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Free trade critic warns of ’secondary liability’

BusinessDay | 17/01/2011

Free trade critic warns of ’secondary liability’


Staunch Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement critic Jane Kelsey says a campaign by the powerful US entertainment industry to use the proposed free trade deal to make internet firms liable for illegal user downloads must not succeed.

The Auckland University law school professor says leaked US proposals for "secondary liability" for internet firms when users infringe copyright created controversy in New Zealand last year, and the Government needs to reassure Kiwis it will continue to oppose such provisions in the eight-nation TPP.

The US demanded on behalf of its entertainment industry that secondary liability be included in the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). After strong opposition, including from internet giant Google which said the call was unjust and unworkable, the US withdrew the demand. Secondary liability remains a matter for governments to decide, Kelsey says.

Having failed to get secondary liability into ACTA, she says the US is now pushing to revive it through the proposed free trade agreement being negotiated by New Zealand, Australia, Brunei, US, Chile, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam.

In April last year critics of ACTA presented the New Zealand Government with the Wellington Declaration, which carried more than 1000 signatures, Kelsey says.

The declaration stressed the importance of protecting and encouraging the role of intermediaries such as Internet service providers, web site hosts and search engines. It also condemned the secrecy of ACTA 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 TPP," Kelsey says.

The Government must also learn the lessons from ACTA’s secrecy and secure agreement from all parties during the upcoming round of TPP negotiations in Chile to release draft texts for public debate after each negotiating round, not once the decisions have been made.

 source: Business Day