New Zealand’s copyright laws are sufficient to protect the property of rights holders, but the attitudes of copyright holders and the legislature need to evolve with the times, says District Court Judge David Harvey.
Delivering a keynote speech at the Nethui conference in Auckland, Harvey spoke on the topics of copyright and digital privacy. The subject of copyright was appropriate as Harvey has presided over much of the Kim Dotcom case.
Harvey says the Statute of Anne, which was the first copyright act enforced by the Crown and gave rights to the producer of works, was the topic of his thesis paper.
He says copyright laws are being misused by rights holders, but admits that his views on the matter might be considered “fundamentalist”.
“The real purpose of copyright law isn’t to maximise the revenues earned by copyright holders,” says Harvey.
“Copyright sets an appropriate boundary between enabling the use of ideas and information in one hand, and protecting the expression of ideas and information in order to encourage investment in creative works.”
“There is no inherent property in intellectual property, it was created by statute. The rules that govern intellectual property are set out in the statute alone and nowhere else.”
Harvey says a major problem with the legal system is that “it’s always looking in the rear view mirror, instead of looking towards the future”. Laws like New Zealand’s 1994 Copyright Act are passed by legislators at a time in history when they made, says Harvey.
The original focus for copyright was with printed works, and infringing on a significant scale required access to capital for printing presses and other equipment making it impractical for most people.
The entire paradigm has shifted with the advent of computers he says, as copying files have become incredibly easy.
“Copying is necessary is the digital age,” says Harvey. “The current copyright law must recognise that.”
His advice to copyright holders is to make the best use of the laws already available, and not to sully the legitimacy of the Copyright Act.
“It isn’t the States or Google or the corporates, we are perfectly happy to concede our privacy ourselves,” says Harvey.
“The reason we concede our privacy is because want to be a part of the group, we want to be accepted.”
With the increasing adoption of social networks among New Zealanders, Harvey says consumers are increasingly becoming blasé about their privacy - going so far as to say digital natives probably do not care about privacy issues.
Users also unkowingly concede the privacy of others by tagging them in Facebook photos or forwarding personal communication to untrusted third-parties.
“As you can tell this is something that deeply worries me,” says Harvey.
It is also something that worries consumers. A recent study in the UK by privacy compliance company TRUSTe says privacy concerns are on the rise. Of the 1000 people surveyed, 94 percent said they were concerned with privacy, and 54 percent said they were more concerned than the previous year.
Harvey says that as the technology to track and store data improves, consumers need to be more vigilant about protecting their information.