New Zealanders need to involve themselves in a forthcoming review of copyright law or they will "suffer what the conglomerates and corporates" hand to them, says a District Court Judge.
Speaking from the audience at yesterday's NetHui conference, Judge David Harvey said copyright concerned everybody and urged people to become interested.
"We have to be interested in this, because if we aren't then we'll be told what will happen by the big, vested interests. I would urge you to put your views forward in the 2013 review of the Copyright Act, because if you don't then you will have to suffer what the conglomerates and corporates give you," Judge Harvey said.
The Ministry of Economic Development is set to review some parts of the Copyright Act next year, but a spokesperson for Commerce Minister Craig Foss said yesterday its exact start date and scope were not finalised.
Much of the recent discussion on copyright has come in the wake of the Government's "three-strikes" anti-piracy legislation passed last year.
Under the law, internet providers are required to issue warning and enforcement notices to customers suspected of illegally downloading copyright content - such as movies or music - if a copyright holder requests it.
A session at NetHui yesterday aimed to stimulate debate about copyright legislation ahead of the review.
Donald Clark, the former chief executive of the Research and Education Advanced Network New Zealand, said the review was a "fantastic opportunity", but pushed fora cautious approach..
Clark said a key problem was finding a way for content providers to make money in a world where everything could be copied extremely easily.
However, he said there was experimentation going on and cited the legal online music service Spotify, which launched in New Zealand in May.
"We're seeing a lot of innovation right now and we should be cautious not to steam in and try and legislate ... until we've had a chance for that ecosystem to innovate, evolve, develop.
"Who knows, we may even arrive at a solution ourselves where people feel there's enough balance between exposure to content [for users] and reward for producing that content," Clark said.
The discussion's moderator, blogger David Farrar, said a "real issue" was the length of time that creative works -whether music, work or movies- stay in copyright.
Under existing laws in New Zealand, content stays in copyrightfor 50 years after the death of its creator.
In the United States, the term is 70 years, which means that music from artists such as Michael Jackson will stay in copyright until 2079.
There is concern from lobby groups that in the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement currently being negotiated, New Zealand could be forced to extend its copyright terms to match those in the US.
InternetNZ's Hamish MacEwan said yesterday that the length of existing copyright had "just become absurd".
He said he had no objection paying an artist for content but he would not "pay the dead for 50 years".
Fair Deal monitors TPP signing
A group pushing for a "fair deal" has launched a campaign opposing any changes to New Zealand's copyright laws that may form part of the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement.
The TPP trade deal is currently being negotiated with the 13th round of talks finishing up. The negotiations are secret but it is known that the United States entertainment industry is pushing for stronger copyright provisions among the 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific region negotiating the deal.
In response to this, a group of organisations - including internetNZ, Consumer NZ and the Telecommunications User Association (TUANZ) - launched the "Fair Deal" campaign in Auckland last night at the NetHui internet conference. The coalition is concerned the agreement could give copyright holders the power to veto parallel imports, which would push up the price of DVDs and books .
The group is also concerned that the TPP could make the term of copyright longer. Under existing laws, content stays in copyright for 50 years after the death of its creator. In the United States the term is 70 years, and the "Fair Deal" coalition believe the TPP could force New Zealand to match this.
The coalition also says the TPP could lead to internet providers becoming the "judge and jury when it comes to copyright infringement" and give them the power to cut users off from accessing the internet.
"All we're asking for is a fair deal," internetNZ's Susan Chalmers. said "Because the TPP is negotiated in secret, and because trade agreements are not typically at the forefront of our minds, we have this problem of New Zealanders not seeing what is coming - not knowing what changes the TPP will bring to their everyday lives."