Wikileaks said US offered to bankroll New Zealand piracy crackdown

Making your country's views known is a principal function of foreign embassies, but the US goes much further. According to cables released by WikiLeaks, the US embassy in New Zealand urged Uncle Sam to fork over about half a million New Zealand dollars back in 2005 to bankroll a private intellectual property enforcement unit run by major rightsholders in the region.
Operated on an informal basis by the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ) and the Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (AMCOS), the US identified the "unit" as the only potential bulwark against music piracy in the region.
"It is developing an intelligence framework to identify local producers of pirated works, distributors, criminal networks and recipients and to work with relevant government, law enforcement, customs and other authorities and stakeholders," the embassy's cable noted. "The unit aims to prevent piracy by sharing intelligence with other organizations and agencies, lobbying political parties and the judiciary on the harm to industry and supporting public awareness campaigns."
The outfit would also launch "enforcement operations" targeting makers and distributors of illegal material, and it would "train law enforcement and other agencies in the implementation of intellectual property legislation through identifying offenses and disrupting piracy activities."
The cable drew up a recommended budget of NZ$533,000 (US $386,158) for the operation, with over $200,000 going to salaries and the rest funding start-up and operating costs.
A proposed US budget for the New Zealand/South Pacific IP enforcement program.
Did any of this money get spent? If it had, it would have come from the US's Intellectual Property Rights Training Program, mentioned as the proper source in the cable. We did an IPR database search for RIANZ and AMCOS, but couldn't find either group listed, although a slew of other training programs popped up.

Repeated offers

But this isn't the only way that the US tried to wield influence on the region; it's also willing to help countries write their laws. A May 2009 cable indicates that the US pretty much offered carte blanche help to New Zealand as it was rethinking its "three strikes" illegal file sharing law. "Embassy in the meantime has repeated its offer of assistance to [Government of New Zealand] officials to offer consultations with [United States Government] copyright experts through a [Digital Video Conference]," the missive explained.
As we reported at the time, New Zealand's government eventually yanked the punitive Section 92A of the bill, denounced by content providers and ISPs as vague and impossible to implement. But the US seemed confident at the time that New Zealand would eventually come through with a new edition of the law.
Embassy officials also made clear their irritation with those who opposed industry-friendly copyright changes.
In the meantime, the IPR community has engaged the services of Price Waterhouse consultants to do a cost-benefit analysis on the potential losses to the NZ economy if the new S92A fails to be enacted. The IPR industry wants to be prepared to counter any false claims by opponents of the new provision who successfully managed to monopolize the local media's attention in the last round.
In the end, the US Trade Representative decided not to put New Zealand on its Special 301 Priority list—the watchdog list for countries of whose IP standards the US does not approve.
"While there is additional work to be done to strengthen the law and enhance enforcement," a March 2009 cable concluded, "Post recommends the better course of action is to continue engagement with the GNZ and monitor the progress of IP legislation rather than place New Zealand on this year's watch list."


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