Telstra has voiced its opposition to new intellectual property regulation making internet service providers (ISPs) liable for customers downloading pirate material in a submission to the government on a regional trade agreement currently being forged between the United States, Australia and seven other south-east Asian countries.
Negotiations for the agreement, called the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), started in March 2010 in Melbourne, between Australia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Singapore, Peru, the United States and Vietnam. Malaysia joined the negotiations later. The aim of the agreement is to develop a comprehensive 21st century free trade agreement (FTA) that increases economic integration in the Asia-Pacific region.
In a submission to the government, Telstra said the intellectual property chapter of the TPPA should not include matters which haven't been settled under Australian law.
Specifically, it opposed any negotiations around secondary liability for copyright infringement, which would in essence make ISPs responsible if customers download illegal and pirated content.
"There is no agreed international solution to the issue, including no agreed solution in Australia where the matter is currently before the full Federal Court of Australia," Telstra wrote in its submission.
The issue is currently before the courts in the form of a copyright case between the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) and iiNet. AFACT sought to show that iiNet authorised its users to infringe copyright; however, the court ruled that iiNet did not do so. The matter is currently at the appeal stage.
"It would therefore be inconsistent for Australia to negotiate and agree clauses on these types of issues in the TPPA before they are settled under Australian law," Telstra said. "Telstra cautions against the TPAA [sic] seeking to impose legal remedies to commercial issues, particularly those which may be the result of market failures."
Telstra was the only technology company to answer a call for submissions by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. It had already petitioned the government on the issue in a submission to the government's review on communications and media regulations.
TPPA members are meeting this week in Chile to continue the fifth round of discussions over the region's future trade agreement with the US, negotiations that have remained largely secret.
So far there has been no release of draft texts or publications following negotiations, but a leaked document (PDF) showed that the New Zealand Government opposed strengthening intellectual property (IP) regulation beyond the current standards (known as TRIPS), and warned that for technology-importing countries over protection of IP rights "will detract from innovation rather than promote it".