Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Curtains for the Cinema - the sequel

Vogelsang - Cinema #4: Curtain, 70s style
The New Zealand cinematic industry can breathe a sigh of relief. The mechanism to protect them from competition with different formats such as DVD, Blu-Ray, Pay-Per-View or Free-To-Air is set to continue for another three years.

The Copyright Act bans parallel importation of films into New Zealand for nine months from the international release date.

That protection mechanism is set to continue for another three years due to new legislation introduced to Parliament today. The only tweak is that the period of the ban will be shortened to five months from the current nine.

The current regime

As I mentioned in a previous post, section 35(3) of the Copyright Act 1994 provides that a person infringes copyright in a film if that person:
  • imports a copy of the film into New Zealand within 9 months of first being made available to the public; and
  • knows or has reason to believe that the film is imported into New Zealand within 9 months of first being made available to the public; and
  • is not the licensee of the copyright in New Zealand; and
  • imports the film into New Zealand other than for that person's private and domestic use.

The advice of the officials

The officials at the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE) want this ban to end. A Regulatory Impact Statement prepared by officials sets out three possible options for reform. These are:
  • Allowing the ban to lapse from 31 October 2013 so that retailers can import film titles as soon as they are released overseas on formats such as DVD; or
  • Continue the ban for three years but shorten its period to five months;
  • Reinstate the current nine month ban for a further five years

The preferred option, according to officials, is to retain the status quo and allow the ban to lapse.

The proposed law

The Government is putting forward the Copyright (Parallel Importing of Films) Amendment Bill. We seem to be going with a different option than that recommended by officials.

The Bill proposes to amend the Copyright Act to continue the ban for three years but shorten its period to five months.

Further steps

A Parliamentary Select Committee will now take submissions on the Bill and report back to the House by Friday 16 August 2013.

The Explanatory Note of the Bill notes that the film industry will now have another three years 'to finish converting to digital exhibition technology and ensure that the film distribution model reflects developments in the market for films, particularly online'.

So it's not curtains just yet for the owners of the 120 cinema complexes spread around New Zealand. The proposed law will extend the ban for another three years. Those in favour of the ban would be wise to make Select Committee submissions. Anything can happen during the Select Committee process.

Photo courtesy of author  AndiH under Creative Commons licence.

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