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Government To Grab Music Rights

1 July 2003

Government To Grab Music Rights

The Government will breach international copyright obligations if it goes ahead with its plan to amend the Copyright Act, according to Simpson Grierson Intellectual Property Partner Earl Gray.

The proposed ‘digital agenda’ amendments to the Copyright Act would allow New Zealanders to copy music into any given format (CD-ROM, M-Peg and more) for personal use without breaking the law.

Earl Gray of Simpson Grierson says, “the Government’s statement that there will be no economic loss in allowing the public to copy music material into any format is naïve and simplistic. Its justification appears to be that format shifting is already common practice.”

“It fails to recognise the legitimate means by which copyright owners can distribute their works and receive a return. The financial impact on copyright owners could be significant in terms of lost sales.”

"The Government is effectively allowing people to purchase the cheapest option, for example buy a cassette or download a song, and then reproduce it on to a more expensive option, such as putting it on a CD. This has the potential to further alienate the music industry in New Zealand by taking away its rightful sources of revenue. It's like saying 'people want to do this so let’s allow it' without taking into account the detriment to those producing the works,” says Mr Gray.

“The proposed amendments unfairly appropriate musical rights, and this could pave the way for similar grabs on music videos, electronic games and so forth. It could be hugely detrimental to our own local music industry.”

Mr Gray also warns the move places New Zealand in a precarious position in terms of international copyright obligations.

“Although Governments are allowed to create exceptions to international copyright standards there are set criteria. In particular, an exception must apply only in special cases, not conflict with the normal exploitation of the work, and not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the copyright owner.”

“There are no public, social or educational benefits which could justify the move. Music purchases are discretionary entertainment spending.”

“Music has been sold using different formats for decades, and the music industry is responding to new technologies with more flexible format options and pricing. It’s ironic that in a supposedly forward looking proposal designed to deal with new technologies, the Government has failed to recognise that new technologies themselves provide opportunities for the music industry to give the public access to music at competitive prices," Mr Gray says.


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