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Free Trade Agreements are meant to open up access to the global marketplace. Trade without barriers can be a good thing. For example, Trade Minister Tim Groser says that New Zealand’s FTA agreement with China has resulted in our exports there increasing by more than a third, from $8.5 billion to $11.1 billion. Not bad.
But FTAs are never really that free, with a bunch of concessions often coughed up before an agreement is signed. With the introduction of laws like the Copyright Term Extension Act, the US, which earns huge income from exporting IP, is a particularly bolshy player when it comes to raising the bar on international IP and copyright standards.
But what’s good for the US isn’t necessarily good for the rest of the world. The issue has come into the spotlight as of late as the US seeks to enter the existing Free Trade Agreement between New Zealand, Chile, Singapore and Brunei, called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), formerly the Trans- Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement. Negotiations are secret but in February, a draft of the US’s proposed IP chapter of the TPP agreement was leaked by Knowledge Ecology International.
Jane Kelsey, a law professor at the University of Auckland, said the material contained in the leak “confirms the extreme nature of US demands”. Among its proposals are:
• Extending the copyright terms of published work from 50 years after an author dies to 70 years.
• Measures similar to the US’s controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
• Making software processes patentable.
• Criminal sanctions for copyright infringement carried out with no commercial motivation, based on the US’s 1997 No Electronic Theft Act.
• The three-strikes internet laws .
As Idealog goes to print, the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill, designed to prevent illegal file sharing by internet users, passed its second reading 111 to 11. The bill allows a copyright owner to seek disconnection of a user after a third copyright infringement.