Oppose ISP copyright liability in free-trade agreement - NZ professor

Jane Kelsey raises concerns over Trans-Pacific Partnership

The University of Auckland’s Professor Jane Kelsey, a noted commentator on free trade, is apprehensive that US negotiators at the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement (TPP) talks, backed by powerful entertainment-industry lobbies, will want to return to the question of internet service provider liability for customers’ copyright breaches through downloading or uploading.

Such liability was knocked back at the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) talks last year.

Kelsey wants New Zealand’s TPP delegation to table draft text early in the next round of TPP negotiations in Chile next month (February), confirming its opposition to major changes in the intellectual property clauses of the agreement, as expressed in a draft document on the New Zealand position leaked last year.

“Analysis of the costs and benefits of IP protection shows there is a tendency towards overprotection of IP in all our societies, particularly in the areas of copyright and patents,” that statement said; in an environment of accelerating innovation in online services, it added “more people are arguing that overly strong IP rights can act as an inhibitor rather than as a promoter of innovation. Many of these claims are being made not just by users but by innovators themselves,” the draft said.

In an interview [on January. 11] with US magazine Inside US Trade, a US trade official signalled that its delegation is likely to delay tabling its formal proposal on intellectual property at the Chile TPP round, scheduled for February 14 to 18.

“We need to take the time that we need to take to make sure there is a domestic consensus on what we are doing, on all of the relevant issues in the IPR chapter,” Inside US Trade quotes the official as saying. “We want to make sure that we are doing this in a deliberate way that everyone is comfortable with.”

Kelsey says the Government, “needs to reassure New Zealanders that it remains true to the position it took last year and opposes any [ISP liability] provisions in a TPP agreement.

“It must also learn the lessons from ACTA’s secrecy and secure agreement from all the parties during the Chile negotiations to release draft texts for public debate after each negotiating round, and not simply once the decisions have been made,” she says.

Computerworld has contacted a member of the New Zealand negotiating team at the Ministry of Economic Development and requested a statement of the likely position on this front. We will update this story as information is provided.

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