The National government will freeze any further changes to the Copyright Act with an eye to throwing the whole thing out and rewriting it from scratch.
Over the last two months the National government has progressively scrapped Labour’s ‘band-aid’ adjustments to the Copyright Act 1994.
Wholesale reform of the Copyright Act was part of the National Party’s election promise, but has since been put on the backburner for the government and “is not considered a priority at this stage”.
The Copyright Act was written in the pre-internet age, and does not address any of the complexities surrounding file sharing, format shifting, and other modern issues such as DVD copying – problems the last government was attempting to fix in a piecemeal fashion.
Any further “band-aid” approaches to the act will not go be going ahead, leaving an uncertain period for the IP industry until Justice minister Simon Power begins the reform process.
There is no set timeline on this.
Simon Fogerty, senior associate at AJ Park, an intellectual property law firm, welcomes the move to redraft the act as opposed to running with a series of amendments.
“The technological developments and new ways of using copyright works since 1994 means that the act really needs a full review which can bring the law into the 21st century. It will give copyright owners and users a chance to have considered input into the form of the act. This should help to avoid issues and concerns like those that have arisen in relation to the now frozen s92A,” he says.
Section 92a was a failed attempt to update the now archaic legislation for the iPod age, which saw public outcry of a perceived invasion of privacy.
Commerce and Justice minister Simon Power initially delayed the amendment, and has now frozen it indefinitely.
Most recently the government dropped the Copyright (Commissioning Rule) Amendment Bill from the 16 April parliamentary order paper – effectively meaning the bill is off the agenda.
This Bill proposed amending the Copyright Act so that the person who creates a copyright work, rather than the person who commissions the work, would be the first owner of copyright in that work.
Other than the obvious applications in artistic circles, it had become grey area for architects, for example, where the commissioner (say, a property developer) could claim copyright over an architect’s work – effectively restraining the architect’s future use of that design or variants.
This problem is mostly solved by producing a clear contract between the two parties, and is not considered urgent.
In March National did a similar thing to another of Labour’s proposed amendments, scrapping the Copyright (Artists’ Resale Right) Amendment Bill.
This controversial addition would give the original artist the right to claim royalties on each resale of the artists work.