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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

TPP latest: Copyright causing commotion

By Claire McMahon, Associate

Rumblings about the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) continue, with copyright activists (on all sides) taking issue with the existing copyright provisions in the latest leaked version of the Intellectual Property Chapter.

We discussed some of the other big ticket items in this new version in a recent post, noting that the US is still pushing to extend copyright protection under the TPP to 70 years beyond the life of the author, with longer protection afforded to corporate authors. This is consistent with current US and Australian law, but some US lobbyists are unhappy about the existing length of protection and are concerned that enshrining these copyright terms in an international treaty will make it more difficult to lobby to have them shortened. This period of copyright protection is also longer than the existing period in a number of the other countries.

Some countries are also said to be concerned about the push from the US for increased copyright enforcement measures, including extending the breadth of criminal copyright offences to include 'private' activities – that is, reproduction of copyright other than for a commercial purpose - if this occurs on a commercial scale. Although Australia already has criminal penalties for some commercial activities, there are concerns that our existing 'fair dealing' laws won't protect individuals from these harsher penalties that would come with TPP compliance, should the US get its way.

There are reports that some parties are proposing to extend the concept of the 'public domain' – where works are readily accessible and may be used by the public – in order to counter any heightened enforcement measures that are eventually agreed. At this stage other countries are holding out against the US, but it remains to be seen how this issue will be resolved.

No doubt discussions between parties continue behind closed doors, although the upcoming Canadian general election may be a further impediment to negotiations. In Australia, the TPP was recently being touted as having an important role to play in Australia's post-mining boom economy. According to the Australian Government, all parties remain committed to reaching an agreement and they are 'on the cusp' of resolving the last outstanding issues.

Meanwhile, parties to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership – Asia's answer to the TPP, which we discussed last time – have taken the pause in the TPP discussions as a chance to speed up their own negotiations. The parties are now due to meet again in South Korea in October, and are reportedly hoping to submit the draft text for potential endorsement by regional leaders at the East Asian Summit in November.

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