Wikileaks on New Zealand Copyright: US Funds IP Enforcement, Offers to Draft Legislation

This week I published multiple posts Wikileaks cables revelations on the U.S. lobbying pressure on Canadian copyright including attempts to embarrass Canada, joint efforts with lobby groups such as CRIA, and secret information disclosures from PCO to U.S. embassy personnel (posts here, here, here, here, here, and here). Wikileaks has also just posted hundreds of cables from U.S. personnel in New Zealand that reveal much the same story including regular government lobbying, offers to draft New Zealand three-strikes and you’re out legislation, and a recommendation to spend over NZ$500,000 to fund a recording industry-backed IP enforcement initiative. Interestingly, the cables regularly recommend against including New Zealand on the Special 301 list, despite the similarities to Canadian copyright law that always garner vocal criticism.

As New Zealand was working through its own round of copyright reform in 2008, the U.S. was actively lobbying several cabinet members. A February 2008 cable notes:

Post has presented the list of noted shortfalls in the draft legislation to Minister Tizard (Consumer Affairs), Minister Goff (Trade) and to officials within the Ministry of Economic Development, the agency primarily responsible for drafting legislation and monitoring IP enforcement. Post remains engaged with Bronwyn Turley, Senior MED Policy Advisor for IP issues to maintain a dialogue to address the needed technical corrections.

The copyright bill passed in April 2008 and took effect later that year. In a March 2009 cable, the U.S. embassy recommended that New Zealand not be included on the Special 301 list arguing it would be counterproductive. That recommendation is striking when compared to the regular placement of Canada on the list, despite very similar laws. In fact, New Zealand’s digital lock rules are described in the cable as follows:

The provisions relating to technological protection measures (TPMs) remain largely unchanged in the bill. The Act as implemented reflects New Zealand’s concern that TPMs should not be  protected to the extent that they restrict acts which are seen as not protected by copyright law. The provisions of the Act have  therefore been drafted to ensure that access to a work for  non-infringing purposes, including the exercise of a permitted act, is retained.

This confirms that New Zealand’s copyright law allows for circumvention for non-infringing purposes – much like many groups have called for under Bill C-32 – with no objections from the U.S. under the Special 301 system.

An earlier cable similarly recommends not including New Zealand on the Special 301 list despite the fact that NZ had not ratified the WIPO Internet treaties (Canada has been placed on the highest list for the same thing). The cable is notable for the objection to a proposed format shifting provision, similar to that found in Bill C-32 and under U.S. fair use.  It argues:

these exceptions to copyright protection would send the wrong message to consumers and undermine efforts to curb unauthorized copying of CDs in New Zealand. They would cost the industry in  revenue and profits and discourage innovation.

In other words, fair use works in the U.S., but not for other countries.

The U.S. involvement in New Zealand’s ISP liability provisions, which included regulations for terminating subscriber access (three strikes) also comes out in the cables. In an April 2009 cable, the U.S. notes the decision to scrap the approach due to public opposition. The U.S. is anxious to bring the provisions back, proposing regular talks with government officials and offers to help drafting new provisions:

Throughout the final stages of the law’s (near) implementation, the Embassy continued to met with IPR stakeholders and GNZ officials to ascertain progress and encourage resolution.  To determine how a “workable” section 92A provision can be secured, Econoff met with Rory McLeod, Director at Ministry of Economic Development (MED) with responsibility for IPR within GNZ along with Paula Wilson, Deputy Director for Trade Negotiations at MFAT, and was given assurance that the government remains committed to redrafting Section 92A.

Embassy will continue to stress with GNZ officials the need for a shorter rather than protracted timeline for the redraft and will ascertain the details of a notice and comment period for public submissions once released by GNZ. During this hiatus we’ve proposed holding DVC(s) between NZ and U.S. interlocutors to possibly help with drafting and as a public diplomacy tool to dispel public misperceptions about proper role of IPR protection.

One month later, another cable notes the U.S. offer to assist with the redraft of three strikes.

Finally, an April 2005 cable reveals the U.S. willingness to pay over NZ$500,000 (US$386,000) to fund a recording industry enforcement initiative. The project was backed by the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ) and the Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (AMCOS).  Performance metrics include:

The project’s performance will be judged by specific milestones, including increases in the number of enforcement operations and seizures, with percentages or numerical targets re-set annually.  The unit also will be measured by the number of reports it submits to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) on its contributions to IP protection and enforcement methodology.

The proposed budget included four salaried positions, legal costs for investigation and prosecution, and training programs. The RIANZ still runs an anti-piracy site, but does not include disclosure about the source of funding.  It certainly raises the question of whether New Zealand is aware that local enforcement initiatives have been funded by the U.S. government and whether the same thing is occurring in Canada.


  1. Peter Ajamian says:

    Vice President – Pirate Party of New Zealand
    This is just confirmation of what we already knew. The US has been pushing countries all over the world to draft heavier copyright legislation. Our government recently passed the mentioned changes to S92A in an urgent session of parliament which was called for the purpose of funding the disaster recovery in Christchurch. So we now have the government sneaking underhanded legislation through the backdoor to avoid the public comment period which got the legislation delayed before.

    As this cable is three years old there is no mention of a newer atrocity, the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). This is basically supposed to be a “free trade” agreement but which is really an agreement whereby everyone other than the US agrees to adopt draconian copyright measures in return for some vague hope of getting better trade with the states sometime down the road. This is basically ACTA on steroids.

