“A campaign by the US entertainment industry to use the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) to make Internet firms liable for illegal downloads by their users needs to be headed off at the pass”, said Professor Jane Kelsey, a strong critic of the proposed free trade deal.
Proposals for “secondary liability” for Internet firms when users infringe copyright created a huge furore in New Zealand last year.
The US had demanded secondary liability was included in the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), on behalf of its immensely powerful entertainment industry and despite opposite from the likes of Google who deemed it unjust and unworkable.
Under intense international pressure the US withdrew its demand and secondary liability remains a matter for national governments to decide, Jane Kelsey said.
“Having failed in ACTA, the US industry is pushing to revive secondary liability through the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). According to Inside US Trade on 14 January 2011 that has sparked a major conflict between the US entertainment industry and the Internet firms.”
“That controversy will reignite the hugely successful international campaign against secondary liability that followed the leak of the ACTA text.”
In April 2010 the New Zealand critics of ACTA presented the government with the Wellington Declaration with over 1,000 signatures. The Declaration stressed the importance of protecting and encouraging the role of intermediaries, such as ISPs, web site hosts, and search engines, including by safe harbours from unsanctioned copyright violations by users.
“The Declaration also condemned the secrecy of the ACTA negotiations. Noting that public scrutiny and accountability were crucial in a free society and essential to ensure there were no unintended consequences, it called for “full transparency and public scrutiny of the ACTA process including release of the text after each round of negotiations”.
“The government needs to reassure New Zealanders that it remains true to the position it took last year and opposes any such provisions in a TPPA”, said Professor Kelsey.
“It must also learn the lessons from ACTA’s secrecy and secure agreement from all the parties during the Chile negotiations to release draft texts for public debate after each negotiating round, and not simply once the decisions have been made”.