NZ’s chief censor is eyeing charges against Slingshot and Orcon, for allowing 'global mode' access.

New Zealand's chief censor is considering bringing charges against Slingshot and Orcon, which both give customers access to websites with movies that could be either unclassified or banned in this country.

A spokesman for the internet companies said they had no indication from the chief censor this was the case, so could not comment on what he was or wasn't considering.

But Mark Callander, chief executive of CallPlus, which owns Slingshot and Orcon, said he was "very comfortable with the legal position" of its "Global Mode" service.

Global Mode gives Slingshot and Orcon customers access to overseas movie and television websites, like Netflix, that are normally blocked to people in this country because of copyright arrangements.

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There is therefore the potential for New Zealanders to watch films on these sites that are unclassified in this country or banned.

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Netflix charges around $12 a month for streaming a vast catalogue of television shows and movies online. Among its library is Maniac, a 2012 film starring Elijah Wood as a serial killer, which the Office of Film and Literature Classification banned from general release in New Zealand last year.

Chief film censor Dr Andrew Jack. Photo / Marty Melville
Chief film censor Dr Andrew Jack. Photo / Marty Melville

Netflix's catalogue also includes The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence), a movie labelled "gratuitous" and "exploitative" by Australian authorities. Australasian distributors in 2011 decided not to bother trying to get the film into New Zealand cinemas after it was banned across the Ditch.

Andrew Jack, the country's chief censor and head of the classification office, this July wrote to online film distributors reminding them of their obligations under the law and said this week that most "responded positively".

If a company was providing online access to films without appropriate classification or to movies deemed objectionable, Jack was of the opinion it was disregarding the law.

"Appropriate action will be taken against any company which disregards the law. I also note that there are many businesses distributing films online which care about their customers, their families and their community, and conduct themselves as responsible corporates. Consumers will no doubt bear that in mind when choosing where to source their entertainment," Jack told the Herald this week.

Jack did not respond directly to questions about Global Mode, but a spokeswoman said: "A range of charges are being contemplated. Given that this is a matter which may end up before the courts, it is not appropriate to comment further." Callander said that all legal issues were closely investigated when Global Mode was launched.

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"We firmly believe there are no censorship laws broken when Kiwis access overseas content from New Zealand, but would advise people to take notice of any censorship ratings when consuming any sort of content on the internet," he said.

The classification office website says film distributors must ensure classification information is displayed online and take steps to make sure any restricted content is not available to those underage.