ACTA submitters split over IP protection

Submissions differ over the effect of counterfeiting and piracy on the economy

Submissions to the Ministry of Economic Development on the controversial proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) differ over the effect of counterfeiting and piracy on the economy.

The Recording Industry Association of New Zealand states unequivocally that “counterfeiting and piracy undermine the knowledge economy which is key to the growth of modern economies”.

However, other submissions suggest unduly strict enforcement could have a negative effect on economic development. Copyright law and enforcement should not be used simply to protect existing business models when these should be changing to meet a changed world, says submitter Peter Hewett.

The Ministry of Economic Development requested submissions earlier this year after documents outlining negotiations towards ACTA were leaked on the Wikileaks site and provoked a strong negative reaction around the world.

The MED continues to insist that the negotiations were not kept from the public. In a recent addition to its website section on ACTA it cites an October 2007 announcement by US trade representative Susan Schwab of her government’s intention to move towards such an agreement, in tandem with “some of its key trading partners”.

Several of the New Zealand submissions point to the possibility that internet service providers could be made liable for the actions of their customers and made to police copyright. The balance of opinion is that this would be an onerous and unfair burden.

Trade Me, which broadly supports the protections suggested, says ISPs should only be called to account for infringements by their users that they probably knew about.

Reservations are expressed about the damage to the development of the internet and to privacy that could result from the inspection of user data packets to ensure they do not contain copyright material.

A good deal of comment is made about the implied shift of the burden of proof that would result from a suggested temporary injunction to restrain trade in disputed merchandise pending a court case.

This effectively pronounces alleged offenders guilty until they prove themselves innocent, say some submissions, and it could be used to suppress competition.

Several submitters also point out that suggested restrictions on using equipment to evade technological protection mechanisms go further than the deliberately light-handed provisions of New Zealand’s Copyright Act. These could obstruct acts of copying permitted under that act and internationally recognised as legitimate.

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