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Judge David Harvey has urged everyone to have their say on the issue of copyright law - before it's too late.
With plenty of pressure from outside of NZ (TPP, SOPA, etc), it is very important that Kiwis speak long and loud about the preservation of their rights. Failure to do so could see our politicians signing away "copyright sovereignty" in the name of gaining better access to the markets of our trading partners.
Although "diplomacy" and "negotiation" sound like very mild and moderated processes - they can also involve a huge amount of bullying and the USA in particular is no stranger to tightening the thumbscrews of copyright law when it suits them.
We're already hearing warning cries from the likes of our librarians and others who fear that the influence of these negotiations on our own copyright legislation could deal a harsh blow to our rights.
While we might be tempted to think that copyright law is mainly about illegal downloads and ripping CDs or DVDs -- it can have more far-reaching implications for every Kiwi.
Although illegal copying is part of it, there are other aspects that would hit even law-abiding Kiwis in the back pocket.
One of the most contentious is likely to be the elimination of parallel importing rights.
As things presently stand, "authorised distributors" are offered no special privilege when it comes to the importation of genuine products or creative works that are protected by copyright.
Although there may be an authorised NZ distributor for "brand X", any other company can also legally import "brand X" and sell in competition to that distributor. Indeed, many of the best deals to be had on consumer electronics, DVDs and the like come from parallel imports.
There is now strong pressure from the USA to outlaw parallel imports as part of concessions in negotiations such as TPP, SOPA and other trade deals.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out what will happen when we restore the distribution monopolies that used to allow "authorised dealers" to charge whatever the market would bear for branded products.
Those $9.99 DVDs you see in The Warehouse would likely disappear overnight -- replaced by exactly the same titles priced at $29.99 -- from the exclusive "authorised distributor".
Of course you and I know that the end result would be an increase in unauthorised copying of such works -- which is why these negotiations will also demand stiffer penalties and more active enforcement of laws prohibiting such activities.
However, it might be even worse.
If parallel importing is blocked -- perhaps those disks you've ordered from Amazon will be stopped at the border by Customs, acting on behalf of the local "authorised distributor" -- after all, as an individual, you may no longer have a right to parallel import such things. They may be released on payment of a "fee" to the authorised importer or they may be destroyed as an attempt to breach the copyright of that "authorised importer".
Judge Harvey is correct -- if we don't rattle our tin mugs against the bars of our cages, our political overlords may choose to do what *they* think is best. In a democracy, it's the job of every citizen to assert their right to speak - or risk losing it forever.
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