The New Zealand Government has recently published its Copyright and the Creative Sector report, the result of a recent study into the role of copyright and designs in the creative sector.

Adopting a holistic view of the impacts of regulation affecting the digital economy, the New Zealand Government has stated the need to ensure different regulatory systems, such as intellectual property and communications regulation, work together to promote economic growth. Accordingly, in October 2015, the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs instigated a study into the creative sector in New Zealand to gain insight into interactions with copyright and design regimes in an ever-evolving technological world.

Led by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), in consultation with the Ministry for Culture and Heritage the over-arching purpose of the study was to gain a better understanding of how copyright is utilised in both practice and in context. One of the goals was to gain insight into the creative sector and its interactions with copyright and design regimes and the other was to inform the government, the creative sector and the wider public about the copyright regime and its applicability to New Zealand.

Copyright and the Creative Sector Report

The study tracked the ‘life-cycle’ of creative work by interviewing a range of creators, producers, distributors and users. The focus was on those creating, producing, disseminating and/or commercialising works protected by copyright and designs. As consumers are the end users of creative works, and are therefore a vital aspect of the ‘life cycle’, the study also took into account their considerations.

The Study reported feedback under seven headings:

  • film & TV,
  • music and sound recordings,
  • interactive gaming,
  • software and web design,
  • written content and print,
  • production design and architecture, and
  • visual and performing arts

The nature of the creative sector means there is inherent diversity in the kinds of works created, the reasons for production, modes of commercialisation (if at all), and the ways in which they are consumed and/or utilised. Nonetheless, the boundaries between subsectors are not rigid and half of respondents indicated that they had a stake in more than one category of creative work.

Despite the diversity, the study found that copyright is important to most. Some in the sector rely principally on copyright to protect their commercial advantage, whereas others utilise alternative strategies such as cultivating a fan base or continual product improvement. For others intellectual property protection, such as trade marks, patents, registered designs and trade secrets were important.

Feedback from respondents indicates that the drivers for creation are diverse. The desire to exercise artistic expression is a major factor. So too is protecting or enhancing, the deriving of income. Those who are export focused are interested in both New Zealand and overseas copyright and designs laws and how they interact.

Disseminating and accessing creative works

The report notes that technology has generated new opportunities and challenges in disseminating and accessing creative works. Technological developments such as streaming enable creators to find new audiences at reduced distribution costs. Digital platforms have resulted in more content than ever being available and in turn increased the importance of strategies for discoverability. Access to big-data on audiences, fans and consumers provides valuable market information to those in the sector. There are also new opportunities to discover and access works through internet search and archive facilities. Challenges include the use of creative works by others. For instance, old licences may not address digital copies and the owners of copyright works may be difficult to identify. Some creators choose to proactively license others to use their work via tools such as Creative Commons and FOSS licensing and adding metadata to help identify their works.

Seeking revenue and enforcing copyright

The study also confirmed new opportunities and challenges in methods for seeking revenue and enforcing copyright. For example, the development of greater levels of connectivity has opened up new ways to monetise content such as new subscription models. Traditional revenue via sales of physical copies has been disrupted by new methods such as digital copy, further exacerbated by the development of ad-blocking. Technological developments have also made way for new forms of unauthorised use, such as stream-ripping. Monitoring copyright infringement and/or taking enforcement action can be difficult when users are located offshore. Furthermore enforcing copyright is often a costly, resource-intensive process and can cause reputational damage to companies seeking to enforce their rights against the general public. In response to these issues, some platforms that host user-generated content have developed systems that attempt to flag and remove infringing uploads and/or allow copyright owners to monetise those uploads.

New works and formats emerge

Technological developments such as smartphones mean new opportunities to create and share works and the emergence of new content formats such as streaming and podcasts. This in turn has facilitated new types of content such as virtual reality. In addition, the copying of 3-D objects is easier than ever.

Industry specialists also reported that there are new opportunities and challenges in development and production processes. These include increased opportunities for collaboration across borders as a result of new connectivity tools that can operate anywhere. As a result, consumers can drive innovation in real-time, such as queries to software designers via cloud computing. However, for some, such as producers of high-end films, keeping up with high-end technology can be expensive. One benefit is that data from creative content can be used to develop new technology e.g. artificial intelligence.

Nonetheless, copyright is complex and is sometimes misunderstood for both creators and consumers. Also, the impact of copyright settings is difficult to measure, as there is no single source from which data about copyright usage can be obtained. Also, as creative product can include multiple and complex works some businesses seek to own copyright or obtain broad licences in as much of the content as possible. Consequently, licensing arrangements can be complex.

Concluding remarks

Overall, the importance of copyright and designs regimes is hard to miss, not only to those in the creative sector but to local and global economies and innovation. In a changing world, there are many factors impacting the creative sector, including the Internet, contractual rules and regulations, however, there is also huge potential for the creative industries to pursue new opportunities and contribute to the growth of the digital economy.