Gathan Beaga


On Morning Report yesterday I heard snatches of some record company nabob foaming away about how the proposed amendments to the Copyright Act will cause the downfall of civilisation as we know it (or words to that effect).

Basically owners of a “sound recording” will be able to make “one copy of that recording […] in each format for his or her personal and domestic use”. This is something that is long overdue and will decriminalise the everyday use of MP3 players and tape recorders by hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders.

What I don’t quite understand is why the new exception applies only to sound recordings. Why not movies and DVDs? Why not books? Why not (insert new media type here)? I think the exemption should apply to more media types.

Another proposed amendment is to make it legal to circumvent “Technological protection measures” (like Copy Control on a CD) for the purposes of a “permitted act”. If I’m reading this right, since it will be a permitted act to “format shift”, it will also be OK to break the Copy Control on a CD in order to format shift that CD. This also, is good.

Of course, none of this requires record companies or movie studios to allow their digital media to be format shifted. “Technological protection measures” will get tougher to circumvent. But at least it won’t be illegal to even try it, as is the case now. And there’s still a case for the boycott of copy-controlled CDs: I want to be able to format-shift on my terms, not theirs.

Russell Brown talks a little about this today. Unlike him though, I don’t have quite as charitable a view of record company executive types. How do they reconcile their stance with the fact that many of their staff and signed acts are big users of MP3 players?

For example, consider New Zealand band Steriogram, who are featured on the Apple website for their use of Apple technology, including iPods. Shouldn’t their record company get their own house in order and prosecute Steriogram under the Copyright Act? If not, why not?

If the record companies themselves are ignoring the present law, why shouldn’t we?

[Update: email correspondent Matt notes the hypocrisy of the local Sony head quoted in Stuff who is “totally opposed” to the format shifting exception. As Matt points out, why then are Sony still selling MiniDisc and MP3 players?]