The stupidest thing said about the TPP deal – thus far – is the claim that it does not reduce New Zealand’s sovereignty. Of course it does. Agreeing to it will mean New Zealand will not be able to do things it currently can do. How important this reduction in sovereignty is is a proper matter for assessment for there are gains as well as losses.
Every international agreement is a loss of sovereignty, in that you agree to do something or not do something. An international agreement on climate change is a huge loss of sovereignty – it may partially dictate economic policy for the next 20 years or so. So the sovereignty argument is silly.
Does extending copyright to 70 years after death make sense? How many authors are mindful that their works of genius will be of benefit to their great-great-grandchildren whom they will never meet? Did the announcement of the twenty-year extension result in any writers getting onto writing that novel which previously they had not bothered with? (I don’t even agree with 50 years. There is a view, including among some prominent American economists, that the period should be no greater than 20 years after death; I think that is to deal with publisher stocks at the time of the demise.)
I’m one of those with think it should be life + 20.
Apparently New Zealand was opposed to the extension to 70 years, but Japan and the US already have domestically legislated it as a result of corporate pressures and they insisted. Our negotiators had to give in, in exchange for other benefits (that beef access is really valuable), although we got some phasing in of the extension.
So if we think the TPP deal is to our advantage we are going to have to adopt the 70 years. But we can adapt policies to improve access to free information. Here is the beginnings of a list:
* the government should stop privatising the information it holds; yes it has sold-off some valuable data bases and their owners are charging like wounded bulls for their use;
* the government should direct the agencies which manage its (publicly owned) data bases to stop profiting from them. They may charge for the costs of releasing the information, but only those costs. This would require some financial compensation to the agencies who may well be reluctantly charging but need the cash because of government meanness;
* the government should set up a fund to purchase private data bases putting them in the free public domain;
* the digitisation project – placing public records in the digital domain – needs more funding.
I like these ideas.