Thursday, October 21, 2021

Labour's sneaky copyright deal

The big news this morning is that the government has reached an in-principle FTA with the UK, with the usual benefits for farmers (and therefore incentives to increase emissions). The wisdom of making an agreement with a government which literally admitted last week that it makes agreements in bad faith with no intention to stick to them is highly questionable. But there's another reason to oppose this: Because Labour has sneakily screwed the rest of us:

New Zealand has also agreed to bolster its copyright laws. Performer and artists' rights will be expanded, and a further 20 years added to copyright terms. This means, for instance, an artist can expect to retain copyright of their work for 70 years after their death, instead of the current 50 years.
What this means in practice: major works expected to come out of copyright in the next decade, like Tolkien, Wodehouse, and Christie (to name a few high-profile foreign examples) or James K Baxter and Bruce Mason (the obvious local ones) won't. This not only robs us of the wider use of those works, but also of the opportunity to build on them (which is part of what culture is: building on what has gone before). That's a real cultural cost, effectively a theft from our society. In terms of financial costs, the government looked at the question of an extended copyright term when the US was trying to foist it on us as part of the TPPA and found it would come at significant cost:
However, New Zealand is a significant net importer of copyright works so extending the copyright term is likely to come at a significant net cost. Any missed royalties to New Zealand copyright holders as a result of the phase-in are likely to be dwarfed by the savings to New Zealand consumers and second-generation creators as a result of lower royalty payments to overseas copyright holders.
The costs were so bad that when MBIE started reviewing copyright a few years later - a process which is still supposed to be ongoing - it took extending the term off the table from the outset as "we do not consider that extending the copyright term would bring net benefits to New Zealand" and said that it "would need to become aware of compelling evidence to the contrary to have us reconsider this position". I guess the new "compelling evidence" was that "Boris asked for it".

We should never agree to any trade deal which extends copyright terms, or otherwise introduces US copyright bullshit. And if that's the cost of an agreement with the (double-dealing, dishonest UK), we should tell them to fuck off.