Australian Greens spokesperson for Trade, Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, has written to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull expressing concerns about the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) and its potential changes to intellectual property laws.
According to leaked text, the TPP agreement could point to digital rights and intellectual property law changes.
Some portions of the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act were to be extended to other TPP nations, such as the enactment of laws banning the circumvention of digital locks. The TPP agreement could also see an extension in the length of copyright protection by 20 years or more and new laws that punish copyright infringement.
“We strongly oppose the inclusion of Investor State Dispute Settlement [ISDS] provisions in trade deals and we have enormous concerns about the impacts of changes to intellectual property laws, digital rights and financial regulation that may flow from the TPP,” said Whish-Wilson.
Whish-Wilson has asked Turnbull to refer the TPP agreement to the Productivity Commission for assessment.
“If the TPP really is the ‘foundation stone for future prosperity’ that Malcolm Turnbull says it is then he should have no fear in putting it up for proper scrutiny,” he said.
Whish-Wilson introduced a Trade and Foreign Investment (Protecting the Public Interest) Bill in 2014 which would rule out the future inclusion of ISDS clauses in free trade agreement.
In September, a coalition of 15 groups, including the Australian Digital Alliance and Electronic Frontiers Australia, called on participants in TPP negotiations to ensure that support for fair use-style exceptions to copyright is included in the agreement.
"We write to emphasize how critical it is that this language unequivocally protects and promotes exceptions and limitations to copyright in ways that are fit for the 21st century, wrote the coalition.
"Fair uses of content must be protected with strong safeguards, especially in the context of an agreement that emphasizes increased protections and enforcement of copyrights.”
In August 2014, ANU academic Dr Matthew Rimmer warned that a class of provisions in free trade agreements that allow foreign investors to take legal action over government decisions they consider detrimental to their interests could hamper future action on excessive pricing of IT products.
At the time, Rimmer said that ISDS clauses could potentially affect any attempt by the federal government to address the so-called 'Australia tax' — the high prices Australians pay for some digital goods.
"If there were efforts by this government or a future government to try to take action in relation to IT pricing, [IT vendors] could try to challenge any such decision under an investment tribunal if there was a [relevant] agreement available," he said.