OPINION

What's wrong with copyright

Monday 15 August 2011, 3:48PM
By TelstraClear
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Very soon, many Kiwis will have a new niggling worry when they think about their Internet when the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act 2011 comes into effect.

TelstraClear respects copyright and supports the ability of rights owners to realise value from their intellectual property. But a business model that has to be propped up by specific legislation in this way is flawed and needs to change.

In 2009 we led the charge in opposing plans that could have seen customer internet accounts disconnected without proof of copyright abuse. The new law addresses that particular issue (at least for now).

What it will not do is provide copyright owners with the redress they are seeking. It may encourage parents to take more notice of what their kids are doing online, and that’s a good thing. But it won’t stop those who really want content from getting it.

The problem is that much of what Kiwis want simply isn’t available to buy here.

We know, because in 2009 we ran an online survey of more than 1000 Kiwis to find out why they download copyrighted content. They told us they’re tired of paying too much, and waiting too long.

They view the packaging and distribution of physical copies of music, movies and games as unnecessary and costly, and claim the business model is outdated and out-of-touch.

These are the opinions of the ‘now’ generation, and the growing population that has never experienced the world without a TV the internet, and the freedom this offers.

New Zealand’s distance from the source of much content has been conquered by online access, but simply making it available online while retaining old price structures and wait times doesn’t work.

Three main themes emerged from our survey on how to reconcile the financial needs of artists with Kiwis’ expectations for affordable, new and rare content.

Respondents suggested building a stronger direct connection between the artist and end-user to reduce the old-world overheads and online purchase price.

A try-before you buy mechanism was proposed. For example, tier access with free low-res video and music and pay access for high quality versions. Content supported by advertising and user/fan supported content were also suggestions that came out of our survey.

Finally, they said, change the scope of the copyright laws and focus on those who seek to make a profit from the illegal copying and on-selling of content.

As stated, TelstraClear respects copyright, but we respect the ever-changing needs of our customers too. At present, they are being denied the freedom to choose by companies intent on propping-up old world business models.

Rather than investing in innovative ways to legally provide people with the content they want, whether music or movies, pictures or programmes, these companies choose to pressure governments into legislating.

Instead of bringing in a law that we believe will not and cannot work, our government should be breaking monopolies, allowing personal choice and letting New Zealanders experience information and entertainment when the rest of the world does.

Instead, it has chosen to introduce a law that could turn ordinary Kiwis into law-breakers.

Allan Freeth
Chief Executive, TelstraClear