Electronic Frontier Foundation Media Release

EFF Counsels New Zealand on Copyright Law Revamp

Counters Industry's Worldwide Clampdown on Digital Rights

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, October 23, 2001


Fred von Lohmann, EFF Senior Intellectual Property Attorney
  +1 415-436-9333 x123
Robin Gross, EFF Intellectual Property Attorney
  +1 415-436-9333 x112

San Francisco, California - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today publicly urged New Zealand to avoid adopting copyright laws similar to the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). In the U.S., the DMCA has proven dangerous to free speech, scientific research, and technical innovation. The EFF filing in New Zealand is part of an on-going effort to counter U.S. copyright industry attempts to export the DMCA worldwide under the guise of "modernizing" copyright for the digital age.

EFF submitted recommendations last week in response to a discussion paper issued by New Zealand's Ministry of Economic Development. The Ministry is considering changes to New Zealand's copyright law to address digital technology.

"Copyright owners told us that they needed the DMCA to stop piracy. Instead, it has been used against the press, scientists, and computer programmers," said EFF Senior Intellectual Property Attorney Fred von Lohmann. "We're hoping that other countries will learn from our mistakes, and will think twice before giving in to the demands of corporate media giants."

The EFF submission focuses on three areas. First, EFF urges New Zealand not to adopt "anti-circumvention" provisions like those found in the DMCA. These provisions prohibit any effort to bypass use and access restrictions - such as copy protection on CDs - imposed by copyright owners. In the U.S., copyright owners have used this provision to stifle discussion of, or research into, their "digital rights management" technologies. As a result, the DMCA has chilled free speech and scientific research. For example, when a team of researchers led by Princeton computer science professor Edward Felten first tried to publish a scientific paper questioning the security of digital music technology, the recording industry threatened the team with legal action under the "anti-circumvention" provisions of the DMCA.

Second, EFF urges the Ministry not to treat temporary copies made in a computer's memory as copyright infringements. Because every computer must make temporary, incidental copies of software and data in order to function, copyright owners with the ability to control every copy would also have the ability to control where, when, and how often consumers could listen to the music, books, and movies they have purchased.

Third, EFF recommends that the Ministry protect consumer privacy and technological innovation if it adopts any copyright "safe harbors" for Internet service providers (ISPs). In the U.S., the "safe harbors" aimed at protecting ISPs from copyright liability have been used by copyright owners to silence free expression and bully customers who use peer-to-peer file-sharing services like Napster, Aimster and Morpheus.

In an effort to prevent U.S. copyright industries from exporting DMCA principles to other countries, EFF and other organizations and individuals recently submitted similar comments in Canada. EFF is publicizing and opposing U.S. efforts to include DMCA principles in free trade agreements with other nations, including Jordan, Singapore, and Latin American nations. In addition, many European countries are expected to wrestle with the issue in the coming months.

"It's really about striking a fair balance between the rights of copyright holders and the interests of the public," said EFF Staff Attorney Robin Gross. "In a world of copy-protected CDs, for example, publishers could charge you a second time to add music to your mp3 player or make a copy of a CD for your car."

EFF comments on New Zealand proposal:   http://www.eff.org/IP/Foreign_and_local/New_Zealand/20011012_eff_dpdtca_comments.html

Joint EFF and Electronic Frontier Canada comments on Canadian proposal:   http://www.eff.org/IP/Foreign_and_local/Canada/20010915_efc_eff_cpdci_comments.html

EFF Free Trade Association of the Americas (FTAA) alert:   http://www.eff.org/alerts/20010816_eff_ftaa_alert.html

About EFF:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the leading civil liberties organization working to protect rights in the digital world. Founded in 1990, EFF actively encourages and challenges industry and government to support free expression, privacy, and openness in the information society. EFF is a member-supported organization and maintains one of the most linked-to Web sites in the world:

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