  2. What is the proposed action?
    So, what is the proposed reaction? I don’t think anyone is too surprised by now to discover that the corporate-directed US is actively trying to intervene in the governing affairs of other sovereign countries. What will be done about that? Are you proposing that all US relations be curtailed? Should a VAT be applied to all incoming US product as punishment?

    We’re well stocked with the details. It’s time to start coming up with solutions to battle corporate US influence.

  3. Mainstream Media
    I haven’t been pasted to my internet connection lately, but the (apparent) absence of coverage from Big Canadian Media on these leaks bothers me. Isn’t this the kind of information that should be known before an election? Having an elected leadership that is willing to be massaged by the circumstance stinks of radical anti-democratic extremism. Does a conscientious Canadian have to hijack the CBC/CTV comment threads to get Wikileaks information through the mass media?

  4. Apr 28
    Hmm, guess my coffee got the best of me this morning, CBC ran a story Apr 28.

  5. festering leper says:

    in this war money is a weapon. never let *them* have any.

  6. Selling out, Laying Down, Sucking up…to the Man.
    Yeh the NZ govt has no sovereignty. They lay down when asked. Warner Bros was able to change employment legislation over worker rights for those working on The Hobbit. The major party are both terrible.

  7. Boycotts
    “in this war money is a weapon. never let *them* have any.”

    I concur. I wouldn’t want to spend my money knowing that it will be going towards funding lawyers, lobbyists and other such cronies.

  8. Crockett says:

    1,2,3 …
    OK, first of all thank God – of which the Cons no longer seem to hold an exclusive contract 😉 that it looks like they will not be getting that majority … just imagine the unfettered kowtowing to American interests that would have occurred.

    Secondly, it is with an uneasy combination of satisfaction and revulsion that I feel towards the specifics released in this recent round of Wiki-leaks. We all pretty well knew what was going on but that does not make it stink any less.

    And finally, as Cott suggests, the revelation of this type of behavior along with the inept aggressively anti-consumer self-damaging stance of the **AA’s, will only encourage people to have less respect for media leading to less purchases and greater infringement. I’m not sure who is running the show at the top but artists everywhere should run, en mass, to their offices and toss them out on their well padded posteriors. Re-engage the public with great service, fair rules and superior products … and most importantly, drop the big man with the stick act.

  9. end user says:

    Well the USA has almost nothing left to offer the world. As they decline as an economic world power expect too see some scary strong arm tactics coming from the US in the next few years.

    What I’m really surprised at is how easily politicians in Canada are ready to screw the Canadian citizen to let US based companies/lobby groups have their way. These action offer nothing to Canada and everything to the US, which seems to be it borderlines treason.

    Revolution action is the only thing that will stop this, unfortunately the average Canadian will only learn of what is happening through protests BUT not enough people will stand up and protest.

  10. Jihadist
    Which politicians were these? Criminal conspiracy. Treason.

  11. end user says:

    Maybe we need a site that lists Canadian politicians who were influenced by foreign powers and corporations. A nice profile and a list of things they tired to screw the Candain public with.

  12. pat donovan says:

    c-6 monpolies (via admin law) almost all natual foods
    c-32 did it for copyright (With 24/7 data collection by csis)
    acta was the same treaty
    cern was the european version (another 2.8 billion in costs harmonizing patent/trademark copyright laws

    PLUS data sets are up for grabs here now.

    get a nice little gov’t monopoly, get rich. Our best hope is MOST of these clods won’t know amouse from a web-cam unless it was handing them money


  13. In a rush?
    I wholeheartedly agree that the New Zealand government took the opportunity to rush past this bill in the knowledge that the majority of the citizens attention was focused on the Christchurch earthquake or caught up in the devastation.

    Its a sign of weakness and hopefully this will reflect on the elections later on this year.

  14. Poor little Geist
    Mikey Geist seems upset. Poor little guy. Keep hating any effort to enforce copyright. Keep indulging your piracy-for-all fantasies. It’s not going to get you anywhere.

  15. Government
    When I was at school I was taught that the government was an organisation we were supposed to vote for to provide services such as schools and hospitals and also serve the the population that elects them. Copyright laws do nothing to serve the New Zealand public as whole, but are designed to keep the already extremely rich just that extremely rich. How can it be that these private companies are allowed to make laws that the general public have to abide by and will ultimately be enforced by our police force. The act of holding any meeting behind closed doors, away from the the eyes of the very people that these politicians are supposed to be represent is pure corruption!

  16. Richard M Stallman says:

    Intellectual Property
    This good article would be clearer if the term
    “IP” were replaced everywhere by “copyright”.

    “Intellectual property” lumps together copyright law with a dozen
    other laws which have nothing in common in practical terms.
    The issue at hand concerns copyright law only, so there is no
    reason to mention the others this way.

    The term “intellectual property” generally spreads confusion, and its
    bias supports the policies that the US tries to impose around the
    world. See for more

  17. Steve Withers says:

    The NZ National Party currently lead the governing coalition in New Zealand. They enjoy a very high level of support in all polls (about 50% or higher among decided voters). As long as they remain well ahead of their nearest rivals they will feel they can do whatever they want with respect to policy. So anyone who wants a better copyright regime must do what they can to dissuade anyone they know from saying they will vote for National if polled….and then don’t vote for them. The Labour party aren’t much better on this issue also having demonstrated a willingness to conform to US requirements. Only the Green Party has shown any inclination to chart an independent path. Under NZ’s proportional voting system strong support for the Greens will reap direct results in terms of seats in the legislature as the share of seats matches the share of the party vote nationally.

  18. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

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