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Archive for the ‘intellectual property’ Category

TPPA : Will you make the TPPA process transparent? Labour Leadership Q&A #3

Posted by on September 11th, 2013

14 Questions for 2014

Virtual Hustings Meeting – Question 3

TPPA : Will you make the TPPA process transparent?

Explanatory Note: From September 10th to 14th 2013 as part of the official selection process for a new leader the New Zealand Labour Party is holding a “Virtual Hustings Meeting” hosted by Red Alert and organised by Scoop Amplifier. Over 7 days questions were solicited from eligible voters in the election. The questions and answers are now being posted as a set of 14 posts at the Red Alert Labour Party Blog starting yesterday (Tuesday 10th September), till Friday 13th September. At Red Alert all-comers are welcome to discuss the answers in the comment section of the blog. The three candidates are expected to participate in these discussions at times over the five days till Saturday 14th September.


Question : What are your views on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement? Will you make the TPPA process transparent?

Submitted by : Cushla Dillon, Auckland



Answer from Grant Robertson

The TPPA is more than a normal trade agreement and needs to be treated as such, with caution.

I am a supporter of trade agreements that gain our exporters access to markets that will mean they can create jobs here in New Zealand. But we have to ensure that our rights to make laws, regulate and protect our people and environment is upheld.

In the case of the TPPA we must set clear bottom lines. No change to the PHARMAC model, protection of IP and copyright law, and ensuring our sovereign right to regulate and make policy is supported.

We do need more transparency in the way we deal with trade. I would set up an independent trade advisory group with representation from across the community to ensure there is public participation and understanding of our approach to trade agreements. We must be at the table for these sorts of negotiations, but it is vital that it is a Labour Government at the table.


Answer from David Cunliffe

I am concerned about the TPPA. We cannot trade-away our ability to set government regulation. I am worried that John Key and his Government will continue to keep us all in the dark about the text and its implications and I fear they will then present us with the final text some time near the end of this year and insist that we accept it otherwise we will harm our trading relationships.

This will leave us with little or no opportunity to consult with our communities about its potential implications.

We must protect Pharmac, ensure intellectual property provisions are suitable for New Zealand business, and we must not accept limits on our sovereign right to regulate. Any agreement must be in New Zealand’s best interest.


Answer from Shane Jones

A very challenging issue. It is vitally important we retain the capacity for our Parliament to regulate for public good.

It is essential that this deal does not hobble our technical industries through punitive patents. Ultimately however I do not want to see our Trade partners in a club without us.


Remaining alert on the TPP

Posted by on November 21st, 2010

John Armstrong wrote a good piece in the Saturday NZ Herald on Key’s trip to Japan last week for APEC and talks on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

I would have missed it because was consumed with other matters, so thanks to Eddie at The Standard for your piece on it.

I first wrote about the TPP on Red Alert in May.

My interest is in NZ ensuring it doesn’t sell out our ability to control out intellectual property, particularly in the digital environment. New Zealand produced content is our economic edge. It’s also our identity.

I remain alert. And thanks for the funny bits in your piece John.

PS: The TPP is a grouping of nine countries – New Zealand, Brunei, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, the United States, Australia and Malaysia –  currently negotiating a free trade pact which would phase-down tariffs to zero in all sectors. Japan is thinking about joining up.

No NZers will have internet access terminated in Copyright Bill

Posted by on November 3rd, 2010

Let’s be very clear about this. If Labour and the National Government had not agreed on a compromise around the temination clause in the Copyright Bill, we would have a piece of legislation coming back to the House which could cut off NZers  internet accounts for six months.

Labour would have opposed the Bill.  It might have been a high moral stand but it would have resulted in a bad law.

A law that would be able to require people to be disconnected because they have shared files. It wouldn’t have been easy to achieve and would have required a convoluted journey of receiving several notices by mail from your internet service provider (such as Telstra Clear, Telecom etc)

You may have been taken to the Copyright Tribunal. Or the rights holder (of the film, music clip or video game) that you downloaded may have decided to make an example of you and had the matter referred to the district court.

No matter that you had downloaded whatever it was for your own enjoyment, not to profit from it in any way. The court could order you to be disconnected.  Never mind if you were 12 years old and part of a family that relied on the internet for all kinds of things. Or if you were elderly and lived alone and used email and the internet to communicate with the outside world.

