Kiwi Prime Minister John Key has had more than his fair share of piracy-related woes in the past year. The Megaupload raids and subsequent fallout sucked him into controversy after controversy, eventually leading the Kiwi premier to apologize to Kim Dotcom for illegal spying carried out by the government.
During a year where the raid on the Megaupload founder’s mansion became ever more politicized, critics have accused Key of getting over-friendly with Hollywood.
“Prime Minister John Key can have as many dinners with Hollywood executives and copyright lobbyists as he likes,” Dotcom told TorrentFreak in November. “The simple fact is that the NZ government, which has been acting like a subsidiary of the US government, is not above the law.”
However, the studios have a bit of a problem, one which they feel the government – and Key in particular – can help them with.
In 2011 New Zealand introduced the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act with the aim of reducing illicit file-sharing by sending out warnings and ultimately punishing copyright infringers. The scheme is being used by RIANZ, the local RIAA equivalent, but Hollywood has boycotted the program claiming that sending notices is prohibitively expensive.
However, according to NZHerald quoting a Green Party briefing, Hollywood have been trying to get a better deal by lobbying Prime Minister Key directly.
The briefing from officials stated that the MPAA is “highly influential in Washington political circles” and “played a key role in shaping US trade policy to suit its particular interests.” Noting the industry’s power to influence policy makers, the briefing added that free-trade agreements now come with an established set of demands including tougher online copyright enforcement and longer copyright terms.
Subsequently and on the understanding that Hollywood were looking to make it easier to chase down file-sharers in New Zealand, Key went to the United States. The precise details of what was discussed there was not revealed, but indications point to making the “three strikes” scheme cheaper so that Hollywood can start sending out notices.
The notices, at NZ $25 (roughly $20 USD) per shot, are too expensive to send in large numbers and should be around NZ $2 each, rightsholders say. The ISPs, on the other hand, say that they costed their systems to handle large amounts and are now out of pocket. They actually want the cost of notices to increase.
The matter was settled in September 2012 when a review said the prices would stay put – for now.
Only time will tell whether Hollywood’s direct courting of John Key will lead to a better deal for the movie industry. If not, the “3 strikes” mechanism might stay unused by Hollywood, giving them no option other than to sue, something the recording industry in New Zealand believes is almost inevitable.