Sep 14, 2015

Australia’s stance in IP negotiations: ‘That didn’t work, let’s do it again.’

As the US free-trade agreement turns 10, intellectual property associate professor Kimberlee Weatherall asks: what did it really do for copyright owners?

Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is meant to be one definition of insanity. It’s also a pretty good definition of poor policymaking. Another sign of really ordinary policymaking is doing the same thing over and over without ever assessing whether it actually works as promised. Sorry to say, I’ve just described Australia’s approach to negotiating the intellectual property chapters in free-trade agreements. These chapters set rules relating to copyright, patent, trade mark, including how copyright gets enforced online and for how long, and how we balance incentives for pharmaceutical development with questions of access to medicine.

The Australia-US Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) turned 10 this year. A perfect opportunity, you would think, to assess the successes and failures of past agreements, like AUSFTA. Did we get it right? Could we do better? Before we do the same again, have any problems emerged of which we should be careful?

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2 thoughts on “Australia’s stance in IP negotiations: ‘That didn’t work, let’s do it again.’

  1. Gavin Moodie

    Thanx for this most informative analysis.

  2. ggm

    Richard “gnu” Stallman says many things, some of which I don’t agree with, but one which I find compelling in this immediate context is that munging all IPR into one bucket called IPR is a huge mistake.

    How people feel about ‘content’ online varies by context. Ask if people really give a rats if Hollywood can’t make another “terminator” knock-off, and you will get a different answer to if you asked them about how local musos fare now that gig venues are closing down and they still get ripped off by A&R people.

    How proud I feel about CSIRO and the victory in Wireless standards is distinct from how sad I feel about attempts to lock code up (as Oracle is doing, at the applications programming interface level).

    Nobody feels the same way about bluray device locks, and drug access under the PBS.

    So I think attempting to measure how well we did in IP law will require us to look at it on a case by case, context by context basis.

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