In coming years the internet will become increasingly more essential in all of our lives. Disconnection is a disproprotionate remedy for file sharing.

A Bill that enacted a termination clause would have seen termination used as a remedy. This way it wont. Unless the copyrights holders manage to push for a review and the Minister of the day decides to enact termination as a remedy. In which case it is on that Minister’s head.

National’s position was immoveable. Termination would remain in the Bill. Labour’s position was that we opposed it.

In reaching this compromise, Labour believed it was better to have a piece of legislation that did not use termination as a remedy even if it remains in the Bill as a future possibility.

We would prefer it wasn’t there at all. But we also believe this is the best possible outcome we could achieve as the Opposition. This is not our Bill. It was originally our Bill (Section 92A) and despite the good intentions to make it work, it resulted in a grand stoush between the different parties which required a rethink. Labour pushed for and supported that rethink. What we’ve ended up with is better. If not perfect.

We are concerned that the government appears to have said today there will be a two year review of the decision not to enact the termination clause. This is news to Labour. It wasn’t put before the select committte and you should note that there will be an election in NZ before that two year period is up. Labour would not support a govt-led review and this could become an election issue.

But we still have concerns about a number of aspects in the Bill and believe there could well be room for further compromise.

A couple of comments:

It was always my view that a fine for copyright infringement was much more appropriate than termination of internet access. The view expressed in the commentary to the Bill that an award made by the Copyright Tribunal could include a punitive element and not just be compensation-based is justififiable.

We believe and hope that the notice and notice system established between ISPs and rights holders will be sufficient for the bulk of cases.

We do however retain concerns that the process will be too cumbersome and bureacratic and that the costs involved in setting up and maintaining a process that identifies and makes contact with potential infringers will be cumbersome.

We note the concerns raised by some around  section 122MA of the Bill around where the burden of proof lies for infringement. We are keen to talk further with those who are concerned about this.

On balance we have tried to convince the government to strike a balance between the rights of copyright
holders to have their intellectual property rights protected, and the reality that the Internet has now allowed far greater access to copyrighted works through file sharing.

And finally, it’s time for the debate to shift.

It’s time to move on from the issue of penalties for copyright infringement to looking at how we as a country can support new business models which enable our innovators and creators to benefit from their creativity and to control and distribute their own content to boost our economy and provide widespread access to information and entertainment. That’s what I want to see. Don’t you?

Our Govt has its head in the sand on copyright issues

Posted by on June 5th, 2010

Sometimes it takes me a while to feel as if I understand an issue. Especially one that involves the digital world.

When I’m trying to get my head around something I try to take it back to a principle. Is it fair? Who to? Is it too complex? Will it work? Is it fostering innovation and creativity? Is it where we want to be heading?

Copyright is one of those issues.

Copyright in 2010, has become a brand, or a code. The prevalence of illegal downloading both in NZ and globally is a very real and important issue. The balancing act between protecting the rights of creators of content and allowing and encouraging access to information and material is a delicate and increasingly tricky issue which is currently exercising the minds of parliaments across the world.

Intellectual property, who owns it, who should have access, how they should have that access and what should be the penalties for infringing the rules around that access are all very live issues being hotly debated.

There’s a bunch of international treaties and agreements currently being negotiated where intellectual property features large. The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) and more recently the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) are just two. There is intensive lobbying going on, driven largely from the US.

It seems that the big elephant in the room is who’s interests are being served.

I’ve just come across this piece on The Hill which could cast some light on what is really  going on behind the scenes.

Three key US tech industry groups have urged a rethink on the US position on ACTA. The Consumer Electronics Association, TechAmerica and the Computer & Communications Industry Association plan to oppose the current draft of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.

Though the groups favor copyright enforcement, they worry the agreement will not include copyright exemptions that currently benefit some technology companies under American law.

The agreement may lack a “fair use” standard that allows using copyrighted content in limited circumstances. Google, for instance, relies on this exemption to store Web content in its search engine memory.

Wikipedia defines “Fair use” as a doctrine in United States copyright law that allows limited use of copyrighted material without requiring permission from the rights holders, such as for commentary, criticism, news reporting, research, teaching or scholarship.

