NZ and TPP

By Eric Crampton 18/11/2013 3

David Farrar has a great summary of NZ’s rather decent position in the TPP negotiations as revealed by Wikileaks. I can’t see any spots where I’d disagree with what he’s saying. But I’ll add a bit.

Farrar is certainly right that the NZ government could not have unilaterally released the text and that Labour politicians pretending otherwise are being disingenuous. New Zealand could have, and likely did, push within the treaty process for the text to be released periodically, but that kind of thing needs broad consensus. So while I’m glad that NZ didn’t do something silly on this front, I’m also glad that somebody leaked the text.

NZ seems generally on the side of the angels in here. People do use copyright maliciously – read TechDirt for the daily litany. The US, and Japan, wanted to block countries from implementing penalties where rights-holders acted abusively; everybody else, NZ included, took the other side:

Article QQ.A.9: {Implementation of this Chapter}
[CL/NZ/VN/AU/BN/SG/PE/MY/MX/CA24 propose; US/JP oppose: 1. Nothing in this
Chapter shall prevent a Party from adopting appropriate measures to prevent: (a) the
abuse of intellectual property rights by right holders or the resort to practices that unreasonably restrain trade or adversely affect the international transfer of technology; and (b) anticompetitive practices that may result from the abuse of intellectual property rights;, provided that such measures are consistent with this Agreement. 

The US wants copyright extension to 70 years, as Farrar notes. They also want retrospective protection of things that entered the public domain in countries like New Zealand where copyright expires 20 years earlier. That suggests that somebody should start archiving everything that has fallen into the public domain here before doing so is illegal, in case the US wins this part of the fight against everybody else.

NZ sided with the US, and against everybody else, in supporting asset forfeiture for copyright breaches:

[US/NZ propose; BN/SG/MY/CL/PE/AU/VN/CA/MX/JP oppose: (f) that its judicial authorities have the authority to order the seizure or forfeiture of assets the value of which corresponds to that of the assets derived from, or obtained directly or indirectly through, the infringing activity];

Maybe NZ wants Kim DotCom’s house.

The US and Australia opposed, and everybody else supported, limiting the liability facing ISPs whose networks were used in copyright infringement.

Finally, NZ, along with some others, proposed:

[Article QQ.A.2bis: {Principles}
[NZ/CA/SG/CL/MY propose: 1. Each Party may, in formulating or amending its laws and regulations, adopt measures necessary to protect public health and nutrition, and to promote the public interest in sectors of vital importance to its socio-economic and technological development, provided that such measures are consistent with the provisions of this Chapter.

I expect this is to allow New Zealand to implement tobacco plain packaging regardless of what it does to the brand value for affected producers.

The Fair Deal Coalition worries that parallel importation could be at risk. I didn’t see it in a quick skim of the text, but I did only give the text a quick skim.

A good deal is better than no deal. No deal is better than a bad deal. Whether the net winds up being worthwhile depends on where the negotiations go from here and what’s in the other, unreleased, chapters.

3 Responses to “NZ and TPP”

  • Every trade agreement binds sovereign states against particular actions. NZ is bound by international agreements, constraining our sovereignty, against a whole pile of things ranging from committing war crimes to imposing tariffs that don’t comply with GATT. Whether it’s companies that object to a treaty violation or another government, sovereignty is similarly constrained. When NZ apple growers complained about Australian import bans, were NZ corporations overriding Australian sovereignty?

    Totally legit to complain about corporate copyright interests effectively owning the American negotiating position, and that those interests could wind up overweighted in the TPP. The sovereignty concern though…that’s kinda the point of trade agreements. I tie my hands against doing X in exchange for your similiar action.

  • The extension of copyright to Life+70 years plays into the hands of the copyright-is-evil brigade. I am passionate about protecting my copyright during my lifetime. It’s my most valuable possession and my livelihood. I think it would make sense to extend copyright for say, ten years, after the death of the author so that anyone licensed to publish a recently completed work, or make a film or dramatic production or whatever based on the work, at the time of the author’s death would retain the exclusive right to finish the job. After that, IMO, the public interest in having the works of death authors freely available far outweighs their private property rights.

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