New Zealand to get the DMCA?

Update: If you’re interested in taking this up with the Minister in question, her contact details can be found here. If you doubt the importance of debating this legislation, the EFF has an active document that “collects a number of reported cases where the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA have been invoked not against pirates, but against consumers, scientists, and legitimate competitors”. If we do nothing else, we should raise awareness that anti-circumvention is not a simple matter.

Update 2: A reader in the Public Address forums has pointed out that the one redeeming feature of the legislation, permitted format-shifting, expires in 2 years unless it is actively renewed via further legislation. Pathetic.

Update 3: Remember: we’re not just talking about music and video here. Anti-circumvention tends to affect anything coverered by any sort of DRM or encryption. Think about the computer in your car. If your mechanic doesn’t own the right equipment to read the output of the computer and diagnose a problem, you’re outta luck.

I just stumbled across this little gem of a story:


New Zealand MP Judith Tizard has sponsored an amendment to New Zealand’s Copyright Act. The new copyright proposal mirrors the US DMCA and the EUCD in that it criminalizes removing DRM, even if you do so for a lawful purpose.


I’m unsure just how accurate the reporting on BoingBoing is.  The wording of the text seems to make provision for (undefined) fair use (“to facilitate the actual exercise of permitted acts where technological measures have been applied”), but it also categorically bans trading in circumvention devices (“introduce an offence (carrying a sentence of a fine not exceeding $150,000 or a term of imprisonment of up to 5 years, or both) for commercial dealing in devices, services, or information designed to circumvent technological protection measures”).

So where does that leave us when my iPod is obsolete and someone wants to sell me software to recover all my music?  And I guess I have to throw away my region-free DVD player for fear of black helicopters landing on the lawn?

Thankfully one thing it finally clears up is the current ban on CD ripping: “introduce new exceptions for format-shifting of sound recordings for private and domestic use, and for decompilation and error correction of software.”

Someone in the know points out that perhaps the DMCA-like restrictions are industry quid-pro-quo for the contentious format-shifting clause?

Once again I am forced to quote a famous luminary:


Someone needs to emphasize this in such a way that the right people see it: people who pirate software enjoy cracking it. The game itself is orders of magnitude less amusing. And their distributed ingenuity will smash your firm, secure edifice into beach absolutely every Goddamn time. There are no exceptions to this rule.


OK, here’s a modified copy of a letter that I sent. Feel free to modify it and send your own copy to her.


To Hon Judith Tizard,

The proposed Copyright Amendment Bill has recently come to my attention. It strikes me that a number of the proposed amendments mirror very closely the current Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) legislation in the USA. You may be aware of significant difficulties raised by the DMCA, leading to the requirement for exceptions to be made to this legislation to allow for non-infringing circumvention of DRM:

Additionally, there have been a number of reported cases where the anti-circumvention provisions of the current DMCA legislation have been invoked not against pirates, but against consumers, scientists, and legitimate competitors (see I would ask that you review these cases to ensure such legislation is not used in the same manner in New Zealand.

I am also very worried about some of the proposed amendments because of the way they may restrict my personal use of purchased content that is covered by DRM. For example if I purchase music for a device that uses DRM, and this device becomes obsolete, how am I able to circumvent the DRM such that I can access my legally purchased music, if I am not able to purchase software to circumvent the DRM? What about the computer inside my next vehicle? If the manufacturer has decided to encrypt diagnostic information using DRM, does that mean I can’t purchase a circumvention device so that I may diagnose and repair faults myself?

In a broader context, I am disappointed that the government is proposing such draconian measures that to my mind assure that a small number of corporations have the rights to lock up a majority of our content in proprietary DRM systems. This makes the assumption that the proponents of any particular DRM systems know the best way to protect our content and will do so in perpetuity. An ‘ivory tower’ mindset if you will. I believe this is a naive, anti-competitive, and commercially unhealthy approach. There are most definitely ways to protect content that rely on open, yet secure, methods. In fact it makes more sense that the Copyright holder, rather than a third-party DRM system, should be in control of the way their content is restricted.

