Concern is mounting about the content of an international trade agreement on copyright being negotiated in secret at a conference in Wellington next week. All New Zealanders should pay attention.
The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) talks are ongoing. It’s Wellington’s turn next week. They’re being held in secret because dominant countries the US and Japan are refusing to allow the draft text of negotiations to be made public. Why is that?
ACTA is essentially about toughening the enforcement of a range of intellectual property rights. But what is the actual issue? Who needs protecting? And where is the public interest?
The NZ Government is calling for transparency. That’s good. It’s one of a a number of countries doing the same. But it doesn’t have enough clout. Concern has been mounting around the world over recent months about what these talks are about. Largely it’s been confined to the internet community. But it’s going mainstream, and it’s in our faces next week.
Last night, the TV3 website reported on a leak from Canada which suggests that Border guards would be allowed to comb through passengers’ personal computers, iPods and MP3 players looking for copyright protected material.
The leak says that the draft agreement – to be negotiated over five days in Wellington – would also place more responsibility on internet service providers to become content police who prevented users from sharing pirated content.
Punishment proposed for repeat offenders included a ban from the using the internet for up to 12 months.
Copyright legislation poised to come to the NZ Parliament does not go nearly as far as this. But it does include a provision to terminate internet accounts for repeat copyright infringers. The NZ Labour Opposition opposes this. For good reasons.
There are many questions to be answered around the ACTA talks on copyright and intellectual property.
For instance who will bear the cost of increased copyright enforcement? Who gains from it? And when will New Zealand do some economic analysis on what the net impact on NZ of ACTA would be?
In the meantime, the the digital economy bill was rushed through the UK parliament yesterday before the election. It goes a lot further than NZ’s proposed copyright laws.
Under the terms of the bill, internet service providers will be obliged to send letters to any of their subscribers linked to alleged infringements.
Copyright holders will be able to apply for a court order to gain access to the names and addresses of serious infringers and take action against them while ISPs would be able to suspend accounts of offenders.
A wave of opposition to this Bill is growing momentum. This is an interesting analysis
Why are law-makers heading down this route? It flies in the face of reality. What lies behind the Digital Economy Bill and ACTA?
The best thing the NZ Govt could do is to release its negotiating position to its citizens. Let’s all be in this discussion. Transparency is by far the best policy.
ACTA is proposed as a plurilateral trade agreement for establishing international standards on intellectual property rights enforcement. It is being negotiated between the US, Canada, Japan, the European Union, South Korea, Mexico, Switzerland, Australia and New Zealand. Unfortunately, the negotiations have extended beyond trade and physical counterfeiting to potentially cover non-commercial infringement of copyright material by ordinary citizens and issues of digital rights management.
For more info see here