The lack of “fair use” could make American tech companies vulnerable to repercussions abroad, these groups say.

“We would expect the administration to be as concerned as we are about the existing trend of foreign countries imposing unjustified civil and criminal liability on U.S. technology companies and their executives,” the groups wrote.

ACTA has drawn widespread criticism as serving corporate interests. So just who are these corporate interests? Who do they serve and why do they have so much influence? And what principles do those interests serve?

And does our government really understand these issues?

In the Commerce Select Committee on Thursday I asked Commerce Minister Simon Power whether the government was considering a wider review of copyright issues in the light of all the controversy around Section 92A. “No” was the response. They just want their re-write of S92A passed.

I think that’s short-sighted. And not serving the interests of NZ creators and our emerging digital industry. As well as the public interest.

Hat tip @Tom_Watson

New thinking: careful experimentation #OpenLabourNZ

Posted by on May 29th, 2010

The future is all about data. Stuff that’s produced by people like you and me. And how it is distributed, used and re-used.

Data you generate. Data that cannot exist without you. Now that data is valuable, it is the new lock-in. Anyone can build another auction site, but 200 million ratings can’t be acquired overnight. Anyone can build another bookstore, but 10 million reviews can’t be acquired overnight. Google. Amazon. eBay. Flickr. Facebook. YouTube. Everything where the value is created via data you create in the first place.

Is there such a thing as digital philosophy? If so, I think I’ve found one. A digital philosopher that is.

JP Rangaswami is chief scientist at British Telecom (BT). He writes a blog under the name Confused of Calcutta. I only discovered him today.

And I’m not sure I understand everything he’s saying. But what I like is that he’s challenging our existing paradigms (man after my own heart).

This piece, sent via twitter today is called Musings about evil. And he talks about the importance of data and careful experimentation.

It took IBM 40 years to “become evil”. It took Microsoft 20. It took Google 10. It took Facebook 5. It took Twitter 2.5…….

Actually nobody “became evil”. Becoming evil is not suddenly getting easier. What we’re seeing is the confluence of a number of trends:

  • Growth in the power of the consumer, in consumerism, a post-Nader, post-Sixties phenomenon
  • Advances in information transmission and reproduction, particularly with the advent of the internet and the web
  • Emergent affordability and ubiquity of edge devices that increase the number of people connected to each other

He contends that despite the huge amount of change that is occurring, business,  and ways of doing business, have not changed. Which is creating problems.

No new business models have emerged … since the year dot, there have only been three ways of collecting value for services provided: pay-per-drink, all-you-can-eat, get-someone-else-to-pay. We have a litany of terms for the third way: advertising, sponsorship, patronage, gifting, subsidy, freemium, it doesn’t matter. There are still only three models.

The way we store, share and use data is becoming incredibly important.

These are some of the reasons why privacy and sharing and not-sharing are needing to be discussed, understood, legislated for. These are some of the reasons why identity and intellectual property and net neutrality are critical issues, issues that must be resolved in a sensible way.

It’s going to take some time before we have the conventions, practices and laws to make the digital landscape the land of the free and the home of the brave. Until then, our watchword should be careful experimentation. But experimentation nevertheless.

Read his piece. And think about this stuff.

This thinking lies at the heart of the issues that underpin copyright in the digital age. We must do some new thinking about what we produce, how important it is, who gets to use it and how they use it. Government can and should have an enabling role in this I believe.

If you’re interested,  my speech in the first reading of the Govt’s Copyright Bill (replacement to Section 92A) raised some of these issues. The big question is, what to do about it?

Hat tip: @LaurenceMillar

Watching the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

Posted by on May 22nd, 2010

It looks like intellectual property is the focus of another treaty negotiation affecting NZ.

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is an existing free trade agreement (FTA) between NZ, Singapore, Brunei and Chile signed in 2005. It allows for more countries to join and the USA, Australia, Vietnam and Peru have all indicated that they are interested. Substantive negotiations began in March.

There are claims mounting that the USA wants to reframe the agreement around IP protection on behalf of its content industries and limited concessions in all other areas.

The concern is that it’s not about a meeting of mutual interests but a game of how much wiggle room can be found on the edge of the US demands.

I’ll keeping an eye on it and happy for more information or different views.