October 17, 2019

No chill for video on demand

Video on-demand services (like Netflix, Neon and Lightbox) currently fall outside of New Zealand’s classification and broadcasting laws, and are not properly addressed.

That is about to change.

The Government has recently announced that New Zealand’s law will be updated to require commercial video on-demand providers to show the same classifications and consumer warnings as those currently seen on films and DVDs.

An amendment bill is expected to land in late November. Here is what we know so far:

  • Compliance will be mandatory and will apply to services that require payment from customers.
  • Content must have a classification before it can be made available in New Zealand.
  • Free services and user-generated content are not expected to be covered at this stage.
  • Providers will be able to self-classify content by using a rating tool being developed by the Chief Censor or by using their own systems accredited by the Classification Office.
  • The Classification Office will approve and enforce the classifications, and the Film and Literature Board of Review can review decisions made (which reflects the current process for films and DVDs).

The aim is to standardise classifications for video on-demand content and to align the requirements with the current regime for traditional films and DVDs. The ability to self-classify should also allow content providers to meet the standards without significantly delaying access to content.

While the changes will take time to implement, they demonstrate a real willingness of the Government to update New Zealand’s media laws to reflect modern media consumption and to close the current legislative gaps.

To get a head start, we recommend that video-on demand providers use the voluntary self-classification scheme currently provided by the New Zealand Media Council or begin internally assigning content classifications that reflect those prescribed under New Zealand law.

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Recently a court in Shenzen, China, awarded damages to the tech giant Tencent as a result of a finding of copyright infringement – the work in question was written by Dreamwriter, an automated news-writing system developed by Tencent.

However, as AI applications become more autonomous, and make creative decisions with minimal human input, a question arises as to whether this is the right outcome. 

Our Copyright Act is currently under review and one of the questions MBIE has posed relates to whether the current rules relating to computer generated works are still fit for purpose and whether any changes are required. The first round of submissions are now closed, but watch this space if you would like to keep up to date on where we land on this issue.       

If you have any questions relating to adoption or use of AI technology, please get in touch.

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