South Korea extends copyright as part of Australian free trade deal

The Republic of Korea will harmonise its copyright laws with Australia within two years of the Korea-Australia Free Trade Agreement coming into force.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

The Australian government today released the final negotiated terms of the Korea-Australia Free Trade Agreement (KAFTA), which is intended to give Australian businesses increased access to the South Korean market, and likewise for businesses from the Republic of Korea conducting business in Australia.

Under the terms of the agreement, Korea will extend its current copyright laws by 20 years to harmonise its copyright laws with Australia, so that both nations will have a copyright term of "not less than the life of the author and 70 years after the author's death", or 70 years after the first performance, recording, or publication of a work. The transition arrangements give South Korea two years to implement the copyright changes.

Once the agreement comes into force, Australian telcos will be able to acquire all of the voting shares in a "facilities-based telecommunications service supplier in Korea", while the screening threshold for Korean investment in Australia will be raised from AU$248 million to AU$1,078 million, provided the investment is not a sector of the economy deemed sensitive.

From the agreement's government procurement chapter, governments at the equivalent federal and state levels will have to give the same level of treatment to companies from the other signatory nation as they do to domestic suppliers. The chapter specifies a procurement process that the Australian government says is consistent with the one it currently uses.

For electronic commerce, neither nation will impose custom duties on electronic transmissions from the other, and, as well as committing to protect consumers and their personal data in the electronic realm, both nations agreed to tackle spam and telemarketing.

"The parties shall, subject to their respective laws and regulations, cooperate bilaterally and in international fora regarding the regulation of unsolicited commercial electronic messages," the agreement states. "Areas of cooperation may include, but should not be limited to, the exchange of information on technical, educational, and policy approaches to spam and telemarketing."

The agreement calls for each country to implement IT to support the operations of customs services, increase paperless trading, speed up the process of releasing goods and processing data prior to shipment arrival, and the use of electronic or automated systems for risk management and targeting.

Trade Minister Andrew Robb said today in a statement that KAFTA is a "high-quality deal" for the Australian services sector, which employs 80 percent of Australians.

"KAFTA opens up all sorts of doors across legal, accounting, financial, engineering, telecommunications, education, environmental, as well as film and television services," he said.

"It also includes provisions to facilitate more direct investment from Korea and create opportunities for Australian investment in Korea."

The next stage for the agreement is its text to be translated in Korean, verified by Australia for accuracy, before signing by both nations. Once it is signed, both countries will then ratify and make the legislative changes needed to implement KAFTA in both jurisdictions. The Department of Trade says the domestic treaty process (PDF) should be completed by the end of 2014, after which both countries will exchange diplomatic notes to certify that both nations are ready for the agreement to be entered into force.

Thirty days after the exchange, KAFTA will enter into force.

Australia is currently engaged in negotiating the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership between Australia, the US, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, and Singapore, aimed at simplifying trade between the 12 nations.

A leak in December showed that Australia is rejecting a proposal backed by all other nations except the US that would limit the liability of ISPs for the copyright infringement of their users on their networks.

On Friday, Australian Attorney-General George Brandis said that the Australian government is considering a three-strikes proposal, similar to one found already in South Korea, to force internet service providers to begin cracking down on users who download TV shows and films over BitTorrent.

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