Yesterday Phil Goff laid out Labour’s position on the leaked IP chapter of the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement
“The Government needs to stand up to the excessive and self-interested demands by US drug and entertainment multinationals in the TPP negotiations.
“The chapter on intellectual property shows that our negotiators are doing their best in opposing the demands of drug and entertainment moguls.
“We are supported by most other countries in doing that. The US appears isolated in its demands and will need to back down from them.
“Labour supports the protection of intellectual property and those who invest in research and development getting a fair return on that investment. But we do not support big corporations being able to lock in excess profits at the expense of the consumer or to disadvantage small New Zealand companies. Patents and copyright should not be so excessive that they stymie innovation. They should not prevent the emergence of generic drugs to allow health care to be provided affordably to those in need.
Those are strong words and Labour means them.
The Government meanwhile is refusing to comment saying it doesn’t comment on leaks and downplaying any issues in the leaked text for New Zealand and talking about the wonderful upsides to NZ from the agreement.
This is despite the leaked text showing a huge gulf between the United States and many of the other 12 countries including New Zealand. Among the contested issues are medicines, copyright and parallel importing.
We are heartened that the Kiwi negotiators are fighting for our interests as is evidenced by NZ’s position throughout the chapter. Our deep concerns lie in what may be traded off in the final stages of the negotiations. It is my belief that IP concessions not in NZ’s interests was always going to get traded away in the final round.
The TPP is not like other trade agreements. There are real risks for New Zealand’s ability to control our increasingly important digital economic development and protect our own intellectual capital while not ceding ground to the United States attempts to control content and information flow on the internet.
The 95-page, 30,000-word leaked IP Chapter lays out provisions to institute a far-reaching, transnational legal and enforcement regime, modifying or replacing existing laws in TPP member states.
The Chapter’s subsections include agreements relating to patents (who may produce goods or drugs), copyright (who may transmit information), trademarks (who may describe information or goods as authentic) and industrial design.
The longest section of the Chapter – ’Enforcement’ – details new policing measures, with far-reaching implications for individual rights, civil liberties, publishers, internet service providers and internet privacy, as well as for the creative, intellectual, biological and environmental commons.
The US Model pushes for an aggressive and heavy-handed copyright regime. This has huge potential to harm the way New Zealand artists work and use the internet to connect with overseas markets. It has the potential to unfairly harm public rights and public respect for copyright, artists and their work.
The US Model includes a significant extension of Copyright Duration; internet termination as a penalty; making it illegal to bypass Technical Protection Measures (TPMs) so you can’t watch a DVD you legally purchased overseas; and restricting parallel imports so NZers would both lose access to many overseas works, and be forced to pay more for books, CDs and DVDs than the rest of the world.
New Zealand copyright protection of literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works typically lasts until the end of the year the author dies plus an additional 50 years beyond that. Under the US Model however this could be extended to life plus 70 years. Sound recordings and films currently have 50 years of copyright protection in New Zealand from their year of publication, however the US Model could more than double that – up to 120 year Trade deals always come down to compromise. We must ensure that New Zealand’s position retains the ability to maintain and reform our own patent and copyright laws in the best interests of New Zealand.
We must not agree to a deal that results in stifled innovation in our ICT and creative industries where multi-nationals have the power to block innovation growth.
And we must protect against an adverse impact on our libraries, universities and schools having access to content they can afford and reduced access to content, particularly in the digital environment.
A government that cannot control its own economic development cannot govern.
The leak of the text allows transparency into these negotiations and a public debate to occur on the impact of the US demands. We support that debate occurring before the talks are concluded.
We call on on the National Government to continue to back New Zealand negotiators in the talks to protect our economic future through our ability to innovate and a maintain sensible and balanced copyright framework.
Here’s a couple of good (but disturbing pieces) pieces to read on the implications of the leaked text
- Dr Malcolm Rimmer writes that the Trans-Pacific Partnership will stifle innovation and put real limitations on our ability to govern ourselves. It is a monster and is too important a deal to be done in secret (written from an Australian perspective)
- Sarah Putt of the NZ Institute of IT Processionals (IITP) writes that the leaked text shows that NZ’s hard fought for new patent law which excludes software from being patentable could be under threat.
The Government is very unwise to be refusing to engage with stakeholders directly affected by these heavy-handed provisions which will stifle innovation in New Zealand. One has to ask why. Is it because they were always going to be traded off?