Thursday, November 14, 2013

The TPP leak

Last night, Wikileaks leaked the draft text (including negotiating positions) of the intellectual property chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. As expected, its a Hollywood wish-list, proposed by the US with various levels of opposition from all other parties. Unexpectedly, though, it shows the New Zealand negotiators standing up for New Zealand interests, rather than selling us out to the copyright mafia:

The leaked chapter, marked "TPP Confidential", was produced and circulated to chief negotiators at the end of negotiations in Brunei in August. Insiders say there has been little progress in two meetings since then.

The 95-page draft includes some of the agreement's most contentious issues, such as copyright, patent and pharmaceutical rules.

It contains more than 250 references to New Zealand supporting or opposing particular clauses. In about 60 cases, New Zealand supports the US position. But in most cases the US and New Zealand are opposed to each other's proposals, usually with several other countries agreeing with New Zealand.


A large section reveals the battle between the US pharmaceutical lobby and countries such as New Zealand that want to continue to buy cheaper generic medicines. The US negotiators have inserted several pages of measures to help maintain and extend the dominant position of big pharmaceutical companies. Only the US supported these proposals while Australia, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei opposed them in full.


Other areas of dispute are provisions that would require internet service providers to enforce copyright of behalf of foreign corporations, including closing down their customers' accounts; overseas royalty payments on all books, music and movies for 20 years longer than at present; restricting cheaper parallel importing; imposing penalties for breaking "digital locks" such as regional zones on lawful DVDs; allowing plants and animals to be patented; and allowing "diagnostic, therapeutic and surgical methods for the treatment of humans or animals" to be patented.

Its not all good news, though. Despite that opposition, we're assessed as one of the US's biggest allies in this section. And it might be interesting to look at where we remain silent on maximalist US demands. One example is "technological protection measures" (basicly: DVD zoning and bullshit digital-rights-management on everything), where the US demands that zone-free DVD-players (you know, the ones everyone in NZ has, so we can play our parallel-imported media) and ways of cracking DRM (so you can listen to the music you have bought on all of your devices, and preserve it for posterity) be made illegal. Our government does not object to this. But the overall impression is that our government is sticking up for us. Which invites the question: why are they so afraid of transparency then?

This deal has been negotiated in secrecy. That secrecy must end. The only thing it enables is our governments to betray us. As a believer in democracy, I believe in "open covenants, openly arrived at" (to quote Woodrow Wilson), so we can all see whether our government is vigorously representing our interests, and hold them to account if they are not.