Outrage after TPP leak reveals piracy criminalisation


news Australian political parties and digital rights lobby groups today erupted in outrage after a Wikileaks leak of the intellectual property rights chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement revealed Australians could be slugged with new draconian measures if caught infringing copyright online.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a secretive, multi-national trade agreement that threatens to extend what many see restrictive intellectual property (IP) laws across the globe and rewrite international rules on its enforcement. A number of major countries are currently negotiating the agreement, including the US, Japan, Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, Canada, Mexico, and Brunei Darussalam.

Leaked draft texts of the agreement have previously shown that the intellectual property chapter would have extensive ramifications for users’ freedom of speech rights, right to privacy and due process, and could hinder innovation. The process of the TPP negotiations has been shrouded in secrecy and the full text of drafts of the proposed agreement has never been publicly released.

Last month the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade took the extraordinary step of rescinding confirmations of attendance for journalists who had registered to attend a public briefing on the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement in Sydney, stating that the meeting was “off-the-record”, and that journalists are not welcome.”

Overnight, Wikileaks published a leaked draft of the intellectual property chapter of the TPP. It reveals, among a number of other moves to tighten countries’ IP regulations, that those caught conducting copyright infringement activities online (‘Internet piracy’) could face criminal charges.

The leak caused instant outrage in Australia, with a wide range of groups active in digital rights issues raising an outcry regarding the stipulations of the trade agreement.

“CHOICE is deeply concerned at a proposal from the United States to expand criminal liability for copyright infringement. This would mean that domestic non-commercial infringement could become a criminal act,” said Alan Kirkland, chief executive of consumer advocacy group CHOICE, in a statement issued this morning. “While CHOICE condemns copyright infringement, we certainly don’t agree that an individual downloading Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones for personal use should be open to criminal prosecution.”

And it’s not just piracy criminalisation Australians should be concerned about.

“The United States appears to be proposing a raft of measures that would be disastrous for Australian consumers if they made the final text,” said Kirkland. “This includes a ban on parallel importation, which involves purchasing products from overseas retailers and shipping them to Australia.”

Kirkland noted that CHOICE was also disappointed that Australians had to rely on leaked copies of the draft trade agreement to be informed on its stipulations. “On behalf of our members and consumers more broadly, CHOICE wants to have input into this wide-reaching agreement. Ideally, this would be through open debate,” the executive said. “We renew our call on the Australian government to move towards transparency by allowing consumers to see drafts of the TPP.”

The Greens today flagged plans to take parliamentary action regarding the TPP draft. “The Australian Greens have given notice that they will move a motion in the Senate, when it next sits on December 2nd, to end the secrecy around the TPPA trade talks,” the party noted in a statement issued by Senators Scott Ludlam and Peter Whish-Wilson.

“We have one piece of the TPPA puzzle, and it is chilling,” said Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson. “The Greens will move for the rest of the document to be made public to the Parliament and the Australian people, before the Government signs up to something we will regret … “Tony Abbott must end the secrecy and hidden agendas that have defined his Government.”

Digital rights lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia accused the Federal Government of selling out Australians to foreign interests again.

“EFA considers the leaked Intellectual Property chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership to represent looming disaster for Australian citizens,” wrote EFA board member Sean Rintel in a statement issued today. “Not only are the secret negotiations deplorable, as is Australia’s almost total agreement with the US positions, but if passed, its provisions will severely restrict choice, increase prices, and reduce freedom of expression.”

And the Pirate Party Australia issued its own furious statement on the TPP.

“This corporate wishlist masquerading as a trade agreement is bad for access to knowledge, access to medicine, and access to innovation. It re-enforces the worst parts of our intellectual property enforcement regime on a regional level, making the necessary positive reforms for the digital era much more difficult, if not impossible,” said Brendan Molloy, Councillor of Pirate Party Australia.

