Protecting New Zealand content and ensuring creators have the ability to protect their rights are key issues in the current copyright act review. Take this opportunity to shape the future of Visual Artist’s rights in respect of our country’s copyright law.
The New Zealand Copyright Act is in the early stages of review and is currently open for public consultation. Submissions close in two weeks (5 April 2019) and we encourage you to put pen to paper and send in your submission.
Writing a submission doesn’t have to be a time consuming or daunting task.
Drawing on your experience as a New Zealand artist, you can submit a simple letter, email or paragraph, expressing your personal view.
The Copyright Act was passed into law in 1994, before the internet and other emerging technologies changed the way the world works with content. Copyright serves to protect and preserve our country’s unique voice by assisting those who are producing locally made content such as visual artworks. Last year, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) confirmed that they would review the existing Act and, in November 2018, released a document called the “Review of the Copyright Act 1994, Issues Paper”. The Issues Paper is the first stage of public consultation and involves identifying where the Act is working well and any opportunities to improve its operation.
How to write a submission
MBIE wants to hear from anyone about their experiences and what is important to them, so write from your heart. Below are some of the areas that MBIE has already identified in their Issues paper that I think most specifically relate to the visual arts, and include as follows:
1. Are the current Copyright law objectives appropriate? Through discussions that have already occurred on this issue the feeling seemed to be that whether it was expressed as an objective, or a principle, the purpose of the Copyright Act should be to provide appropriate respect to author/ creators rights.
2. Do artists want resale royalty?
MBIE have listed it as an issue to get feedback on so I really want to encourage artists to speak up now (or before April 5) if they have any thoughts on whether a resale royalty scheme should be initiated. Basically more than 40 countries already have a resale royalty scheme including Australia, the UK, Singapore and many European nations, with China and Canada also moving closer to adopting a resale royalty scheme, and possibly the United States as well. Through WIPO
and our obligations as a Berne Convention signatory it seems there is increasing international pressure for all signatory nations to adopt a resale royalty scheme. In Australia, it took more than 3,700 artists signing a petition demanding the introduction of the resale royalty, which happened more than 10 years ago – but if enough artists submit their thoughts and interest in having such a scheme a petition may not be required. It is also interesting to note that both the UK and Australia have both had a resale royalty scheme for approximately 10 years, with very little if any overt change to the secondary market sales figures, which have continued to increase in recent years.
3. Are artists happy with their collective rights organisation?
So far Artistic License is the only proposed collective rights organisation for visual artists in New Zealand and is very much in the initial stages of operation. However, it might be worth pointing out to MBIE that as Viscopy only represents NZ artists whose work is reproduced in Australia, there is not yet a well established collective rights organisation for New Zealand visual artists. NZ musicians and songwriters are well served by APRA, NZ play writes are well represented by Playmarket, NZ authors are well represented by Copyright Licensing NZ, actors, performers and dancers are represented by Equity, but nothing for NZ visual artists. More than 80 collective rights organisations operating in over 60 countries around the world for visual artists in other countries for nearly 100 years now, but nothing for NZ artists. I think NZ visual artists should be very unhappy with this situation.
4. The Commissioning rule.
The current law codified in Section 21(3) of the Copyright act is if someone, ie a purchaser, “commissions” and pays artist to produce artwork then the “commissioner” is the copyright owner, which runs contrary to the default that the creator automatically owns the copyright. I will be submitting that this should change so that the artist/ creator is always the copyright owner unless there is written agreement to the contrary and would encourage all artists to make a similar submission on this point.
5. Artworks placed in public spaces are excluded from copyright protection, ie Section 73 of the Copyright Act.
Depending on what artists feedback is I would suggest trying to limit this provision so that only non commercial uses are excluded, and any other use requires the artists consent.
6. Moral Rights.
I am submitting that more could be done to ensure that visual artists as well as other creators are provided more access to educational materials on these important but often misunderstood rights.
So please feel free to discuss any or all of these points in your submission. Or you might prefer to talk about your personal experiences – ie has there been a time when your work has been used without your permission (in breach of copyright)? How did it make you feel? What implications did this have? Were you able to satisfactorily resolve it?
Also, don’t worry about offering any solutions – at this stage MBIE only want to identify the issues with our current Copyright Act – finding solutions will come further down the track.
Email through your completed submission to CopyrightActReview@mbie.govt.nz, no later than 5pm, Friday 5 April.
As Artistic Licence will be making a submission, we would appreciate your sending a copy of your submission to us so that we can keep a record of all visual artists responses to ensure that our advocacy work is always reflecting your needs, so please send a copy to firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Prepared by Ruth Reid