Fair Deal international press briefing

This morning Fair Deal international had a press briefing. The coalition is announced its expanded international network amidst the TPP negotiations in Lima, Peru, and the expanded coalition consists of organisations from six of the twelve negotiating countries.

The briefing was MC’ed by TUANZ CEO Paul Brislen. Bronwyn Holloway-Smith spoke of how the TPP may affect New Zealand artists. Read on for a transcript of Bronwyn’s brief speech at the event.

Tēnā koutou katoa, hi everyone, I’m Bronwyn Holloway-Smith. I’m the Director of the Creative Freedom Foundation. We’re a not-for-profit organisation that advocates for New Zealand artists — and we’re particularly interested in copyright law changes. At present we have around 20,000 members.

As New Zealand artists, for us one of the big issues at stake in the Trans Pacific Partnership is the extension of the duration of copyright. As artists we acknowledge that a limited Copyright term is useful, but there is a point where excessive durations start to cause problems for artists.

Copyright is given to artists for a limited time so that we can exclusively control copies of our work, with the idea that this will enable us to make more work. It’s important to remember that copyright is a temporary monopoly – not a form of property. When copyright protection expires on a work it falls out of copyright – and into the public domain. At this point it becomes a public resource that artists can – and do – draw from in the creation of new works. This fact also has significant economic implications for artists.

Of course billion dollar empires have been built from the public domain. Walt Disney’s company remixed public domain stories like Snow White, Cinderella, and Beauty and the Beast. In New Zealand the lack of copyright on Shakespeare has allowed us to translate and perform The Merchant Of Venice in te reo Maori — keeping it relevant for kiwi audiences.

An extension of the copyright term will dramatically reduce the number of works we’re currently legally and freely able to sample: taking from us of what we’ve already been promised under the law.

If taking copyrighted works without permission is stealing from copyright holders, then surely if the Government agree to a copyright extension in the TPP they will be stealing up to 70 years worth of public domain works from us.

The US are trying to convince Minister Tim Groser that their excessive copyright terms won’t harm New Zealand artists — but they will. They will prevent New Zealand artists from doing exactly what Walt Disney did.

When copyright was invented it was only for fourteen years, but over the decades this has repeatedly increased and in most countries it now lasts for at least life plus 50 years. For literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works, New Zealand artists currently have their lifetime plus 50 years worth of protection for their works. This term could stretch to life plus 70 years. Sound recordings and films could more than double – up to one-hundred-and-twenty years.

While it’s important to uphold copyright duration for a period of time to give artists the opportunity to make profits from their work, as artists we acknowledge the benefits we’ve received from the shared community of the public domain.

Our government has spent a lot of time and taxpayer’s money on copyright enforcement. Once upon a time, Copyright enforcement was straightforward: regulating expensive and uncommon industrial manufacturing processes. Now it’s trying to regulate what people do in the privacy of their own homes, on internet connections. Because of this, copyright lawmakers, and negotiators, must focus on a new area: public relations. As artists we need to be careful that copyright isn’t turned into something that loses public respect for us and our work.

For copyright to be respected in the modern age it needs to earn it:

  • it needs reasonable copyright durations,
  • it needs to allow parody and satire protection for artists (like Australia and America do)
  • and for crying out loud… it’s the year 2013… New Zealand copyright law still says you aren’t allowed to circumvent TPMs to watch legally purchased DVDs on your iPad.

Bad copyright law will be bad for us and bad for our heritage: alienating our fans, creating public scepticism about a system that’s seen as unfair, and blocking our ability to build on other ideas and participate in global culture.

Infact, one of the reasons the Creative Freedom Foundation exists is to ensure that the extremist views represented in New Zealand by the likes of NZFACT and RIANZ aren’t the only artistic voices heard because heavy-handed views like that can and do negatively affect all artists. We urge the Minister Tim Groser not to harm artists and copyright itself by increasing its duration when it will benefit so few and harm so many.


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