“It is absolutely appalling that we are still relying on leaked texts to determine just what we’re getting ourselves into with these trade agreements. Even Parliament is being kept in the dark. It’s time to release the text, and all future texts, so that transparency and oversight can result in texts that help, not hinder, legitimate Australian interests. There is no economic justification for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement’s intellectual property provisions. DFAT must immediately hold public briefings to explain their now public negotiating positions. It’s time for some accountability.”

Prime Minister Tony Abbott was quoted in an article published by The Age newspaper this morning as saying: ” … there’s always horse-trading in these negotiations, but in the end … everyone is better off”. The previous Labor Federal Government also largely supported the TPP negotiations.


  1. Thank The Holy Furriness, Bringer of Dander Allergies, The All Scratching Kitteh that I don’t watch Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones so I won’t be going to jail with the rest of the Australian population!

    • If you’ve ever sung happy birthday in a public place without paying royalty, you’ve infringed copyright and will be going to jail with the rest of Australia.

      • And if you video recorded it an put it on Facebook, that’s probably worth about a 10 year stint in the big house

      • Actually it appears that the professed owners of that particular work have been incorrectly claiming ownership for more than half a century. There is a major challenge going through the courts in Britain that should finally end this ridiculous nonsense. Amusingly, it will also pave the way for anyone who has previously paid royalties or been sued over infringement to be fully refunded, plus the possibility of some expensive legal fees. Looking forward to following that one ;-)

        • What a lot of people see as the problem here is that the laws keep changing more and more in favor of the distributors. Not even the creators, who are just pawns in this game as much as the end consumer.

          Case in point is the local issue where Men At Work were successfully sued for copyright infringement for a short riff from Kookaburra Sits In An Old Gum Tree – the short flute solo in Down Under. The issue to me was that the person suing bought the rights decades after the song was released, and was able to sue against that prior success.

          For not even a 5 second riff, thats a lot of power to give the NEW content owner for something created 80 or so years ago.

          • Added to the fact that it wasn’t even the original creator but a recording company that somehow managed to acquire ownership of the song that pursued this lawsuit.

            These laws are increasingly being made for the benefit of these “corporation suits”

          • Completely agree – copyright should be limited just like patents, and fair use/reuse provisions should be designed to encourage creativity rather than discourage and even punish it. Some of the greatest creative work ever produced borrowed heavily from the work of others. Even Disney was founded on such principles.

          • Disney wasn’t just founded on it, most of their smash hit animated movies of the last two decades were retellings of old out-of-copyright stories.
            Which they then claimed to own every interpretation of, even suing schools for doing plays about Aladdin based on the original rather than the Disney version.

          • Need to point out I was a little off with something I wrote. It wasnt “decades” after Down Under was written, it was about 9 years after the song was released that the rights changed hands. Doesnt change the point (being able to backdate damages to before obtaining ownership), but what I wrote was wrong.

  2. So why exactly has the Australian Government nominated itself as the US Hollywood’s/the US Administrations bitch?

    There’s really no upside for either the Australian economy and business nor the political parties. Regardless of the pressure there is no upside I can see for them, so why roll over?

  3. “This includes a ban on parallel importation, which involves purchasing products from overseas retailers and shipping them to Australia.”

    Enforce the Australia tax. Free market? my left tentacle…

  4. “This includes a ban on parallel importation, which involves purchasing products from overseas retailers and shipping them to Australia.”

    I cant find this in the document? There is one mention of parallel importation relating to software used by governments. All the other mentions of importation relate to items that infringe copyright, which parallel imports dont.

  5. People have questioned whether WikiLeaks is valuable, pushing the idea that ordinary journalism is more than adequately investigative. Here is an indication that ordinary journalism has failed us, and WikiLeaks is necessary.

  6. Frog boiling lots of ignorant* people in many countries.
    A few trying to stay out of the pot.
    A few too few ………

    * Not a pejorative: The proper meaning.

  7. I’m really not sure why US companies are so eager to stop me from paying their manufacturers of content directly. I’d be happy to pay for Netflix, HBO, AMC, Showtime, etc. The technology is there to allow me to pay, so why don’t they want my money?

