news Internet Australia, an organisation that represents Internet users, has called for “widespread debate” on all the provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, especially those that could have “hidden consequences”.
The official text of the TPP agreement was released on 5 November.
“It is unfortunate that organisations like Internet Australia were not consulted during our government’s negotiations over the TPP,” said Internet Australia CEO Laurie Patton in a statement released on 8 November. “There is a great deal of material for us to go through now and some of it has significant implications for the Internet”.
Internet Australia says is currently working through key sections of the TPP text in order to evaluate possible impacts on Internet users.
“We have serious concerns in a number of areas,” said 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.
He said there is a possibility that the TPP will place obligations on government to make laws that could adversely affect the Internet: “For example, we fear more onerous legislation in relation to the unlawful downloading of film and TV content, where this could involve costs for ISPs that flow through to Internet users in the form of increased access fees.”
Internet Australia, Patton said, does not believe site-blocking is the most appropriate way to deal with unlawful downloading of content. He suggested “making content available and easily accessible, at reasonable prices, will do much more to eliminate Internet ‘piracy’.”
The organisation also said the TPP text suggests that Australia should have ‘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. We note that Australia currently does not have safe harbour provisions of this kind,” Patton said.
While Internet Australia is primarily concerned about the implications for the Internet and its users, it also claimed 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 said.
“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,” he concluded.