Australia jumping off a copyright cliff with TPP: Ludlam

Australia jumping off a copyright cliff with TPP: Ludlam

Summary: The Greens Party has spoken out in outrage over details revealed in an alleged leak of the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, while Australia's Trade Minister has told critics of the partnership to stop looking for conspiracies.


The Greens Party has seized on an alleged leak from TransPacific Partnership negotiations, saying that the leak paints Australia as a lemming jumping off a copyright cliff.

TPP is an agreement between Australia, the United States, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore, and is aimed at making trade between the various nations easier. The meeting notes have not been made public, which has caused concern over whether the agreement is in Australia's best interests. One professor has said that the TPP could also limit any changes that could come from Australia's current copyright review.

On Friday, what appeared to be drafts from the negotiations were leaked, showing that the US and Australia were in favour of taking a hard line on copyright exceptions, putting their own proposal for clauses in the agreement, which differed from that proposed by other countries, like New Zealand and Malaysia.

The US and Australia proposed that "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". It also opposed an alternate proposal which would enable the countries to transfer the exceptions and limitations they currently have in domestic laws into the digital space.

It then went on to say that, given that exceptions would not conflict with copyright holder exploitation of their rights, "each Party shall seek to achieve an appropriate balance in providing limitations or exceptions, including those for the digital environment, giving due consideration to legitimate purposes, such as, but not limited to, criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching scholarship and research".

The Office of the United States Trade Representative talked about such a "balance" on its website in March, saying that it was proposing a "three-step test" for exceptions like those mentioned above. Some have raised concerns that this means that rights holders will have more chances to enforce copyright.

Greens communications spokesperson Scott Ludlam said that the government was "hell bent" on locking Australia into a dead-end copyright treaty, like it had when it signed the Anti-Counterfeiting and Trade agreement, which has been rejected by Europe.

"Information on the negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, revealed over the weekend, show the US and Australia want to defeat a proposed clause protecting domestic intellectual property laws," Ludlam said.

"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?"

Ludlam raised concerns about the effect the agreement would have on the inquiries into Australian copyright law, saying that it the TPP could make the inquiries' findings "worthless".

"The Australian Greens urge the government to back New Zealand's proposed protection for independence, and to reject any agreement that puts the civil liberty and welfare of Australians at risk."

However, Trade Minister Craig Emerson called for calm on Twitter, responding to a commentary in The Sydney Morning Herald by Peter Martin that criticised Emerson for seemingly cozying up to the US in the TPP and accusing him of selling out Australian interests.

Emerson said that the government wasn't hiding its position on the partnership, repeating that "there is no conspiracy".

ZDNet requested an interview with Emerson, but was told that he is currently on leave. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade provided a statement that said the department was aware of the "allegedly leaked text on copyright limitations and exceptions".

It didn't comment on the validity of the leak, but said that "Australia supports a high-quality, balanced intellectual property chapter in the TPP" and stressed that the partnership was still in negotiation and far from finished.

"Australia's position in the intellectual property chapter has been, and continues to be, informed by a wide range of stakeholder views and perspectives," the statement continued.

"Copyright limitations and exceptions are still under negotiation. Revised text on copyright limitations and exceptions has been tabled as recently as the last round, in July 2012. Australia is giving careful consideration to all proposals."

Topics: Government, Government AU

Suzanne Tindal

About Suzanne Tindal

Suzanne Tindal cut her teeth at as the site's telecommunications reporter, a role that saw her break some of the biggest stories associated with the National Broadband Network process. She then turned her attention to all matters in government and corporate ICT circles. Now she's taking on the whole gamut as news editor for the site.

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  • So far I don't see the trade benefit of TPP....

    without more details. What most people object to are the secret negotiations. Let's hope that Congress gets to see the end result. Not that they will do anything intelligent with it, of course. Bunch of corrupt slimy weasels, imo.
  • Craig, people think there's a conspiracy because talks are secret

    release them, and prove that there's no conspiracy.
  • Skyhooked by a clown...

    Being told by Emerson not to look for a conspiracy is tantamount to being told that the sky is falling by the village idiot... His departmental minions are too stupid or scared to realise the repercussions of the TPP and he and his political novices sold us out to US corporate interests long ago for a pat on the head and a tummy rub. Both major parties have the moral and ethical sensibilities of sewer rats when it comes to pressure from Uncle Sam, where congress long ago became a cheer squad for US patents and rights holders, sending their own economy into a whirpool of doom.
  • Corporate Rule

    Back in the 70s there was this upstart American Punk band that was spotted playing at the no longer existent CBGB. That band was spotted by a Producer from Pickwick who mastered their first album. Songs from that album went to number 1 in many countries around the world. That small upstart band was Blondie. They were subsequently picked up by EMI and sold millions of alba world-wide. Bear in mind that the only "piracy" that existed in those days was people copying tapes and handing them around and it was one such tape that inspired me to go out and BUY the entire collection. EMI made $millions. The members of Blondie got stuff-all.

    In fact, Deborah Harry took EMI to Court over unpaid royalties and WON. So, apart from opening career doors for artists like Madonna, Pat Benetar and Lady Galah, she also spear-headed the change in how the big companies paid their little artists.

    The re-formed band, Blondie, is its own Corporate Entity and "leases" its product to distributors (usually through Sony).

    So as an innocent in the pre-internet days, EMI got $thousands out of me, and all Deborah Harry got was another needle to stick up her arm.

    The Arctic Monkeys refused to sign with any record company and kept selling CDs out of their vans at concerts. Internet distribution got them internationally recognised and embarrassed the media moguls.

    In this modern day of Kazaa, Torrenting and other file-sharing, I don't see any of these big companies going broke. Do you?

    Windows is pirated on a daily basis. I just had a Win7 machine in for repair to discover that the OS was pirated and as it had to be reloaded anyway, "Sorry, you'll have to buy the CD." How many other machines did that initial pirate load up with Win7? But I don't see Microsoft going broke. Do you?

    I don't see Paramount going broke because of movie downloads. Do you?

    In the u.s., Disney Corp was informed that some of its movies were actually copyright-expired, so the Disney Board lobbied Congress for longer Corporate Copyrights, and succeeded. It is generically called "The Mickey Mouse Act".

    When someone successfully steals clothing from Calvin Klein stores, it's written off as advertising, because people see the "cK" not the yobbo. I think it's time that Media Distributors considered the same model. A download is not necessarily theft: it's a preview so that the person then either deletes it, or goes and buy CD, DVD, Blu-ray, Collector Sets and more.

    The cult-classic, "Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy" as a radio program, and a TV series made Douglas Adams very little money. The book releases and the DVDs are where he scored big. I already had the TV series on video from when it was aired, so I could have legally downloaded a digital version under the excuse of "format-shifting" but I didn't. I went and bought the DVD because I want a Hard Copy collection and just like the Vinyl days, I copy the master and then watch/listen to the copy so that the master doesn't get worn out or scratched.

    If governments really want to fix copyrights, then put them back in the hands of the actual creators, not the marketing machines.
  • Cliff jumping by a green clown

    Being told by Ludlum that there is a conspiracy is tantamount to being told that Australia is jumping of a copyright cliff by the village idiot.... Remember this is the same guy who claimed (and was panned -, that ASIO was tracking him because his phone battery wasn't lasting as long as usual.

    Has the Green party even read the leaked text, or the TRIPs agreement or even our own Copyright Act or are they simply hell bent on churning out fact-free emotive rhetoric that appeals to the very vocal yet very small percentage of young Australian netizens?
  • Looking for conspiracies...

    ...would be a legitimate job for opposition Senators and MPs.
    John L. Ries