The Federal Government has rejected claims Australia's contingent to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) treaty negotiations is presenting "very restrictive text" on copyright exceptions and limitations.
Texts leaked this week from the secretive talks by social justice not-for-profit Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) revealed Australia's support for a US proposal that KEI claimed could severely restrict copyright limitations and exceptions beyond earlier trade and intellectual property treaties.
However, a spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) argued that Australia's support for copyright limitations and exceptions was consistent with “existing international obligations”.
While not denying the substance of the leaks, she said the discussion on limitations and exceptions were still under negotiation. Revised text on copyright limitations and exceptions has been tabled as recently as the last round, in July 2012.
The spokeswoman said Australia would not accept an outcome in the TPP that reduced its ability to enact copyright limitations and exceptions under Australian domestic law.
“Australia’s positions in the intellectual property chapter have been, and continue to be, informed by a wide range of relevant stakeholder views and perspectives," she said.
The Attorney-General's Department has undertaken a review on the technological protection measures available to Australians to bypass copyright measures, such as removing region coding on DVDs.
However, Greens communications spokesman Senator Scott Ludlam argued the negotiations would render such inquiries as “virtually worthless”.
He attacked the Government this week as being “hell-bent on a second attempt to lock Australia into a dead-end copyright treaty”.
“The TPP, if the USA gets its way, will cause huge problems for Australians, but our Federal Government is backing Washington to the hilt," he said in a statement.
“ACTA was an absolute dud, and the Government wanted to jump on board before the Australian Law Reform Commission’s inquiry had even warmed up."
Ludlam argued the leaks showed the US and Australia wanted to defeat a proposed clause protecting domestic intellectual property laws, proposed by a contingent from New Zealand, Chile, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam.
"Only the United States and our own government oppose this perfectly reasonable provision," he said.
"Why is the Government promoting the erosion of our independence in this way?
“The Trade Minister is now pushing for an Agreement that offers no protection for copyright exceptions enshrined in Australian law."
Trade minister Craig Emerson took to Twitter yesterday to defend Australia's position in the negotiations, describing Australia's position as "not secret" and urging critics not to engage in conspiracies.
@drrimmer Everyone is entitled to views, and to disagree. It's the constant conspiracy theories that are frustrating. There is no conspiracy— Craig Emerson MP (@CraigEmersonMP) August 7, 2012