Disney has reportedly used a stakeholders meeting for the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement to call for extended copyright terms.
The announcement was made at the 16th round of talks about the TPP in Singapore, which will last until March 13.
“It’s really shocking and alarming that Disney has been pushing for the TPP to help provide longer protection for Disney’s wide range of media portfolios covering everything from classic animation to much more modern franchises like Star Wars,” Matthew Rimmer, Australian National University College of Law associate professor told Computerworld Australia.
“That is highly controversial because many countries don’t follow the US in relation to its position on the copyright term, but Disney apparently has argued that it is an international norm.”
Copyright in the digital age: Australia, ACTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement
TPP talks have been shrouded in secrecy and scant detail is known about the agreement, with only a draft copy of the some of the text leaked to the public.
What is known is that Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam are involved, with negotiation talks about the agreement beginning in 2007.
Japan is also reportedly pegged to join the negotiation table soon.
The aim of the agreement is to open up trade between member countries.
However, critics have described the TPP as ‘ACTA on steroids’ – referring to the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement – and has resulted in protests around the world, including in Australia.
Australia’s Trade Minister’s office confirmed to Computerworld Australia that Craig Emerson has seen a draft of the agreement, but said it was too early to discuss aspects of it.
However, Electronic Frontiers Australia secretary Kim Heitman has previously said the TPP is likely to cover temporary copies, such as internet caches and RAM in computers. It is also seeking to end parallel imports, presume guilt in copyright infringement claims and introduce a three-strike rule to throw offenders off the internet.
The suicide of Reddit founder Aaron Swartz in January this year has also thrown copyright enforcement regimes under the TPP spotlight, according to Rimmer, and what punitive measures are appropriate for copyright infringement.
Swartz was facing numerous felony charges after allegedly illegally gaining access to Jstor, an academic database.
“I think it’s led to a lot of discussion about whether it is appropriate for a free trade agreement like the TPP to raise the standards of enforcement in relation to civil remedies, criminal offences and in relation to border and security measures,” Rimmer said.
Pirate Party Australia has also been a staunch critic of the agreement and the shroud of secrecy around negotiations.
Simon Frew, deputy president at the Pirate Party, said the organisation has met with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) over the TPP but information has not been forthcoming.
The Pirate Party has now lodged a Freedom of Information (FOI) request with DFAT to try and find out more about the agreement. However, Frew conceded it is unlikely the FOI request will reveal “anything of substance.
“So we expect it to remain secret and it’s really a bad sign for what’s actually going to be in the proposal,” he said.
The Australian Greens have also actively fought for information to be revealed. In August last year Greens senators put forward a motion calling on the government to make the negotiations publicly available and to reject any trade agreement which put the civil liberties of Australians at risk.
However, the motion was defeated by the Labor and Liberal parties, with Greens senator Scott Ludlam stating the Federal Government is “hell-bent” on locking Australia into a dead-end copyright treaty.
Given the controversy of ACTA, with it being rejected by the European Union in July last year and an Australian parliamentary report recommending that it not be ratified here until the Federal government can carry out a cost benefit analysis, it is unclear what the future of the TPP will be in Australia.
The US has announced it hopes to finalise a TPP agreement by the end of this year.
Support is available for anyone who may be distressed by phoning Lifeline 13 11 14; Mensline 1300 789 978; Kids Helpline 1800 551 800 or visit beyondblue.org.au.
Follow Stephanie McDonald on Twitter: @stephmcdonald0
Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU