Listen to article

Border guards would be allowed to comb through passengers' personal computers, iPods and MP3 players, under the draft of an international trade agreement on copyright to be negotiated at an international conference in Wellington next week, Business Day reported on Thursday.

Draft text leaked onto the internet was reported by the Montreal Gazette, after the leaked text came from French officials unhappy with techniques being employed to keep the contents secret.

While bits and pieces of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), have been leaked previously, this was first full draft available to the public, the newspaper said.

The draft agreement – to be negotiated over five days – would also place more responsibility on internet service providers to become content police who prevented users from sharing pirated content.

Punishment proposed for repeat offenders included a ban from the using the internet for up to 12 months.

The agreement, negotiated privately over the better part of two years, aimed to create a global organisation to oversee worldwide copyright and intellectual property issues, which are now the responsibility of the World Trade Organisation, the World Intellectual Property Organisation and the United Nations.

Agreeing to the treaty in this form would require New Zealand to meet legal requirements reported to mimic laws already in place in the United States, where President Barack Obama said it was necessary to protect businesses and technologies.

Agendas, reports and summaries for each of the seven previous ACTA rounds had been published on the Ministry of Economic Development website, but Commerce Minister Simon Power said last month participants had agreed the actual text under debate 'should be kept in confidence between the participants'.

New Zealand negotiators hoped the agreement will set a 'best practice' benchmark for physical and digital counterfeiting enforcement.