Legislation changes proposed for parallel importing and piracy

  • Judith Tizard
Arts, Culture and Heritage

The government will introduce legislation to ban parallel imports of films, videos and DVDs for nine months from a title’s first international release, Commerce Minister Paul Swain and Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Judith Tizard said today.

The Ministers also announced that changes would be proposed to existing legislation governing the onus of proof in piracy proceedings.

“We plan to introduce legislation into Parliament to implement the government’s decisions on parallel importing and onus of proof in the first half of 2002,” said Paul Swain and Judith Tizard.

The nine-month parallel importing ban will give the film distribution industry a period of protection to allow for the orderly release of films, videos and DVDs, said the Ministers.

“This will ensure that distributors can supply provincial and smaller cinemas with copies of film prints so that as many New Zealanders as possible have access to new release titles.”

The ban will mean that retailers or alternative suppliers will not be able to legally import copies of a motion picture title without the permission of the local copyright holder or authorised distributor for a period of nine months after its first release anywhere in the world. The ban will not apply to videos or DVDs imported for a person’s private or domestic use.

“The government’s decision follows an extensive period of public consultations under a wider review of the creative industries and parallel importing," Paul Swain and Judith Tizard said.

The wider review was to determine whether a parallel importing ban on music recordings, books and software products would encourage an increase in international investment in and overseas promotion of New Zealand creative talent.

"The consultation did not produce substantive evidence that parallel importing bans would do that. The government has therefore decided that it will not introduce parallel importing bans for other creative industry goods for the time being.

“The government will, however, keep the impact of parallel importing on the music recording, book publishing and software industries under review for the next three years,” the Ministers said.

During the parallel importing consultations, the separate issue of piracy was raised.

“In the parallel importing consultations, copyright owners and authorised distributors expressed concerns about the separate issue of piracy, particularly the difficulties copyright owners face in taking action against the importation of pirated material,” said Paul Swain and Judith Tizard.

“To address these concerns, legislation will also be introduced to make changes to the onus of proof in civil copyright infringement proceedings based on the importation of suspected pirated goods.

“Changes to the onus of proof will include a presumption that suspected imported goods are pirated, unless the defendant proves otherwise, and ensure that defendants who in the circumstances ought reasonably to have known that goods were pirated do not escape liability for copyright infringement.

“These changes to the onus of proof would make it easier for right holders to take action against persons blatantly importing pirated material. The changes will complement the piracy and counterfeiting criminal offence measures that have been included in the Trade Marks Bill, currently before the Commerce Committee.

“We realise that there will be human rights issues that need to be carefully considered, however we are recognising the rights of intellectual property owners to protect their income from cheaper counterfeit and pirated goods.”

The government has a very strong commitment to the development of the creative industries and has implemented a number of initiatives to ensure that these industries achieve their full potential.

These initiatives have included a substantial funding injection of $86 million through the Cultural Recovery Package, and the development of creative industries strategies in partnership with specific sectors.