Trans Pacific Partnership to impact Kiwi books

Gareth with some books currently set to enter the public domain but could be affected by the TPP.

New Zealand’s readers and copyright laws could be the losers from US pressure on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

According to a leaked draft of the proposed intellectual property chapter, the TPP would require countries (such as Canada, Japan and New Zealand) that meet the international copyright term (standard of life of the author plus 50 years) to add an additional 20 years to the term of protection.

It’s just one of numerous facets of the TPP Kiwis should be concerned about.

The extension in the term of copyright would mean no new works would enter the public domain in New Zealand till the 2030s including books by James K. Baxter, Dame Ngaio Marsh, the novel Came a Hot Friday and what’s considered New Zealand’s first gay novel.

Extending the term of copyright would mean Kiwi readers miss out on freely accessing, adapting and quoting at length Kiwi classics until the 2030s not benefiting the authors (who would have died some seventy years prior) but benefitting mostly big media businesses. Given the potential to make those works more readily accessible through new tools like e-readers and digital publishing this would have a negative impact on access to New Zealand culture and history.

Michael Geist points out the extension would also impact a huge number of international authors including Robert Frost, Aldous Huxley, CS Lewis, TS Eliot, John Steinbeck, JRR Tolkein, and Ayn Rand.

New Zealand authors which should enter the public domain after 2013, and which would have an additional 20 years added on under the leaked draft of the TPP include:

  • The works of James Courage (d. 1963), including his novels The Young Have Secrets (1954) and A Way of Love (1959) which is considered New Zealand’s first gay novel. These will currently enter the public domain in 2013. Under the leaked draft, would not enter the public domain until 2033.
  • The works of Nelle Scanlan (d. 1968), most well-known for the Pencarrow tetralogy: Pencarrow (1932), Tides of Youth (1933), Winds of Heaven (1934), and Kelly Pencarrow (1939). These will currently enter the public domain in 2018. Under the leaked draft, would not enter the public domain until 2038.
  • We Will Not Cease (1939), by Archibald Baxter (d. 1970). Will currently enter the public domain in 2020. Under the leaked draft, would not enter the public domain until 2040.
  • The works of James K. Baxter (d. 1972), including his first poetry collection Beyond the Palisade (1944) and his plays including Jack Winters Dream and The Band Rotunda. (A complete list of works can be located here: ). These will currently enter the public domain in 2022. Under the leaked draft, would not enter the public domain until 2042.
  • The works of Ronald Hugh Morrieson (d. 1972). Two of his novels, The Scarecrow (1963) and Came a Hot Friday (1964) were later made into movies. These will currently enter the public domain in 2022. Under the leaked draft, would not enter the public domain until 2042.
  • Falter Tom and the Water Boy (1957) by Maurice Duggan (d. 1974). This book won the Esther Glen Medal for best children’s book of the year. (A complete list of works by Duggan can be located here: ). Will currently enter the public domain in 2024. Under the leaked draft, would not enter the public domain until 2044.
  • The works of Alfred Hamish Reed (d. 1975), who was the author of approximately 44 books, including The Story of New Zealand (1945), The Gumdigger: the story of Kauri Gum (1948), and From North Cape to Bluff (1961). These will currently enter the public domain in 2025. Under the leaked draft, would not enter the public domain until 2045.
  • The works of Alexander Wyclif Reed (d. 1979), who was the author of more than 200 books, including Myths and Legends of Maoriland (1946), which won the Esther Glen Medal for best children’s book of the year, Reeds’ Concise Māori Dictionary (1948), A Dictionary of Māori Place Names (1961), and A Treasury of Māori Folklore (1963). These will currently enter the public domain in 2029. Under the leaked draft, would not enter the public domain until 2049.
  • The works of Denis Glover (d. 1980), who is most well known for his poem ‘The Magpies’. These will currently enter the public domain in 2030. Under the leaked draft, would not enter the public domain until 2050.
  • The works of Dame Ngaio Marsh (d. 1982), the author of numerous books, monographs and short fiction, but who is most well-known for her 32 detective novels, including A Man Lay Dead (1934), Surfeit of Lampreys (1941), and Clutch of Constables (1968). These will currently enter the public domain in 2032. Under the leaked draft, would not enter the public domain until 2052.

