What's in the Trans-Pacific Partnership? New Zealand Gives Us a Glimpse.

Good news on tariffs, bad news on copyrights


How helpful of the cartoonist to label everything for us.

The full text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) still isn't available, but the government of New Zealand has issued a factsheet that reveals a number of details. It looks like there's some good stuff in the agreement: The summary cites several tariffs, subsidies, and other trade barriers that will be reduced or eliminated. But when it comes to the culture industry, as many of us feared, the TPP will increase rather than decrease government controls.

Here is the relevant section of the bulletin:

TPP harmonises intellectual property rules across the 12 countries which has required compromise from all parties.

New Zealand currently has a 50-year copyright period. However, half the TPP countries, and almost all OECD countries, have a 70-year period for copyright works. TPP requires New Zealand to move to 70 years as well, but allows for a transition to do this over time.

This change could benefit New Zealand artists in some cases, but the benefits are likely to be modest. Extending the copyright period also means New Zealand consumers and businesses will forego savings they otherwise would have made from books, music and films coming off copyright earlier.

The net cost of extending New Zealand's copyright term from 50 to 70 years will be small to begin with and increases gradually over 20 years, reaching a relatively constant level after that. Over the very long term, including the initial 20-year period, the average annual cost is estimated to be around $55 million.

New Zealand will also provide greater rights to performers of copyright works such as musicians and actors.

Apart from these two changes, TPP does not affect what is or isn't subject to copyright. New Zealand will maintain its current copyright exceptions and will not be prohibited from adopting new ones in the future. In addition, New Zealand will not be prevented from undertaking a review of its copyright laws.

New Zealand has, however, agreed to extend its existing laws on technological protection measures (TPMs), which control access to digital content like music, TV programmes, films and software. Circumventing TPMs will be prohibited but exceptions will apply to ensure that people can still circumvent them where there is no copyright issue (for example, playing region-coded DVDs purchased from overseas) or where there is an existing copyright exception (for example, converting a book to braille).

New Zealand will not need to change its laws on parallel importing or require internet service providers to terminate accounts for internet copyright infringements. In addition, TPP will not affect current New Zealand law on software patents or require methods of medical treatment to be patentable.

So the U.S. is exporting its ludicrously long copyright terms and its restrictions on circumventing digital rights management. What exactly does that have to do with freeing trade?

To see the full factsheet—good, bad, and ugly—go here.