The fair deal coalition

May 22nd, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Trade Me has joined 31 consumer and lobby groups from New Zealand and overseas in writing to Trade Minister Tim Groser to voice concerns about the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement.

The company is a member of the New Zealand-born umbrella group the Fair Deal Coalition, which was set up last year during the Auckland round of the negotiations to lobby against possible provisions in the yet-to-be-completed trade agreement.

The coalition fears the trade agreement could unduly strengthen intellectual property rights, for example by extending copyright by 20 years and introducing new controls on parallel imports. …

In its letter, the coalition asked Groser to reflect on the “variety of sectors” that stood to be adversely affected by such provisions. “As a group we are diverse, but we share one thing in common: we seek appropriately balanced intellectual property laws,” it said.

Trade Me spokesman Paul Ford said the firm backed the coalition because it was concerned the agreement could “result in a crappy deal for both Kiwi consumers and a decent chunk of the Trade Me community”.

“We reckon parallel importing is pretty important to New Zealanders as it means Kiwi sellers can source goods direct from licensed suppliers around the globe, so buyers get more choice and, with any luck, better prices too,” he said.

The Fair Deal Coalition has attracted support from advocates in six of the 12 countries which are party to the trade negotiations, including the United States, Canada and Australia.

The group’s founders include Consumer NZ, InternetNZ, the Royal NZ Foundation for the Blind and the Telecommunications Users Association.

I’m one of those involved in the Fair Deal coalition, and it is great to see it gain supporters in the major countries involved in the TPP.

I’m all for free trade deals, but that doesn’t mean I want a deal at any price, and I think the proposed US chapter on intellectual property is not balanced or a fair deal. I think the current NZ intellectual property laws are relatively well balanced and we should not agree to anything that would force a change to them. If enough countries stand firm on these issues, I am hopeful the US will modify its position. And to be fair to the US, they have already moved a considerable way by agreeing to writing exceptions to copyright restrictions into the text – a first for a free trade deal with them. But the current proposed wording is still not suitable.

Consumer NZ spokesman Hadyn Green said his group believed the trade deal’s documents had provisions “which may remove parallel importing in New Zealand”. That would mean retailers could no longer import copyright goods, from software to branded clothes, without the permission of the manufacturer, which Consumer NZ feared would push up prices for many products.

Bans on parallel importing work against free trade, and should not be in FTA.

A Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry spokeswoman said last week that the parallel importing of copyright works had been raised in negotiations but there was no consensus among the negotiating parties on whether an agreement “should include specific provisions on this issue”.

Which hopefully means it won’t include such a provision.

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Supreme Court upholds parallel importing

March 21st, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Arstechnica reports:

The importation of copyrighted goods made abroad has been an increasingly contentious issue in recent years. Easy access to Internet resale markets like eBay and Amazon have made it possible for a new breed of entrepreneurs to buy low and sell high in a wide array of areas. The Supreme Court handed these resellers a major victory today, issuing a decision [PDF] that makes it clear that the “first sale” doctrine protects resellers, even when they move goods across national boundaries. 

Those upstarts have peeved a lot of corporations, and some of them used copyright law to fight back. Textbook maker John Wiley & Sons sued a Thai student-entrepreneur named Supap Kirtsaeng, who had been buying cheaper (but non-pirated) versions of various textbooks in his home country, bringing them to the US, and selling them to his fellow students stateside on eBay. The price differentials were so big that there was quite a bit of money to be made; at trial, the publishing company’s lawyers hammered home the fact that they had counted up $1.2 million in receipts over the life of Kirtsaeng’s business.

Wiley argued those profits should be barred by copyright law. Their right to control prices abroad was actually part of their copyright grant, they argued. The textbook company won a jury verdict against Kirtsaeng, which was upheld by the US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, and Kirtsaeng appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that his business was protected by the “first sale” doctrine.

Today’s decision vindicates the “first sale” doctrine, which allows the owner of a particular copy of a work to do whatever she wants with it after purchasing it. It overrides first sale losses in both the 9th and 2nd Circuits and makes it clear that digital commerce can flourish in the Internet era, even when it crosses borders.

This is good news. Once you purchase something you own it, and that ownership should include resale rights.

The world is increasingly becoming a global market. The days of different prices for different countries is crumbling under the Internet.

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