Gareth Hughes

Kiwi music loses if New Zealand gives up copyright sovereignty

by Gareth Hughes

With the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement negotiations having just occurred in Melbourne I’m urging the Government not to surrender New Zealand’s sovereignty on copyright so we can keep enjoying Kiwi Music in the public domain.

Under a leaked draft of the TPPA, copyright length is to be extended from 50 to ‘…not less than 95 years from the end of the calendar year of the first authorized publication of the work, performance, or phonogram,’ meaning music and recordings set to enter the public domain in New Zealand will take decades longer.

An iconic song that would be impacted by the copyright extension is the Fourmyula’s “Nature” which was voted the best New Zealand song ever written. Produced in 1969 this song should enter the public domain in 2020 to be remixed, re-played, and re-imagined however under proposed TPPA rules Kiwis would have to wait to 2065. Likewise Ray Columbus’s “She’s a Mod,” released in June 1964 wouldn’t enter the public domain till 2059.

The extension in the term of copyright would mean no new works would enter the public domain in New Zealand until at least the late 2050s negatively impacting access to New Zealand culture and history. In particular ‘orphan works’ that aren’t available commercially would just not be accessible.

Kiwi listeners and artists will miss out on freely accessing Kiwi classics until the 2060s not benefiting the musicians who would have likely died decade’s prior, but benefitting mostly very profitable businesses who own the copyright. Copyright is about finding a balance and I welcome a discussion – should it be 40, 50, 60 years etc. but I think 95 years is extreme. In the UK, the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property concluded: the copyright term of recorded music should not be extended from the current 50 years after the date of recording to 95 years.

Extending the term of copyright would mean many GOLDEN DISC AWARD winners including Maria Dallas – “Tumbling Down,” Lee Grant – “Thanks To You,” Allison Durbin – “I Have Loved Me A Man,” Shane – “Saint Paul,” Craig Scott – “Lets Get A Little Sentimental,” and Hogsnort Rupert – “Pretty Girl,” wouldn’t enter the public domain over the next ten years.

Also impacted is “Blue Smoke”, composed by Rangi Ruru Wananga Karaitiana (d. 1970). “Blue Smoke” was the first record wholly produced in New Zealand from composition to pressing, and should enter the public domain in 2020 but wouldn’t till 2065. The songs of Peter Cape (d. 1979), which include  “Taumarunui On The Main Trunk Line”, “The Okaihau Express” and “She’ll Be Right Mate” which should enter the public domain in the 2030s but won’t until the 2070s.

The TPPA wouldn’t just affect our music but also our literary works. I’ve researched a list of New Zealand Books that would also be impacted by copyright extension that includes books by James K. Baxter, Dame Ngaio Marsh, the novel Came a Hot Friday and what’s considered New Zealand’s first gay novel.

The most worrying aspect of the TPPA is the secretive process. The Government needs to be up-front and transparent with the people of New Zealand. What does the New Zealand Government think about the U.S’s intellectual property proposals, will they give up Pharmac or the ability to control things like tobacco to get the trade deal through? What do you think, should we surrender our copyright term sovereignty?

Published in Economy, Work, & Welfare | Featured by Gareth Hughes on Mon, March 12th, 2012   

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