Copyright law holdup linked to US pressure

Last updated 11:54 19/07/2013

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The Government has put a review of copyright laws on hold as it tries to sew up the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal.

Controversial legislation was passed in 2008 to update the law to keep pace with digital technology - and a review within five years was promised.

However, documents show the Government has agreed to delay the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment study until the conclusion of secret TPP negotiations.

In an undated Cabinet paper, published this week by the ministry, Commerce Minister Craig Foss notes there is "significant public demand" for a review.

However, he says it would be "impractical" to go ahead before the TPP deal is concluded "and the outcome made public".

Mr Foss said there were several reasons - but they had all been redacted from the document. "Delaying the review may cause concern from some stakeholders, and it is also possible that there will be suggestions that the delay is a result of pressure from US rights owners and TPP negotiators," Mr Foss wrote. He insisted the Government still intended to carry out the review.

The document also says there will be no publicity about the delay and officials will notify individuals "informally" only if they ask about the review.

Mr Foss is on holiday and unavailable for comment.

Opponents of the TPP claim the US, under influence from Hollywood, is attempting to rewrite international intellectual property (IP) and impose restrictive controls.

It is claimed the US had made several demands on other Pacific Rim countries negotiating the pact.

Leaked documents have shown it wants substantial changes to New Zealand copyright laws. This includes extending the length of copyright by 20 years and a ban on parallel imports, which would drive up the cost of CDs, DVDs and books.

The terms of the deal could also make it illegal to use Technological Protection Measure software to watch DVDs from other regions or unlocking smartphones.

Green Party MP Gareth Hughes expressed concern at the delay. "It runs the risk that what New Zealanders want, in terms of the copyright review, isn't consistent with what the US Government and Hollywood wants. The Government is shutting down Kiwis' views."

Among the 12 nations currently negotiating the TPP are the US, New Zealand, Australia, Brunei, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, Chile, Singapore and Japan.

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