The US and our copyright laws

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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