Greens Senator Scott Ludlam has slammed the federal government for continuing to pursue the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is currently undergoing negotiation.
The TPP is an agreement between Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam which aims to open up trade between member countries. The secrecy of TPP negotiations has widely been widely criticised.
Ludlam stated the Federal Government is “hell-bent” on locking Australia into a dead-end copyright treaty.
"The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, if the USA gets its way, will cause huge problems for Australians, but our Federal Government is backing Washington to the hilt,” he said in a statement.
"Not content with supporting the ill-fated Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement [ACTA], which would endanger the legal status of generic medicines and was overwhelmingly rejected by the European Parliament, the trade minister is now pushing for an Agreement that offers no protection for copyright exceptions enshrined in Australian law.
"ACTA was an absolute dud, and the Government wanted to jump on board before the Australian Law Reform Commission's inquiry had even warmed up.”
While the TPP text has been kept secret, a leaked text reveals information on Australia and the US, including both parties “shall confine limitations or exceptions to exclusive rights to certain special cases that do not conflict with a normal exploitation of the work, performance, or phonogram, and do not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the right holder.”
Ludlam has signalled Australian copyright laws and civil liberty are at risk, stating Australia and the US are involved with wanting to defeat a proposed clause protecting domestic intellectual property laws.
"New Zealand, with the support of Chile, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam, proposed this clause to permit a signatory to ‘carry forward and appropriately extend into the digital environment limitations and exceptions in its domestic laws'. Only the United States and our own government oppose this perfectly reasonable provision. Why is the Government promoting the erosion of our independence in this way?” he said.
Australian National University College of Law associate professor, Matthew Rimmer, said the leaked text shows a classic case of “bait-and-switch”.
"The two countries have been pursuing an intellectual property maximalist agenda in the negotiations,” he told Computerworld Australia. "The United States and Australia have even opposed text from New Zealand and others, emphasising that copyright exceptions should be carried forward into the digital environment. This is disturbing."
An Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) inquiry currently looking at existing exceptions and statutory licences in the Copyright Act.
ACTA is also being negotiated around the world, with Australia signed on as a negotiating country. However, a Joint Standing Committee on Treaties recently stated the government needs to assess economic and social factors in a transparent and independent manner before the agreement is ratified by Australia.
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