21 thoughts on “Trans Pacific Partnership to impact Kiwi books

  1. All German patents were put into the public domain during World War 2. No one took them up.

    I can assure you that during my many decades in the technology development and venture capital business patents are vital for most entrepreneurs. The exceptions are software developers and small computer hardware – the product lifecycle is too short. They are out of date before your patent is granted.
    The Auckland Cancer Society had a policy of not patenting new drugs. It didn’t matter until they developed meta amsa. They asked me to help them license it. But the absence of patents made it damned difficult because who would risk the 20,000,000 to register the drug only to see a competitor free ride into the market.
    I managed to negotiate a license based on Fellowships and first rights to future compounds – which we patented as the time became right.
    The downside of the thalidomide scandal was the registration costs have soared out of site. Many vaccines against tropical diseases die in the lab because no one can recoup the costs of registration from the limited market.
    So if you don’t want to depend on patents and copyright stick with the software industry in the high turnover sectors.

  2. @jc2 I’d say you’re wasting your time. Copyrights and patents originated purely as anti-competitive monopolies. The purpose of copyrights was never about encouraging content creators, but about stifling competition against the businesses of content publishers/distributors. Ordinary people have never been able to afford the legal expenses to either enforce copyrights, or defend against copyright claims, so the idea that they were ever about helping the “struggling artist” is just bollocks.

    The only reasonable thing to do with either of them is scrap them completely.

  3. I have a vague idea that the US copyright in books was once 14 years plus, if you proved that you were still alive and findable, one 14 year extension. How does that seem to people?

  4. If anything, copyright terms should be drastically reduced to somewhere between 10 – 20 years. Nobody else gets to benefit from their work after their death. Our culture is being locked away and the commons is being denuded. It’s time to move in the other direction.

    Quite aside from the above I don’t see any benefit for NZ in the TPPA (of course only based on rumour since we have no way of properly examining what is being negotiated and under what terms) other than being able to flog some milk powder in the USA. NZ civil society should be in revolt.

  5. YOu read your history and I’ll read mine. I generally favour the middle ground.
    Because there was no copyright in Shakespeare’s he never really published tidy complete issues of this plays.
    We are stuck with the messy folios etc which he kept close to his chest to try and prevent copying.
    Queen Anne passed the first English copyright law in 1709. There has been plenty of time to un-write it. When I look around my walls its difficult to argue that authorship has been inhibited since then.
    Edison’s foolish attempts to hamstrung the motion picture industry meant that another team invented Hollywood. Now that was a major and long lasting invention and possible the fact that it was borne of invention meant that the venture capital industry flourished there (the movies were funded using special partnerships a major invention in their own right. In NEw Zealand Strada took advantage of our Special Partnership legislation to become the World’s largest financier of Musicals. I still get royalties for my investment in Les Miserables (the Musical).

  6. The whole sorry story of copyrights and patents covers a whole lot more than just one or two isolated examples. It wasn’t just Watt who abused his patent, the Wright Brothers did, too. And don’t forget how Edison forced the movie industry to move to Hollywood, just to escape his patent enforcers. Copyright originated as a publishing monopoly, nothing to do with the rights of artists/musicians/writers at all. There was no “copyright protection” in Shakespeare’s day, yet he was successful enough to die a wealthy man.

    If you want to learn about the economic impacts of copyrights and patents, and how they prop up incumbents and act as a brake on competition and innovation, start by reading Boldrin & Levine, Against Intellectual Monopoly. It’s well-researched, carefully argued, and full of references that you can follow up, to check for yourself whether they’re full of hot air or actually making sense.

  7. Sam, there is a consistent pattern. When nations are emerging they tend not to join the convention to avoid paying for licenses.
    However, there comes a time when they start to generate their own intellectual property and want to earn their own royalties and then they join the convention.
    My answer to Lawrence above has disappeared again.
    But I shall another crack at the benefits of the QE1 letters patent system and hope this one survives.
    First, the technology being brought to England by the guilds was quite low level – leather making, sword making, cannon building etc and very importantly weaving and the whole silk industry.
    The English/British crafts people were quick to pick up on these technologies. But probably the main benefit was the whole package introduced the idea of innovation and change and information exchange could be the norm rather than the tradition of stasis and secrecy encouraged by the Guild System.
    But his tradition go a big boost from the ending of the Warm Period, and the impact of the little Ice Age and especially the devastation caused by the Black Death. The Black Death wiped out 40% of the European Population and created a serious labour shortage. It also caused huge numbers to lose faith in the Christian Establishment and encouraged the Renaissance (of Graeco-Roman science and maths etc) which in turn encouraged the Enlightenment al of which culminated in the Industrial Revolution and Democracy etc.
    Trying to explain all of this by the expiry of Watt”s steam engine patent seems perverse to say the least.
    Belich’s wonderful book “The Replenishment of the Earth” adds some new dimensions to the story too.
    Trying to write 1200 years of history in a few lines is a bit daunting.

