TPMs the focus of Auckland workshop

Fears of "onerous" new copyright legislation emerge

The possibility New Zealand could introduce harmful or unenforceable copyright laws emerged as the key concern at InternetNZ’s Auckland Copyright Workshop.

“Onerous” was a word used by several speakers to describe the consequences that could arise from statutes banning the bypassing of technological protection measures (TPMs) and defining what constitutes permissible acts.

Auckland University researcher Peter Gutmann and technologist Nathan Torkington spoke on the downfalls of TPMs, saying they will perpetuate the term of copyright for digital content, as there’s no way to implement an expiry date. This, Gutmann says, goes against the intent of current copyright legislation.

As the bill now stands, copyright owners using TPMs would be permitted to contravene the law, Gutmann says. Consumers will not be permitted to remove TPMs, according to both Gutmann and Torkington. Instead, a “qualified person” such as an academic, archivist or librarian must be called upon. That person, however, must first seek permission from the copyright owner.

Apart from extending and reinforcing existing copyrights, TPMs can also be dangerous. Gutmann says, for example, that entire medical systems may be rendered inaccessible by TPMs.

TPMs do not have the intelligence to work out if a user’s action is illegal copying or legal backing up of content, Torkington says. He says Digital Rights Management prevented restoration and data recovery after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US and adds that the government there specifically bans the use of TPMs in its computer systems.

Submissions to the bill close Friday, February 16. An informal extension of the deadline until the end of the following Friday is being considered.

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