I’d also make a final comment that you are no doubt aware of: the only people that DRM encumbers are the honest users. Dishonest users and ‘pirates’ will *always* find ways to circumvent DRM technology, and in fact will do so purely for amusement, rather than a desire to access the content.

Please reconsider this legislation. Move away from supporting the current blame-first business model pushed by major music labels, and make New Zealand a beacon for more open, inclusive copyright legislation that truly fosters growth in arts, technology and commerce.



[tags]DRM, DMCA, New Zealand, copyright[/tags]

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  1. Good god. Is there an online form letter I can sign and send? I have neither the time nor will to draft such a thing myself, but by god I’ll put my name to it!

  2. Well for one thing, our current copyright law specifically bans format shifting. It is currently illegal to rip files from CD and put them on your MP3 player.

    Hence my incredulity that they are barely even fixing that. I mean a 2 year sunset on that clause? WTF? I’m guessing there’s not a 2 year sunset on the anti-circumvention stuff.

    Yet again it’s “We (the record companies) know what’s best for you (the consumers), so just leave it all to us OK? We’ll look after the content. Trust us.”

  3. As the world, not just New Zealand and America shift to a truly digital platform, where people no longer care if they buy a CD, or a DVD, or a HD DVD, or a BluRay Disc, or a MiniDisc, or a Vinyl Record, or a Cassette Tape but care that they own the right to said media for the rest of their lives.

    As well as the ability to give or sell that right to anybody else they wish. Just like you can sell a store bought CD to anyone else.

    I’m going to write a letter soon, which will take it from the angle of document formats. The european union, and the usa have gotten together and commissioned a standardised document format, which is open (as in the specification), and is called the Open Document Format, or ODF. This format was created because government agencies realised that microsoft office documents from 1997 will eventually not be able to be read, as the format is proprietary. Which means that the specification on how it works is not published.

    This is very similar to DRM in the fact that, it’s a proprietary system, with one much larger problem, in that it’s illegal to learn how it works, and allow people to publish that information / make a tool to do it for them.

    I feel very strongly about this, as I’m an engineer with a passion for understanding how things work, and then using that information to try and better society. If it’s illegal for me to learn how a system works, and publish information on the possible ways around it, then I may have to look at moving to another country.


  4. Very well put Ryan, and as I just added to the post, we’re not talking about just music or video or documents. We’re talking about any ‘information’ that can conceivably be covered by any form of ‘rights management’.

  5. Judith Tizard is in an odd position, she’s the Minister for libraries and trying to unlock NZ’s digital heritage and future and she’s the Minister for Consumer Affairs and yet she’s got this massive conflict as she tries to lock up our heritage and culture and uphold anti-competitive practices and restrict consumer choice with DRM in her other role. This is really twisted 😀

  6. One point: this is a draft Bill. It will go to Select Committee, and be open for public submissions.

    As well as writing to the Minister, you should send your letters to the relevant Select Committee as submissions.

    You can ask to be heard, and make a presentation orally about what is wrong with the draft and what needs to change.

    InternetNZ (where I work) shares these concerns. We’re working on a legal review of the bill now, and will be making a submission on it next year.


  7. New Zealand’s own DRM policy (E-government website) says this:

    “Digital rights management and similar technologies will prevent users from doing things they might consider reasonable (it would be unnecessary otherwise). If this is imposed without reference to users, or is abused by copyright owners or software vendors, a backlash may result.”

  8. Before sounding off to the politicians, it might be better to read the thing first. In my view, there are serious flaws in it, but uninformed comment will be disregarded, even if it makes good points.

    As Jordan said above, this is a draft bill – there’s time for it to be amended. But automatic “DRM=BAD” messages will have little impact. Informed commentary and suggestions for improvement will be much more likely to have influence.

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