Copyright Act to be altered for digital age

The Ministry of Economic Development has called for submissions on a discussion paper it has prepared over changes to the Copyright Act to enable it to better cope with the digital age.

The Ministry of Economic Development has called for submissions on a discussion paper it has prepared over changes to the Copyright Act to enable it to better cope with the digital age.

The current Copyright Act was written in 1994, but MED policy analyst Mark Simpson says it was based on an even older piece of legislation.

"The proliferation of the internet and digital technologies couldn't really be anticipated in 1994 and when you consider the act was based on UK legislation from 1988."

Simpson says the current government talked about reviewing the legislation before the last election and this paper is part of the process. The present legislation could be getting out of step with a series of new international treaties that have been agreed since.

"It's really a check to see whether or not there are any significant issues arising and what needs to be done about them, if anything,"

Simpson is keen for New Zealand to avoid being left behind as the world moves to embrace copyright in the digital age, but at the same time is wary of repeating some of the mistakes seen overseas.

"If there are issues in the act that need to be addressed we can draw on the experience of other countries. But that doesn't mean we will necessarily follow their responses to particular issues."

The US Copyright Office is now reviewing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) amid some controversy.

Simpson doesn't believe New Zealand is behind the game on this issue, placing us somewhere in the middle of countries that are addressing digital copyright.

"Our act is pretty future-proofed because it's relatively modern. Australia, for example, has already updated its act because their base act was that much older than ours."

The discussion paper isn't to be taken as government policy, says Simpson. He says the paper is there solely to ask questions and raise issues and anyone can make a submission on it. He says people should feel free to ask questions the MED hasn't included in the paper as well as answering the ones that are.

Submissions close on October 12.

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