More on the FTA: the Intellectual Property provisions

“Kim Weatherall’s”: detailed submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties makes a compelling case that the provisions on term of copyright, anti-circumvention and ISP liabilities in the Free Trade Agreement are too prescriptive (leaving little room for Parliament to craft appropriate statutes), weighted too much to the interests of the rights owners and agreed without proper consultation in Australia—despite the opportunity provided by the concurrent the Digital Agenda Review (see KW’s post on this). I am strongly pursuaded by her arguments. I regret that I forgot—in a last minute rush to make the deadline for submissions—to list my concerns about the process by which these provisions were adopted in my submission[⇒ related story] to the Senate Select Commitee. I’ll correct this omission if they invite me to testify. On the whole, I don’t think this changes my assessment of the value of the Agreement because I can’t evaluate the economic impact of accepting e.g. the extended copyright protection (but not the defenses for non-compliance) that have been implemented in the USA. But I agree with Professor Weatherall that there is plenty of room for concern. Too often, we find that the lobbies for IP rights extension (in geographical indications[⇒ related story] or patents or copyright) are persuading governments to ignore the fundamental requirement for a balance of rights and obligations in IP. Laws for the protection of IP rights, which are monopolies, should express a balance between the society’s interests in the benefits of creativity, innovation etc. and the private interest of the rights holder. My views on the evaluation of IP rights in international trade are expressed in “this paper(link to PDF file, Geographical Indications for Dairy Products, about 64k)”: that I gave to the World Dairy Congress (2002) on Geographical Indications and in my presentation to the WIIPO Symposium[⇒ related story] on GI’s in San Francisco last year.

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