The Changing Legal and Technological Landscape for Film in NZ

Book_ShelveAn excerpt from my studies exploring the realities of marketing and distributing film…

Film Censorship is covered in The Films, Videos, and Publications Act 1993, last updated in 2005 (Office of Film and Literature Classification, 2011). This legislation will determine the audience size your film can access by restricting possible younger viewers due to objectionable material (Wilson, 2007). Further campaigns for changes in the legislation have continued. Recent possible changes that could affect include all films featuring smoking R18 (Sharma, 2011) – already declared impractical by researchers (Gale, et al., 2006), but if enforced would enforce an R18 rating on many films including a large number of classic pictures – and making it cheaper to receive classification for suppliers (Croot, 2010).

A different classification is required for online distribution.

The Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act 2011 came into effect last year with the aim to stop illegal downloading (Keall & Walls, Internet File Sharing Law Passes After Loopy Debate, 2012). In New Zealand film piracy and its damaging effect on sales can best be seen with ‘Sione’s Wedding,’ where the illegal distribution of the film before the opening week negatively affected sales (Copyright Council of New Zealand, 2007). If a film was illegally distributed before its release it could see similar negative effects. One fault of the Act is the Internet account holder is made liable, rather than the person committing the offence, which could be potentially harmful to small businesses (Keall, File sharing law puts business in a bind, 2011).

Internationally cases such as the MegaUpload founder Kim Dotcom case have kept copyright issues in the limelight(New Zealand Listner, 2012). There is also discussion in the international film community that file sharing (piracy) can be helpful to smaller films, allowing them to access a wider audience some of whom will support the filmmakers financially(Kaufman, 2011). Although illegal activity should not be encouraged, releasing the film for free on the Internet could allow a wider audience to view the film and potentially contribute to revenue through merchandising or purchase of the official movie by viewers.

Piracy, and the legislation surrounding it, will continue to be an issue for filmmakers for some time.

The constantly evolving technological landscape is changing the way consumers access entertainment material and the types of entertainment they have access to. The Internet has changed the film distribution game considerably. Online subscription streaming platforms such as Netflix in the US have seen a massive gains – $548.6million in the first half of 2012 compared to $85million in the first half of 2011 – (Arnold, 2012), and a New Zealand version of the service Quickflix was launched this year (Bell, 2012). Even with the issues surrounding the New Zealand service with SKY TV holding many of the bigger films online rights (McBeth & Keall, 2012) and Internet data limits prohibiting faster uptake (Putt, 2012) this could still become a profitable means of distribution.

More traditional distribution methods are also undergoing technological changes. Cinemas are now upgrading to digital cinemas making theatrical distribution an affordable option for independent films (Dodona Research, 2009); (One News, 2009).

DVD distribution may not be as strong as it once was but Blu-Ray is becoming a strong alternative (Arnold, 2012). The Internet can also assist with DVD distribution to have a worldwide reach without having to leave the country by accessing sites such as or setting up sales on the films website (Parkes, 2012).

Other Internet platforms also offer filmmakers different approaches for revenue gathering. Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo can allow filmmakers to raise production or finishing finances, or in the case of New Zealand film “Boy” money to distribute the film overseas (O’Hara, 2012). A similar strategy could also be implemented to gather marketing funds. Youtube can offer advertising revenue for popular films, which have proven to be lucrative (Kirshner, 2009).

(Completed Dec 2012 so some of the information may be slightly out of date)

 Works Cited

Arnold, T. K. (2012, July 29). Consumer Spending on Home Entertainment Up in FIrst Half of 2012. Retrieved August 3, 2012 from The Hollywood Reporter:

Bell, A. (2012, March 29). Streaming Service Quickflix launches in New Zealand. Retrieved August 03, 2012 from 3 News:

Copyright Council of New Zealand. (2007, June 12). Inside Man Found Guilty of theft and copyright charges. Retrieved August 03, 2012 from Copyright Council of New Zealand:

Croot, J. (2010, March 03). Time to reform NZ’s censorship laws? Retrieved August 03, 2012 from

Dodona Research. (2009, July 07). Digital Cinema is moving but obstacles remain. Retrieved August 03, 2012 from Scoop:

Gale, J., Fry, B., Smith, T., Okawa, K., Chakrabarti, A., Ah-Yen, D., et al. (2006, October 04). Smoking in film in New Zealand: measuring risk exposure. Retrieved August 03, 2012 from BMC Public Health:

Kaufman, L. (2011). Sell Your Own Damn Movie! United States of America: Focal Press

Keall, C. (2011, April 29). File sharing law puts business in a bind. Retrieved August 03, 2012 from The National Business Review:

Keall, C., & Walls, A. (2012, April 13). Internet File Sharing Law Passes After Loopy Debate. Retrieved August 03, 2012 from The National Business Review:

Kirshner, S. (2009). Fans, Friends & Followers. United States: CinemaTechBooks.

McBeth, P., & Keall, C. (2012, May 10). Quickflix says Sky TV content deal hinder broadband uptake. Retrieved August 03, 2012 from The National Business Review:

New Zealand Listner. (2012, February 04). There be internet pirates. Retrieved August 03, 2012 from New Zealand Listner:

Office of Film and Literature Classification. (2011, November 22). History of Censorship Law in New Zealand. Retrieved August 15, 2012 from Office of Film and Literature Classification:

O’Hara, A. (2012, February 19). Taika Waititi attempts to raise $63,000 for Boy. Retrieved August 17, 2012 from 3 News:

One News. (2009, October 28). Digital cinema still in progress. Retrieved August 03, 2012 from TVNZ:

Parkes, S. (2012). The Insdiers Guide to Independent Film Distribution. 2nd Edition. United States of America: Focal Press.

Putt, S. (2012, April 17). Vodafone and TelstraClear reject zero-rating for Quickflix. Retrieved August 03, 2012 from Computerworld:

Sharma, P. (2011, September 24). 18-Cert for SMoking in Movies Irks Movie Buffs. Retrieved August 03, 2012 from Top News:

Wilson, D. (2007). Responding to the challenges: Recent developments in Censorship Policy in New Zealand. Social Policy Journal of New Zealand (30), 65-78.


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