Copyright treaty talks roll on at APEC

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Copyright treaty talks roll on at APEC
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US under pressure to deliver.

Australia’s trade minister Craig Emerson on Thursday met with regional and North American trade officials as pressure mounted on the United States to strengthen intellectual property (IP) provisions in the secretive Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) copyright treaty.

Foreign affairs and trade representatives from nine countries "met on the margins" of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministers Responsible for Trade meeting held in the ski resort area of Big Sky, Montana.

The Ministers "expressed their goal of reaching the broad outlines of an agreement by November", according to a joint statement.

The sixth round of formal TPP negotiations were completed in Singapore last month.

TPP parties Australia, the United States, New Zealand, Singapore, Chile, Brunei, Peru and Vietnam will convene three more times before the APEC Leader's Meeting in Hawaii in November.

The joint statement offered little detail about the treaty other than that each participant was “well into negotiations on each of these texts” and was working to finalise an agreement on “specific legal commitments”. 

US trade officials, led by US ambassador Ron Kirk, were under pressure at APEC to ensure that tougher copyright protections for the US took centre stage.

On Tuesday 28 US senators called on US President Barack Obama to resist TPP participant efforts to weaken IP provisions, while ensuring they were “clear, specific, and enforceable” and applicable to every participant “without exception”.  

“We urge you to reject efforts by other TPP participants to seek a weakening of intellectual property protection standards as compared with high-standard agreements such as the [Korea US] FTA,” said U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) who spearheaded the letter to Obama

Put bluntly, intellectual property equals jobs,” the letter reads. “Our copyright industries are one of our most vibrant export sectors, they are under attack from rampant and massive online piracy."

Australian ISPs feared that the secret treaty would undermine current efforts to deal with piracy at a local industry level. 

iTNews revealed in January that the Motion Picture Association of America had lobbied US trade officials to use TPP to provide ISPs “legal incentives” to combat piracy; and patch up perceived shortfalls of the Anti Counterfeit Trade Agreement  reached last year. 

In May a leaked draft of the TPP revealed that many of the lobbyists' demands had been incorporated, toughening required enforcement measures and placing new responsibilities on ISPs. 

The provisions included: 

  • A new legal regime of ISP liability
  • A right to ask ISPs to identify internet users
  • Established (statutory) damages for the rights holder
  • Criminal enforcement for technological measures beyond WIPO internet treaties, even when there is not copyright infringement
  • Outlawing parallel trade in any copyrighted good
  • A 95-year copyright minimum term for works for hire
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