      • No, more like greedy Australians want the right to be legally instituted as middle men so they can make money from the creativity of others due to nothing more than negotiating a few contracts. US companies and government have a lot to answer for, but so do more than a few Australians.

    • Because licensing is a lucrative business…

      The companies can basically double dip by being paid for the privilege of getting access to their content and then paid some more for royalties when the content is aired.

      Capitalism at its finest =P

      • It’s also worth remembering that these companies are amongst those who are experts in avoiding paying Australian taxes and receiving ‘incentives’ for producing their wares locally. The bring nothing to us and siphon money off shore to tax havens.
        They’re also experts a not paying the very creative people they fraudulently claim to represent. See they myriad stories on Hollywood accounting and dodgy music industry practises.

  8. The scary thing about this is the secret negotiating. Our negotiators have proved inapt time & time again with previous deals. So rather then pick up their game, they decide to cover their ineptitude.

    There was an excellent article written a few months ago about who the TPP would allow corporations to sue Govt for laws which they don’t like. The obvious one is the tobacco industry, but the even Huawei or Lennovo for being excluded from contracts.


  9. The last paragraph of the article shows the real problem, both sides of politics support this terrible deal for Australia.

    The IP rights in the TPP as well as the problems listed above also want to take away Australias access to generic medicines, and Australias negotiators (and Politicians) still want us to accept the deal. So when Abbott says everyone will be better off he is lying.

    If the Greens or Pirate Party want to gain votes they should advertise the fact that both major Parties have given away ordinary Australians access to generic meds. People may think the piracy Laws wont affect them, but they will react to higher prices for medicines.

    Given the secrecy in negotiations I fully expect that the legislation will be quietly shoved through Parliament, on the 25th of December, or some other time when no one notices.

  10. This reminds me of ~100 years ago when cars were becoming popular. The old horse and buggy industry didnt like the competition, so had it written into law that every automobile had to have someone walk in front of them waving a flag. Law didnt last long, but it was just the mentality of an industry that couldnt or wouldnt change with the times. They did everything they could to stop the world moving past them.

    This isnt much different. Laws that were written decades ago werent written to deal with the internet, and as the world has moved on, the laws havent kept up. Same thing happened with beta/VHS recorders, photocopiers, TV, the cinema, even the printing press. All changed the world to make it easier to get content, with previous laws not being written with such issues in mind.

  11. So what happens when the legislation does not succeed at what it intends to do?

    To be honest I feel like photoshopping out John Hurt’s face and replacing it with that of Obama, then doing the same with all his advisors and replacing them with those of the premiers, presidents, and prime ministers that the Ulcered Sphincter of Asserica is attempting to bully into compliance.

    This is such a protracted issue and the underhanded tactics of the previous government, and now this government, will not do anything to resolve the impasse. If anything, people are likely to dig their heels in even further.

  12. What I found interesting was this:

    Article QQ.A.2: {Objectives}
    [NZ/CL/PE/VN/BN/MY/SG/CA/MX propose; US/JP oppose: The objectives of this
    Chapter are:
    c. maintain a balance between the rights of intellectual property holders and
    the legitimate interests of users and the community in subject matter
    protected by intellectual property.
    d. protect the ability of Parties to identify, promote access to and preserve the
    public domain;
    e. Ensure that measures and procedures to enforce intellectual property rights
    do not themselves become barriers to legitimate trade;

    In other words, the United States and Japan oppose all measures that are in the public interest.

    So, where are the usual defenders of Big Copyright? Like haha yeah, Michael, etc.

  13. I have tried everything within my power. I have been more than patient and kind to him. I don’t ask for money. In the past I went through a mediation service to try to peacefully arrange custody and child support issue. He never should up. He never calls to ask about his son who is a very bright and handsome little boy. My son’s father is not an active father in the life of none of his children. He spends all of his time womanizing. He even supports women with children that are not his.

  14. The Australian government decided to roll over yet again to the interests of faceless men in large US corporations.

    So….. SHUT UP SLAVES !!!

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