Our Submission to MBIE on Commercial Parallel Importing of DVDs

You might not know it but New Zealand has a ban on commercial parallel importing of DVDs that were bought legally overseas. Australia doesn’t have a ban, and neither does the U.S. When the government previously reviewed the ban in 2008 their own studies showed that the argument for retaining the ban was “weak” but despite that it was maintained. Recently MBIE called for submissions [PDF] again on parallel importing and we responded [PDF].

The restriction limits our access to legitimate copies of works that our peers in the rest of the world are already discussing, dissecting, and deriving new ideas from. It leaves us behind the curve, but without an offsetting benefit to the New Zealand creative sector.

New Zealand artists can import movies for non-commercial use (e.g. from Amazon), albeit at an additional cost that a commercial importer could avoid through economies of scale. This effectively prices many films out of reach, or it puts additional costs on New Zealanders who will send their money offshore (with a corresponding loss of tax revenue to the New Zealand government, which supports New Zealand artists through entities such as the New Zealand Film Commission).

If the public cannot, for example, legally obtain current material in a timely manner, then they may become skeptical of copyright law as a whole – if there are no suitable legal options then people will be more likely to use illicit channels. Maintaining a ban on commercial parallel importing decreases the supply of legal alternatives which affects all artists, not just individuals seeking to create market segmentation by controlling distribution.

Read our full submission here [150KB, PDF].

2 thoughts on “Our Submission to MBIE on Commercial Parallel Importing of DVDs

  1. Agree that current policy is nonsense, but I thought it stemmed from requirements to get things locally rated rather than accepting ratings done overseas. Can’t see why we can’t allow movie companies to elect to use the Oz or US ratings rather than re-rate locally.

  2. As far as I know it’s copyright-related only, not related to ratings, or whether ratings are portable between countries. The discussion document doesn’t mention ratings.

    The idea of the ban is to allow greater market segmentation so that film distributors can price films in each country to match that country’s income level (market segmentation is a basic principle in economics to extract value from a market).

    However in practice it means that copyright holders don’t bother releasing stuff here, and the stuff that gets here was individually negotiated and so it’s more expensive because the copyright holder’s are essentially ‘double dipping’ (they get first sale revenue, and then second sale revenue when it comes into our country – they keep ‘clipping the ticket’)

    In the famous Eldred vs. Ashcroft case the dissenting view goes into this in some detail:
    http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/people/tfisher/IP/2003_Eldred.pdf

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