  8. Patents played a major role in the early industrial development of the United States – by completely ignoring European patents and stealing their inventions, the US surged ahead economically while European manufacturers were held back by an inability to access their competitors’ technology.

  9. @Owen McShane: So what you’re saying is that the whole edifice of copyright law arose from a simple workplace dispute that could have been settled by sacking anybody who didn’t abide by the set policy?

    That’s a pretty pathetic excuse for such an overreaching set of restrictions, don’t you think?

  10. A copyright holder can always release the copyrighted work into the public domain, so these extensions may not apply to all the works listed.


  11. Why am I being censored. I have answered Lawrence three times on topic and without abuse and the posts disappear.
    I am logged in so what is the problem?

    I don’t know for sure… but we really do not do a lot of censoring.

    We’ve had problems before, last seen about a year ago and tracked to a version of Firefox. I changed to Opera for a while and it went away. Now I use Chrome. Safer browser architecture… but…

    I hope we are not entering another browser vs blogware battle. 🙁

    …may or may not be the issue. Frog has to check the spam buffer.

    You aren’t supposed to be having trouble Owen… nobody here is supposed to be having trouble except the floggers of chemical stiffeners.

    [frog: I don’t know either. No comments from Owen are in today’s moderation queue or the spam or trash boxes. A mystery, but I am not censoring or moderating his comments. Doubt this is a WordPress-browser compatibility issue though.]

  12. Frog

    Could you displace the Heartland-PhilU_vs_Owen stuff to the general thread?


    [frog: Done.]

  13. how about answering the heartland climatechange-denial funding question..mcshane..?

    ..over in the general debate thread..


  14. Why am I being censored. I have answered Lawrence three times on topic and without abuse and the posts disappear.
    I am logged in so what is the problem?
    I do not approve of extended copyright terms especially in this day and age but was just explaining the different intentions of early copyright and patent law. Actually it was one of the Kings or Emperors of Austria who first established copyright as we know it.
    The great composers of the day were writing complex music for chamber orchestras but the orchestras were not well rehearsed because the composer would take the music home after rehearsals so that the musicians did not copy it and on sell it. So Leopold the something(?) made copying of music an offence.
    Worked – the audiences heard well rehearsed music and the composers could make a better living.

  15. Have you reached out to your brethern and like-minded people in for instance Canada? We’re dealing with the same problem. Instead of having the big bully (USA) take us on, on a one-on-one basis, let’s band together and fight back collectively.

    As well, “the Copyright law is intended to prevent copying and to maximise earnings to the family and estate of the author”. Owen should be ashamed of himself. What do I care about the family and estate of an author, MORE THAN 50 YEARS AFTER HIS/HER DEATH?!!! Don’t you think that 50 years after grampie died, little joey and huey can get off their own lazy behinds and start making some money for themselves? And is that a reason to lock up all the less-popular to simply forgotten works behind the same Great Wall of Copyright as well? And finally, when a work becomes Public Domain, everyone is free to write sequels, prequels, re-imaginings, create music based on the work, etc. etc. Creating a 20-year “Black Hole” will not be conducive to the creation of this new material.

    What are you going to do when people start to massively vote for the Greens/European Freedom Alliance in Europe and their copyright term goes to 20 years after publication?

  16. @Owen McShane: if patents were so wonderful, why did the Industrial Revolution not begin in Elizabeth’s time? In fact, it didn’t even get properly going until about 1800, AFTER James Watt’s “atmospheric engine” patent expired, and the development of the modern steam engine could begin without legal impediments.

  17. The authors families will probably be happy.

    The difference in term is because the Copyright law is intended to prevent copying and to maximise earnings to the family and estate of the author. It assumes that the “work of art” is unique and will not be challenged by new technology or ideas.

    The main aim of patent law is to encourage innovation. Hence the monopoly right is granted in return for publishing a patent letter so that competitors can read your methods and be inspired to work around the methods. One of the great inventions of the Court of Elizabeth the First. Helped moved England from being an agricultural backwater to a leading industrial nation. The Europeans persisted with their guilds which kept their trade secrets secret.

  18. Hi Gareth, a good post, but a minor quibble. The 50 year period is calculated from the end of the calendar year in which the author dies. So, for example, the works of James Courage will not enter the public domain until 2014 under the current law.

  19. This has been bugging me for a while now: patent protection last about 20 years, yet copyright lasts decades beyond the author’s death. Why is there this massive disparity?

    I see Anonymous are calling for an even shorter term.

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