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Copyright Law Review on hold - We’re not Told Why

Copyright Law Review on hold

But we’re not allowed to know why

Papers released under the Official Information Act last week reveal that the government will delay the 2013 copyright law review until “TPP negotiations have concluded”. The reasons given for the delay have been removed from the public version of the document.

Copyright laws really need a big review in light of the changed information environment” says Susan Chalmers, spokesperson for FairDealNZ. “There is a lot of support for a review in New Zealand, which the Cabinet Paper itself acknowledges. All the same, the Minister says a review isn’t possible because of the TPP, for reasons that the public is unable to know about.“

New Zealand’s copyright laws were meant to be reviewed this year, five years after the Copyright (New Technologies) Amendment Act in 2008. The government, has decided not to stick to this timetable, waiting instead to know what terms it may have to agree to under the TPP.

Previous attempts at updating the Copyright Act were rightly derided by the public as being out of touch with the changing needs of consumers. The only redeeming feature was a promise to review the legislation after five years. Now, however, we’re told that’s not going to happen,” says Sue Chetwin, Chief Executive of Consumer NZ.

Copyright laws currently don’t take into account the way New Zealanders interact with copyright material. A review of the entire market, including parallel importing and access to digital content needs to happen as soon as possible,” says Alastair Thompson, founder and general manager of Scoop.co.nz.

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The Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations are taking place behind closed doors and not only are New Zealand citizens being shut out of the process, but New Zealand law makers are too. There is little known about what the cost to New Zealand of accepting more stringent copyright will be.

They haven't conducted studies on how Kiwis use copyright so their negotiations won't be informed by the practical copyright needs of New Zealanders. This negotiation is secret even by WIPO standards, and many documents won't be released until four years after the agreement is signed. This is unprecedented secrecy,” says Bronwyn Holloway-Smith, spokesperson for the Creative Freedom Foundation. “Effectively this is lawmaking without public involvement, and they haven't even undertaken a review of our nation’s copyright needs.”

The MBIE advice to Cabinet is available online (in redacted form).

Fair Deal NZ is a network of organizations and people raising awareness about copyright proposals in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and the impact they could have on access to knowledgeinnovation, and the Internet in New Zealand. We aim to raise an informed, highly-visible, discussion in New Zealand on what’s at stake under the TPP. The FairDeal campaign is about keeping the TPP from changing our copyright laws in ways that would take a major toll on New Zealand.

Fundamental Affront to Democracy

We at the NZOSS are particularly troubled by the willingness of our government to enter into these top secret negotiations (which are neither open nor transparent, both principles that the NZOSS membership hold dear). At issue is that the TPP will have implications for all New Zealanders, and yet will be decided by a small handful of negotiators, without anyone else in our government or public seeing the actual terms of the agreement until four years following the agreement being signed. We entreat our government to pull out of these negotiations immediately on the grounds that:

·         The secrecy of the negotiations should be unacceptable to anyone who values democracy, openness, and transparency in NZ.

·         There is no credible economic analysis to suggest that NZ as a whole will benefit in any way from this agreement.

·         The only people privy to the content of the agreement outside of the negotiators are several hundred US-based corporations. Not even our government has seen it.

·         This agreement will compromise our national sovereignty - making it impossible for us to create our own legislation without kowtowing to US corporate interests as specified in the leaked drafts of the TPP documents - in many areas including copyright, parallel imports, our drug buying agency Pharmac, and our hard won victory eliminating the scourge of software patents in NZ.


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