US presses punitive copyright deal on trade partners

The US is continuing its secret efforts to secure tougher copyright laws, even though its Hollywood-sponsored anti-counterfeiting trade agreement (Acta) has still to be validated, a leaked document has revealed.

The US is continuing its secret efforts to secure tougher copyright laws, even though its Hollywood-sponsored anti-counterfeiting trade agreement (Acta) has still to be validated, a leaked document has revealed.

A 10 February draft of the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership Intellectual Property Rights Chapter calls for the provisions of the US's Digital Millennium Copyright Act to be implemented by countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Chile and Vietnam.

Its provisions criminalise illegal copying, even though the material may carry invisible trademarks or are not registered trademarks.

As regards internet domain names, each party would have to ensure there was a dispute settlement regime and that there was online public access to a "reliable and accurate database of contact information concerning domain name registrants".

It would also indemnify the secret collection and sharing of personally identifiable information in connection with their online behaviour.

It would extend copyright protection for music "performances" to the life of the author plus 70 years.

It would also allow courts to award the winning party's damages, court costs, and "reasonable attorneys' fees".

The draft was obtained by Knowledge Ecology International (KEI), which said the US Trade Representative (USTR), which led earlier Acta talks, had sought to classify the document until four years from entry into force or the close of negotiations.

KEI said, "The document has been distributed to all member states participating in the TPP negotiations, so it is not secret from any of the parties in the negotiations. The document may also be subject to review by the hundreds of corporate insiders who serve on the USTR advisory board. It is, however, secret from taxpayers and voters who live in the US, and people everywhere who are going to live under the new norms."

This was similar to the Acta process, which eventually released its provisions after global complaints.

Michael Giest, a Canadian academic who followed the Acta saga, said in a blogpost, "The US plan (with TPP) is everything it wanted in Acta but didn't get."

Giest said the US was seeking to use the TPP to export its copyright law to as many countries as possible while creating "backdoor changes" to its own domestic laws.

"Moreover, the chapter extends well beyond copyright, with patent provisions that would restrict countries' ability to restrict patentable subject matter," he added.

Responding to the UK intellectual Property Office's Independent Review of Intellectual Property and Growth, John Cridland, director general of business trade association the CBI, said the UK government had to show that its goal was to make the UK the best place to create, develop and exploit intellectual property.

"Any significant change or weakening of the existing IP regime, particularly erosion of the copyright laws, could undermine our creative industries and be a big risk," he said.

Cridland called for the UK to push for effective IP enforcement at a global level. "It would give UK-based firms fair access to foreign markets which respect intellectual property rights," he said.

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