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Labour pauses on DVD import proposals

By Lachlan Hornell, Mon 15 Jul 2013
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Labour MP Jacinda Ardern has spoken at parliament to confirm the party’s stance on the ban of parallel importing films, offering a slight alternative to current plans.

With the temporary ban initially created in 2003, retailers could not parallel import any film until nine months after their cinematic release.

Scheduled to lapse in 2007, the ban was renewed for three years but now those years are up.

Labour is willing to continue the ban until 2016 yet proposes a ban of five months instead of nine, with Ardern saying the amendment to the bill was made for a reason.

“It is very much based around the motion picture industry – in particular, our small cinemas that many of us may have frequented over the years," she said.

“The staging of releases is pretty important to remember. So having that little buffer period for that industry, as it claims, is the difference between 165 jobs existing or not.”

Ardern says that times are changing however and “that is why this bill will put an expiry date of 2016”, being only a stopgap to address the change of business models.

On July 2, Acting Principal Advisor for Intellectual Property, Dominic Kebbell, released a document discussing the amendment on behalf of the treasury. The release argues against Ardern’s points, saying that letting the ban lapse is better for consumers.

Allowing the ban to lapse gives consumers earlier access to content, while the early release of DVDs could affect how some parts of the film industry function - it also gives way to more competitive and innovative services.

“Cinemas may provide innovative services to encourage consumers to attend the cinema," he said.

Another benefit outlined in the document is the possibility for more home video services, as New Zealand lacks services like Netflix and Hulu Plus, a lapse could lead to investment in such services locally. A small reduction in the cost of DVDs is also a possibility.

Ardern says the three-year continuation of the amendment bill will give “extra time for the industry to try to develop where it goes next, in the same way that the music industry is doing."

Ten years seems to be enough time, one might think and the treasury seems to think so at least. The treasury also says many of the film industry’s arguments can be thrown out the window, and disagrees entirely that the lapse would affect cinema attendance.

“New Zealand consumers can already purchase DVDs online. Despite this, the New Zealand box office takings have increased in the last three years," Kebbell said.

What do you think? Would early parallel imported DVD sales affect your movie-going? Tell us your thoughts below

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