'Out of date' copyright regime to go under the microscope next year

Dean pitched the review to Cabinet as an "opportunity to consider the appropriate balance."

Out of date" copyright law won't go under the microscope until early next year as officials try to bridge divisions among opposing stakeholder groups to build consensus for the best policy approach.

Commerce Minister Jacqui Dean announced a review of the Copyright Act, following on from a plan signalled by her predecessor Paul Goldsmith to examine the legislation once a broad study of the creative sector had been completed. Dean's terms of reference for the review seek to assess the act's performance against the objectives of the regime, identify barriers to achieving those objectives, and figure out the best approach to address any problems.

Dean pitched the review to Cabinet as an "opportunity to consider the appropriate balance" with some aspects "now out of date" as fast-paced change in technology superseded the regime, which introduces uncertainty and increases costs for creators, rights-holders and users.

"Given the vast technological changes that continue to change the way we create, distribute and consume content, it is important to ensure that the regime is fit for purpose," Dean said in a Cabinet paper. "I believe there is a solid economic case for moving forward with a review now."

The government will now spend the next few months working with stakeholders to develop an issues paper which Dean anticipates will be released in early 2018. That will be followed by an options paper, then cabinet decisions and the release of a draft bill.

Dean noted a split between stakeholders, where tech companies, schools, consumer groups and heritage organisations called for looser settings to allow greater follow-on innovation, whereas large rights holders such as music and print companies and television producers seek stronger or more effective protection such as enhanced enforcement provisions to ensure adequate economic returns in a digital environment".

"Copyright is a complex area and we will not be able to resolve all issues to everybody's satisfaction," Dean said. "However, it is important that we do what we can to ensure the regime supports innovative new products and services and is fit for the digital environment."

Still, she sees buy-in from stakeholders as the best way to achieve the biggest policy impact and will let officials openly engage with stakeholders and the public as the issues paper is developed, and allow the government to signal its commitment to stakeholder input and getting the settings right.