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Lighten Up 14 December 2001 Edition
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Things To Do With Your Microwave
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Kung Fu Fighters
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Guilty Unless Proven Otherwise
I'm afraid that today's column is going to be a little political in nature -- but it still has its roots deep in technology.

Several people sent me copies of a press release announcing that the parallel import of new-release movie DVDs is to be made illegal for a period of 9 months from the date of release.

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    Of course the move is allegedly designed to prop up the local theatre industry by ensuring that they have a chance to earn some dosh from the latest box-office releases before the rental and retail markets are flooded with $39.95 DVD versions (complete with all the extra material that such DVDs contain).

    The release says "This will ensure that distributors can supply provincial and smaller cinemas with copies of film prints so that as many New Zealanders as possible have access to new release titles."

    Sounds fair enough eh?

    However -- one can't help but wonder how "provincial and smaller cinemas" in the USA cope with the release of DVD versions in direct competition with box-office releases? What's so special about New Zealand that we are unable to cope in the way that other countries do?

    The PR goes on to say "The wider review was to determine whether a parallel importing ban on music recordings, books and software products would encourage an increase in international investment in and overseas promotion of New Zealand creative talent."

    Well I'm no brain surgeon (although I am a rocket scientist) but even I can see that this ban on the grey-market importation of new-release DVDs and videos will simply send consumers flocking to the Internet to import directly.

    Now let's be quite clear about one thing -- gray importing is not theft. We're talking about legally purchased copies of intellectual property for which the owner receives their profits. What we're talking about here is weakening a monopoly held by "sole distributors" who are able to effectively name their price by virtue of that monopoly.

    That's not good for local business and it's not good for the local economy. What is it that gives "provincial and smaller cinemas" access to such preferential treatment? Probably the same thing that saw the arts get a huge lump of unbudgeted funding within weeks of the last election eh?

    However, here's the real killer -- the piece of this legislation that we should all be up in arms over:

    "Changes to the onus of proof will include a presumption that suspected imported goods are pirated, unless the defendant proves otherwise"

    Excuse me -- whatever happened to the presumption of innocence and the burden of proof being on the plaintiff? Does the arts community and movie industry have such a strangle-hold on government that it's able to undermine the most basic tenet of our justice system?

    Of course the fact that the average family of four will now have to pay an arm and a leg to watch new releases in a movie theatre rather than in the comfort and safety of their own home probably doesn't worry our politicians -- after all, they've just received yet another pay increase.

    Funny isn't it -- that they should get two very significant pay increases in less than a year while claiming that there's just not enough money to pay for luxuries such as nurses in hospitals and skilled radiographers for those unfortunate enough to be ill.

    Ah.. but there is a logic there -- how are MPs going to get the medical treatment they might need if they don't have enough money to pay for private treatment?

    And what about those tax increases everyone earning more than a pittance was forced to endure as part of the new government's policies. When you factor in the pay increases our MPs have received since election, you'll see that for them, the effect of that 39% top tax rate has been been completely negated -- but not the rest of us.

    Hang on -- an email from Helen here -- what's that? "Let them eat cake!"

    Of course Jim Anderton, the worker's friend, has been dodging the media on his attitude to the latest increase. Why's that Jim?

    Only the Finance Minister seems to have had any backbone in this issue -- score a point Michael Cullen.

    Of course the MPs will roll out that old claim that it's not their fault, these awful, untenable increases are forced upon them by those villains in the Higher Salaries Commission. What a crock!

    But here's a challenge to our MPs -- why not, at least as a symbolic gesture, tithe that increase to the health-workers who we can't seem to find money to pay properly?

    Oh no, you couldn't possibly do that now could you??? Where's your credibility now?

    Merry Christmas to everyone dying of some curable condition thanks to underfunding of the public health service, I'm sure our politicians will be thinking of you as they down that extra bottle of Moet they can now afford to wash down their Christmas dinner.

    Sky TV's New Interactive Guide
    I'm trying to get an interview with someone from Sky TV to chat about that new interactive guide which forms a part of their digital TV service.

    There has been some discussion about the slowness and problems with the new software but I want to hear from you if you have any comments so that I can properly reflect consumer opinion in my article.

    Let me know what you think about the changes. I won't be publishing your comments on this topic today but you'll have another chance to make 'for publication' comments on Monday, alongside the story.

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    If you haven't sent any money to help offset the costs of running this ad-free, 100% Kiwi, always fresh, often controversial site then you can give yourself the warm-fuzzies this Christmas by doing so now.

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