NZers 'will be consulted' on copyright, free trade laws

Government wants market integration with US but not at any cost, minister says

The Government is making optimistic noises about a potential conflict between New Zealand's emerging copyright law and any negotiation of a free trade agreement with the US.

Associate commerce minister Judith Tizard says a prospective free trade agreement (FTA) with the US “certainly” has the potential to affect decisions on copyright law, “but not until we sign a free trade agreement.”

As negotiations progress, she says, the government will obviously be looking out for New Zealand’s interests. “We have a reasonable understanding of what [the US government] will be pushing for, of course, from the Australian agreement,” she says.

Government policy, as expressed in the second of its strategic priorities, improving international communications, says the Ministry of Economic Development will "therefore be working with other agencies to coordinate NZ’s regulatory [environment] with those of our major trading partners."

"Basically what we’re saying is that we want to have as much market integration as possible," says Tizard. "But we should only look at moving towards the same rules and regulations where it’s in New Zealand’s interest. …" The government is obviously keeping an eye on what the country's trading partners are doing, she says.

"We’re extremely interested in. making sure that we are [progressive] on copyright law," she says. "We probably don’t want to move too far ahead of anyone but if there are issues that are in NZ’s interest we will fight hard to make sure we maintain those. We’ve made a commitment to go back to users and owners, so any legislation will be widely debated.”

Meanwhile, though, more bugs are crawling out of the woodwork in Australia.

Brian Prentice, a Sydney-based analyst with Meta Group, says the Australia–US agreement “does not bode well for a more favourable Australian [computer] application pricing regime.

"Harmonisation of rules against circumventing intellectual property rights protection means that the current right to use legally obtained region-coded products from other countries (provided the device used to access the product is not circumvented) will become prohibited. Therefore, the door is now open for DVD-style region coding to be used by business application vendors, he says.

“Although we support country-specific pricing, we do so with the contingency that it be applied with due consideration of local affordability factors and the relative strength or weakness of the currency," says Prentice. "Unfortunately, pricing in this manner is seldom done by US-based application companies, which favour global reference or uplift pricing models."

Egregious examples, such as Siebel onDemand's 20% Australian price premium," he says, "might now be supported by mechanisms that make it impossible for customers to reduce costs by sourcing their products directly from the US.”

In summary, he says the FTA is "an environmental risk factor, and Australian IT organisations should immediately be seeking guarantees of licence policy consistency from vendors while the topic is sensitive. Multinational organisations should be combining continued US dollar price benchmarking of their application suppliers with a synchronised global application purchasing strategy.”

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