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Leaked US cables show lobbying on Copyright Bill

2009 US Embassy cable reveals offer to help re-draft section 92A

Cables released by Wikileaks over the weekend purport to show the US Embassy offered to get help from the US to redraft New Zealand's copyright legislation following the withdrawal of the controversial Section 92A -- concerning procedures to police and punish illegal downloading of copyright works. Government withdrew the section for redrafting in the face of public protest.

"US agencies have the benefit of 10 years' worth of experience in enforcing the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act that may serve useful to New Zealand officials in their effort to implement section 92A," says the cable, dated April 3, 2009. One of the chief fears expressed by protestors against s92A was that New Zealand law was too closely following the hard-line DMCA, which had already seen at least one US citizen levied with a $1.5m fine for illegally downloading 24 songs.

The diplomats also offered the services of US industry sources to help "dispel public misperceptions about [the] proper role of [intellectual property] protection. "Embassy will continue to stress with [NZ government] officials the need for a shorter rather than protracted timeline," says the cable.

An earlier cable, from 2005, expresses US willingness to contribute to the NZ$533,000 (US$386,000) cost of funding a year's operation of a recording industry enforcement initiative, set up as a joint venture between the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ) and the Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (AMCOS). It is not clear whether they are offering to fund the whole cost.

"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," says the cable. "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."

No-one at RIANZ was available this morning to answer questions on whether any part of the promised funding was taken up

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