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Parallel Imports, Netflix, and GST at the Border

New Zealand rights-holders are set to argue that evading geoblocks on online content is legally different from using region-free DVD players. The NBR’s Chris Keall interviews copyright lawyer Paul Johns, who thinks the case against Global Mode and other VPN-users might be stronger than I’d thought.

Section 30 of the act prevents copying and Section 33 that prohibits communication.

So it’s a bit different from the situation Eric Crampton wrote about where I think he was comparing it to where you physically bring a DVD into the country.

Yes, I think from a personal point of view it might be seen as morally equivalent by some people, but the law treats it differently. Rightly or wrongly that is the position we’re in.

He also notes that another part isn’t as legally simple as I’d expected:

Probably the last point that hasn’t been considered is a point raised by Eric Crampton is that this is not just an issue between the customer and Netflix. There are in fact causes of action you can take for loss caused to you by someone else’s unlawful conduct towards a third person. I don’t think it’s been raised in this case but there are ways for clever lawyers to think of causes of action you can take even if you don’t have the direct right to sue [over] copyright in this sort of case.

And so I’m now a bit more worried for Global Mode, and, by extension, for all of the VPN users who are parallel-importing richer versions of Netflix or other foreign subscriptions, or who are pretending to be Canadian when subscribing to The Economist.

Fans of VPN parallel-importation might wish to contribute to Global Mode’s legal defence, should it ask. I will.

Meanwhile, Bronwyn Howell walks me through what might be the simplest feasible way of applying GST to goods shipped in from overseas: have the shippers pay and collect. It’s still not all that simple though.

About Eric Crampton (88 Articles)
I'm Head of Research with the New Zealand Initiative.

2 Comments on Parallel Imports, Netflix, and GST at the Border

  1. I’m unsure here, a big part of the case seems to be around global mode bypassing TPM, which in the act itself says that circumvention from region locking doesn’t apply –


    • It’s worth checking the lawyer’s analysis on this one. He says that the protections around that on DVDs don’t apply to other stuff without there being specific bits saying it extends to other stuff. Further, he argues that our VPNing is in breach of the terms and conditions, which means that we don’t have legitimate licenses for our grey-market parallel-imports, so a pile of other protections we might think apply (like around buffering) don’t.


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