MOD on TPP

Mike O’Donnell writes in Stuff:

Interestingly, the amount you need to invest into duck shooting kit has dropped markedly over the last 20 years.  

When I first went duck shooting as a schoolboy in Timaru 25 years ago, a box of cartridges cost $25 (equivalent to $78 in 2012) and decoys were $35 apiece.  Today you can buy a box of 12 gauge shells for $14 and a dozen decoys for $90.

A key contributor to these reduced costs is parallel importing.  

This allows retailers and other parties to source goods directly from licensed overseas sources, rather than dealing with local licensees. In doing so, it delivers competition between sources of the same or similar goods, and real benefits to consumers.

Back in 1998, the Act 1994 was amended so that copyrighted goods lawfully made overseas could be imported into New Zealand without the consent of local owners.  

This practice of parallel importing lowered the cost of a huge range of consumer goods, from Levi’s through to L’Oreal.

Parallel importing allows people who have legally purchased goods in one country to resell them in another. That means that one can buy goods at a fair market price, rather than at a monopoly price set for just one country.

Ironically parallel importing will likely be a victim of the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership agreement (), a multilateral free trade agreement which aims to liberalise the economies of the Asia-Pacific region including New Zealand, Australia, the United States, Chile, Singapore, Malaysia, and Vietnam.   

And this is the irony. I am a big supporter of free trade and agreements which reduce barriers to trade. But the US demands for the intellectual property chapter are mainly about putting up barriers to trade, not reducing them. A free trade agreement should not be about protectionism, but about allowing willing buyers and sellers to trade more easily.

However, the benefits for trade which flow out of the TPP are accompanied by a whole set of obligations for intellectual property in New Zealand, including parallel importing.  As a result, it’s likely local rights holders would be able to prevent parallel imports (and, consequently, increase the margin that consumers pay).

The implications are far broader than just cheaper jeans and shampoo.  

According to leaked documents from the American TPP negotiation team, the United States is demanding a huge raft of changes to intellectual property law in New Zealand.  

This would see fundamental copyright changes in Godzone, including the return of the repealed Section 92A of the Copyright Act (guilt on accusation),  the removal of ”fair dealing” for accidental copying (like when your browser hits copyrighted material), and a requirement for ISPs to give up customers’ details when they receive a allegation from a rights holder.

After the pain and energy that the local internet and intellectual property industry has gone through to end up with a copyright regime that does a pretty good job of balancing rights with internet pragmatism, this would be a serious slap in the face.  

Some of what the US is asking for would even make caching potentially illegal.

It appears our officials realise this and are providing solid pushback thus far.  

Other leaked documents suggest Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials have told the Americans that we wish to stick right where we are and not enter into any additional obligations around copyright.

And my hope is that the Government stays firm on this, and doesn’t allow the US to force changes to our intellectual property laws, to suit a couple of US industries whose business model is outdated. Our laws should be based on what New Zealanders determine is the correct balance between producers and users.

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