TPP concerns for internet users

Tuesday, 10 November, 2015

Patton landscape

Internet Australia has called for widespread debate on all the provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, especially those that could have hidden consequences for internet users.

“We have serious concerns in a number of areas,” said the organisation’s CEO, Laurie Patton.

“The TPP is very detailed, very prescriptive, and there is a risk that it will stand in the way of important reforms of intellectual property law… Reforms that are particularly relevant to internet users.”

Patton said that there’s the prospect the TPP will place obligations on the government to make laws that could adversely affect the internet, such as more onerous legislation in relation to the unlawful downloading of film and TV content.

This could involve costs for ISPs that flow through to internet users in the form of increased access fees.

Patton added that Internet Australia “does not believe ‘site-blocking’ is the most appropriate way to deal with unlawful downloading of content”.

“We maintain that making content available and easily accessible, at reasonable prices, will do much more to eliminate internet ‘piracy’,” he said.

“For far too long we have been price-gouged on music and video content by the use of ‘geoblocking’. If the TPP perpetuates this anticompetitive behaviour then it is a bad deal for Australian consumers.”

The TPP text suggests that we should have so-called ‘safe harbour’ provisions that protect ISPs from prosecution if they remove or disable access to alleged copyright material.

“We are looking at this to determine if the wording of this provision is reasonable,” said Patton.

“We note that Australia currently does not have safe harbour provisions of this kind.”

Patton also highlighted the fact that the government had not sought sufficient advice from external experts before agreeing to the TPP.

“As we found with the flawed data retention legislation that resulted from a lack of adequate external consultation, it appears that the government has failed to engage with the people who best understand the implications of many of the provisions of the TPP,” Patton added.

“The TPP is far too important to be rushed through without every section being fully debated.

“The likelihood at this stage is the focus will be on the clearly beneficial elements of the agreement and that this will overshadow the risks contained in some of the fine print.”

Pictured: Laurie Patton

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