New Zealand Music Industry Urges Changes to TPP Copyright Elements

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Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and the New Zealand music industry. All three now have something in common, and no it isn’t a deep love of Lorde: the three are not happy with the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, or TPP. For the two U.S. presidential candidates the reasons for opposing the proposed deal are political, but for Recorded Music, which reps artists and labels in NZ, the issue is copyrights -- and specifically, how and when to extend them.

Meeting before a parliamentary committee this week, Recorded Music chief executive Damian Vaughan said his advocacy group supports an article in the TPP deal that standardizes the terms of protection of a work to the life of an author plus 70 years. (New Zealand is one of several participating nations that currently has a term of 50 years after death.) However, Vaughan thinks a proposed phase-in period for nations upgrading to 70 years is unnecessary and a costly burden for rights holders.

"It's not making copyright simple or easy to understand to the music user or the public whatsoever," he said, according to RadioNZ. "It is making the process significantly more complicated, and it's the rights organizations and the copyright holders who will be forced to administer this… We note the cost we incur will be far higher than any perceived cost savings."

Twelve nations negotiated the TPP; each have existing copyright terms that last for the life of the author plus an additional 50 or 70 years. They include the U.S. (50 years), Japan (50), Australia (70), Peru (70), Malaysia (50), Vietnam (50), New Zealand (50), Chile (70), Singapore (70), Canada (50), Mexico (100/75 before July 2003), and Brunei (50).

Digital watchdog Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has called the copyright extension provision from 50 to 70 years a "trap" that only benefits a small and successful minority of authors. "The additional 20 years of copyright protection amounts to a misappropriation from the public domain," the group adds. "It inhibits the creation of new works that build upon the past and exacerbates the orphan works problem. Even the U.S. Copyright Office has indicated that the copyright term may be too long, and proposed options for mitigating its deleterious effects."

In addition to the chapter on intellectual property, the 12-country deal contains agreements covering financial services, telecom and the environment, among other topics (read it here). In a few short months, it has gone from looking like a sure thing for President Obama and House Speaker Paul Ryan to being in peril. Obama continues to be one of its strongest supporters and hopes to pass the deal during the lame-duck session following election day, but if that doesn’t work, it will fall to the next congress and POTUS -- and both major party candidates oppose the deal.

That level of uncertainty on whether the TPP will even be ratified in the U.S. has some New Zealanders wondering why its government is pushing the legislation through parliament, which is expected to pass it by year's end. "It seems rather foolhardy to be rushing through with this analysis at a time when the TPPA is in big trouble in the United States." said former Research in Motion CEO Barry Coates.


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