New Public Service Act flashes a warning to New Zealand writers

Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt has highlighted a major piece of legislation that fails to explicitly require public officials to consider their human rights responsibilities.

 

Commissioner Hunt says “The Public Service Act is a vital piece of law that will shape the public service for many years to come. I’m astonished that the new law doesn’t explicitly require public officials to honour their responsibilities to whom the public sector serves: all New Zealanders.”

The New Zealand Society of Authors Te Puni Kaituhi o Aotearoa (Pen NZ) Inc is alarmed that this legislation does not hold public servants and policy developers accountable to international human rights law.

“We have seen MBIE undermine authors intellectual property rights in the expansion of Copyright exceptions under the Marrakesh Treaty implemented in January 2020.  Authors intellectual property, moral and economic rights are all enshrined in Article 27 of the Human Rights Act, and it is of great concern to us that policy officials are being given a green light to further ignore protections in the middle of a Copyright Act Review,” says NZSA President Mandy Hager.

Google and other tech platforms may cite Human Rights legislation regarding equality of access, but they use this as a cynical ploy to gain more free content and transfer the value of creative work from writers and illustrators to the tech giants. NZSA agrees that access to information and knowledge is a core human right but insists that libraries exist to provide free access in a just and civilised society.

Hager says, “Greatly increased access under Marrakesh has been implemented with no process, no central register and no requirements for file security. Organisations are inventing their own policy. We have yet to see the policy objective of increased access.  But the Marrakesh expansion decimated authors rights under the Human Rights Act and NZSA maintains it contravenes both the Berne Agreement and TRIPPS.”

The Public Service Act passed its third reading before Parliament last week. NZSA is concerned this could greenlight further inroads into authors intellectual property rights during the ongoing review of The Copyright Act.

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