of those who generate and consume creative works.

Copyright has shifted from regulating an industrial manufacturing process to regulating what people do in their homes. Laws targeting people’s behaviour within the four walls of their homes, on private internet connections, will always present unique challenges and trade-offs. New Zealand’s recent amendments to the Copyright Act 1994 (“the Act”) have constituted a significant change, which must be borne in mind when considering the wider impacts of the proposed regulations.

We support copyright policy that reflects the interests of both the public and artists

Given the ease of copying that the internet affords, copyright law depends more than ever on public awareness of not only the obligations it imposes, but the justifications for those obligations. Reasonable, transparent and straightforward enforcement processes and sanctions will be integral in maintaining and building public understanding of, and respect for, copyright. Unmeritorious infringement claims, unfair processes or disproportionate sanctions can be corrosive to the public trust in copyright. This in turn harms the artists that benefit from copyright’s protections, in two ways:

  1. the public will consider artists’ legitimate interests as being contrary to their own and refuse to recognise them; and
  2. at the same time, the sphere of artistic expression available to those who create will be limited by the expanding reach of copyright.

A recent HorizonPoll1 showed that 89% of New Zealanders were opposed to having to prove “valid reasons” for their innocence. To assume these statistics are illustrative of the response of infringing file sharers would be naïve. Rather, the opposition to this approach is based on a more fundamental concern for the preservation of natural justice. This being the case, we remain deeply concerned by the premature optimisation in s122MA and that Internet Termination remains (albeit in an inactive form). As we do not view these elements as being essential to the law we submit that this law has unnecessarily caused harm to public respect for copyright which is detrimental to artists.

A copyright regime that is insensitive to the public demands of modern copyright law will continue to erode public trust in copyright, proving to be easily bypassed and as ineffectual as alcohol prohibition.

[1] http://www.nbr.co.nz/article/89-oppose-guilty-until-proven-innocent-file-sharing-law-aw-91574

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