The US and our copyright laws

May 4th, 2011 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Top law professor Michael Geist blogs on how Wikileaks revealed the extent of the US lobbying pressure on our copyright laws:

Wikileaks has also just posted hundreds of cables from U.S. personnel in New Zealand that reveal much the same story including regular government lobbying, offers to draft New Zealand three-strikes and you’re out legislation, and a recommendation to spend over NZ$500,000 to fund a recording industry-backed IP enforcement initiative.

Yes, the US Embassy actually offered to do the rewrite of Section 92A. Thanks, but no thanks. We’ll write our own laws thanks.

Geist also notes:

Finally, an April 2005 cable reveals the U.S. willingness to pay over NZ$500,000 (US$386,000) to fund a recording industry enforcement initiative. The project was backed by the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ) and the Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (AMCOS).  Performance metrics include:

“The project’s performance will be judged by specific milestones, including increases in the number of enforcement operations and seizures, with percentages or numerical targets re-set annually.  The unit also will be measured by the number of reports it submits to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) on its contributions to IP protection and enforcement methodology.”

The proposed budget included four salaried positions, legal costs for investigation and prosecution, and training programs. The RIANZ still runs an anti-piracy site, but does not include disclosure about the source of funding.  It certainly raises the question of whether New Zealand is aware that local enforcement initiatives have been funded by the U.S. government and whether the same thing is occurring in Canada.

The current S92A is not too bad (but it should not have termination as an option), but the real danger is the TPPA negotiations. The US is demanding as part of those negotiations a total rewrite of our intellectual property laws in their favour. This is a price we should not be willing to pay, unless the trade gains from the deal are massive. To date the NZ Government has been resisting the demands. I hope they continue to do so.

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14 Responses to “The US and our copyright laws”

  1. Brian Harmer (687 comments) says:

    Love this: http://torrentfreak.com/ip-address-not-a-person-bittorrent-case-judge-says-110503/

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  2. redeye (629 comments) says:

    Whenever my muso mates complain to me about people downloading free music I ask them if every bit of software on their laptops are licensed. That usually shuts them up.

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  3. flipper (4,060 comments) says:

    Good stuff DPF. In fact, excellent.
    Perhaps the only important “Wikileaks leaks” so far.
    KBO

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  4. DRHILL (121 comments) says:

    I don’t see the U.S. changing their laws if/when the TPPA is signed as well.

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  5. adze (2,126 comments) says:

    I hope our govt. continues to resist this lobbying pressure, as well as the pressure to disband Pharmac (the cheek!).

    I saw a really good “internet funny” image on Tumblr recently – showing a picture of a Sony Playstation 3, with the caption “Put DRM on everything; store customer data as plain text.”

    Shows where the global IP Barons’ priorities are.

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  6. Pongo (372 comments) says:

    This TTP is making me nervous. We could well end up with restricted access but at a huge cost, The Americans have shown absolutely no inclination to do trade deals for at least a decade, they want someting for nothing and are relying on Key wanting a photo opportunity to weld us.
    I am getting cynical.

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  7. tristanb (1,127 comments) says:

    There was obviously some immense pressure from the US media corporations to get our S92A passed – which I guess is why it was done under urgency without debate.

    I’d like to know what was in it for the individual MPs, every MP except the Greens, in voting for this. It is an unpopular law; in a parliament full of bribes and populism, I don’t see why all the politicians voted in favour without question. Are they really all that ignorant (e.g. “SkyNet”, Melissa Lee)?

    Even if this is essential to getting a free trade deal and improving our country’s position in the world, I can’t see politicians looking past the short-term gain in being opposed to this bill. (See John Key vs. raised retirement age). I just have to assume our politicians are either brainwashed idiots, or bribed. In Italy I’d say the latter, since this is NZ I’m sure it’s largely due to ignorance.

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  8. RRM (9,919 comments) says:

    It’s when they start arming the Tino Rangatiratanga movement that you want to be afraid!

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  9. gnadsmasher (45 comments) says:

    Well well. DPF and Jane Kelsey agree on this issue. It might be wise to take a look at her book “No Ordinary Deal,” which has among many interesting offerings chapters on intellectual property, Pharmac, investor bailout provisions (e.g. if a foreign investor in land is fined for polluting a river, the costs of that fine will be incurred by the NZ taxpayer because of TPP protocols), and (in)security implications. Eye-opening stuff, and not all “commie” in orientation.

    Never thought I would see DPF and Jane in bed together but here they are, sharing the same protectionist sheets (a haunting image, if ever there was one).

    [DPF: Kelsey is against all free trade deals. I am in favour of free trade deals if that is what they actually are. I just want countries to abolish all tariffs, import controls and subsidies. Our intellectual property laws should not be part of any free trade deal]

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  10. reid (16,452 comments) says:

    Our intellectual property laws should not be part of any free trade deal

    Nor should abolishing Pharmac and that’s another big thing they reportedly want.

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  11. stephen (4,063 comments) says:

    Correct, Reid:

    US concern about the state drug-buying agency Pharmac featured throughout the cables and it was clear that Washington was under pressure from American drug companies to make the issue a central part of any free trade deal.

    In 2004, US Ambassador Charles Swindells said the embassy was “attempting to make inroads against a government mindset that is hostile to the drug industry” and tried to “educate New Zealanders on the benefits of gaining access to a wider range of effective pharmaceuticals.”

    The embassy noted an unexpected side effect from Pharmac, which it said denied cutting-edge drugs to New Zealanders: “Ironically, New Zealand presents a small but optimal environment for clinical trials of pharmaceuticals because of its population’s lack of exposure to newer medicines”.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/4949637/Green-Party-lunch-revealed-in-Wikileaks-cable

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  12. James (1,338 comments) says:

    Yes….abolishing the Pharmac monopoly is something we the people on NZ should be demanding.

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  13. reid (16,452 comments) says:

    Why?

    You’re not one of those free-market fanatics are you James?

    You know. People who think the market always applies and should be applied to everything without exception no matter what cause “competition” always produces the best result in all cases?

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  14. Mark (1,488 comments) says:

    James So you would seek to model our pharmaceutical medicines policies according the the US Model or a model that the US wants to impose on us. I would be facinated to understand the basis of that logic.

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