Passport control at the checkout

Copyright law affects what Kiwis can access and share online. What do you want from copyright law?

Today we put out a video about shopping - about the options New Zealanders have to buy things they want online. Like everyone else in the world, Kiwis enjoy a range of movies, music, TV, and other media. We’re getting used to buying these online, just as easily as we buy food at the supermarket.

Our new comic strip asks the same question. Check it out here:

InternetNZ's #NZCopyrightComics

On the tech side, this is a huge success story. Our connections got faster and our ISPs more competitive. People saw the potential of those networks, and built awesome services to stream sound and video. Overseas services like NetFlix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, and HBO Go offer a huge range of content to their customers.

Unfortunately, most of these services lock Kiwis out. Movies, music, and TV are protected by copyright law, which allows creators and distributors to control who can access their works. This has good and bad effects. The good is that copyright allows creators and distributors to do business - they make money from sharing cool media with us. The bad is that creation and distribution can be skewed by old or inefficient business models, stopping willing customers from getting what they want, when they want it.

Distribution of content has been based on exclusive geographic licences. To publish in New Zealand (or anywhere) required permission. As a small market, New Zealand has been at the back of the queue - we sometimes have to wait, and often pay more than people overseas. The result - Kiwis get a worse deal because of where we live. It’s as if we had a passport check at our supermarket checkout.

The Internet breaks down geographic barriers, making international communication easy. We see the same social media (and spoilers!) at the same time as our overseas friends - shouldn’t we have access to the shows as well?

Tell us what you think!

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Transcript: Passport control at the checkout

Kiwis love watching films and TV as much as the rest of the world.

We want to watch the same shows, at the same time as our friends on their 'O.Es'

So why do we have to wait, plugging our ears at the water-cooler, avoiding social media for days, when we are perfectly willing to pay?

In New Zealand there are a number of channels where you can legitimately access online content. But why does a consumer in the US have more choice, when we are supposed to be paying for the same product?

This is because of geo-blocking. It's like going to the supermarket, loading up your trolley, then being told at the checkout you're not allowed to buy what you want, because you live in New Zealand.

InternetNZ supports sensible copyright law that protects content producers and allows consumers a fair choice.

We want all Kiwis, both home and overseas, to be able to watch up-to-the-minute entertainment, media, and news. We have an opportunity coming up in the next Copyright Act Review to find a way that protects content producers and allows for digital innovation.

So what do you think? Join the conversation at


We now have multiple online content offerings in NZ compared to just a few years ago and one of the reasons for this is because we have fair, internationally aligned copyright law.  It's all very well to say that NZers should have access to the same content as people in the US, but we can't force overseas content providers to make their content available here. One of the downsides of a small population is that, in world terms, we're a tiny market and when a service provider is looking at market opportunities, NZ is unlikely to be high on their list unless they're a local provider.

What also gets lost in copyright debates that focus solely on online content, is the significant benefits of territoriality in the sales and distribution of other forms of content. The major success of NZ as Guest of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2012 was the subsequent rights sales and translation deals that were signed up for local publishers in foreign markets to take NZ authors' books into new countries. If these books (in e-book format or in print) were already available in that country, the rights deal for NZers would either be lost or generate a much lower financial return.

We most certainly do have a wonderful opportunity with both the government's recently announced convergence review and a review of the Copyright Act, to make sure that NZ law and regulation is fit for our increasingly online world. What bothers me though, is that the discussion on this gets narrowed into being only about online content distribution and not about the broader, and more challenging, question of how we can grow NZ's creative industries to derive an economic return for the country through creative businesses that employ NZers.