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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 19th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Copyright in the news

1 February 2013

It looks as if the thorny issue of copyright and its enforcement in an online world is still a newsworthy topic.

Today's media carries news that the recently launched MegaKey service has already received 150 take-down notices for allegedly infringing content.

According to a report in the NZH, MegaKey's lawyer Rick Shera has said ""If the notices are delivered correctly then it will act on them".

Hang on a moment -- if, as they claim, MegaKey don't have any way to decrypt the content of files stored on the system, how will they be able to tell whether the takedown claims are valid or not?

Perhaps the claims include the decrypt key as well -- that would make sense but in that case, you'd have to ask yourself how the complainants got their hands on that info.

I wonder if copyright holders might be tempted to engage in some seeding of copyrighted material onto MegaKey just so they can then file takedown notices and, when the number of such notices reaches a reasonable threshold, launch claims that the service is little different to MegaUpload.

Given the leverage that the RIAA/MPAA has with various governments around the world, I'm pretty sure that when presented with the "evidence" (ie: masses of "valid" takedown notices), many governments would act to switch off or block MegaKey access.

Remember, this is all about money and when it comes to money, the RIAA/MPAA have proven themselves willing to do "whatever it takes" to protect their bonuses and profits. How much have they sued little old ladies for when they allege the download of a few contemporary pop-songs?

The next few months will be very interesting and a true test of the levels of corruption and graft within the political arena.

And, in other news, it seems that the first successful prosecution has taken place under NZ's SkyNet law and the offender has been fined a relatively low $616.57. That seems like a pretty fair penalty for such a crime and probably not too far out of line with what you'd be facing if you simply shop-lifted a few CDs or DVDs from The Warehouse.

Let's face it -- whether we like it or not, copyright law is law and compliance isn't optional. If people think the copyright laws suck then they have every right to petition parliament to have them changed -- that's how our (pseudo)democratic system works. Fortunately, it seems that our setup for handling illegal downloads is a lot more sensible than that of the USA, where the offender would likely have been hit with damages in the hundreds of thousands or even millions.

Of course RIANZ is still whining about the fact that it's spent $250K doing its part to detect piracy and issue notices under the new law. Well I'm sorry but that's called a cost of doing business in the internet age and if you don't like it -- get out of the kitchen.

Given the retail price of music, the cost of production and the profits made by the labels, I think an extra $250K is peanuts. I seem to recall RIANZ telling us that piracy was costing the recording industry hundreds of millions of dollars a year -- and you whine about spending $250K to prevent much of that?

According to the IFPI Digital Music Report 2012 (PDF), the new law has already produced a significant decrease in the use of P2P networks (down 16%) and an increase in music sales (up 35%) here in NZ -- yet RIANZ grizzles that these massive gains have cost them a paltry $250K?

It's increasingly looking as if we're going to have to give more thought to this whole thorny issue of copyright -- don't you think?

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