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Trans-Pacific bellwether

THE LEAKED text that purports to be the "Intellectual Property" chapter of the "Trans-Pacific Partnership" trade agreement contains a couple of interesting pointers to the way that the US - certainly still the dominant "partner" - sees copyright and authors' rights developing.

One worrying feature is the provision that:

Article QQ.G.9: Each Party shall provide that for copyright and related rights, any person acquiring or holding any economic right in a work, [SG/BN/NZ/MY/VN/CL oppose: performance,] or phonogram:
  1. may freely and separately transfer that right by contract; and
  2. by virtue of a contract, including contracts of employment underlying the creation of works, [BN/SG/MY/VN/NZ/CL oppose: performances,] and phonograms, shall be able to exercise that right in that person's own name and enjoy fully the benefits derived from that right.

In something closer to English, that appears to be imposing on any countries that sign up to the deal the basis of copyright law - that you can "assign" your work to another, who becomes its author (or indeed performer). On this interpretation, this clause would overturn the basis of "authors' rights" law that applies in all the other states negotiating the treaty. But it may be that there's enough leeway here to allow this basis - that authors' rights are inalienable works can only be used with permission of the author or performer licensing them - to be maintained in name.

On the bright side, the draft Article QQ.G.13: sets out an apparently workable process for protecting the "rights management information" attached to a work from untoward deletion or falsification. It's fairly clear (as these things go) but too long to quote here.

As soon as it was released a group calling itself Fight for the Future popped up to say that the draft treaty "poses a grave threat to global freedom of expression" - a claim likely to get media professionals' attention. The group justified this with reference to measures co-ordinating routes to legal action against violations of copyright and authors' rights, with provisions for demanding information from violators and suppressing dissemination of works through reporting of court cases. As the Freelance see it, these are standard provisions to investigate industrial-scale copyright infringement: the text leaves creators' situation dealing with "retail" infringement pretty much untouched.

The group's agenda is revealed by the very general claim that the treaty threatens "basic access to things like medicine and information" - presumably because it doesn't abolish copyright and patent in the interest of internet companes and against the interest of pharmaceutical companies. We're now wondering who funds the bodies that fund Fight for the Future.

Last modified: 31 Oct 2015 - © 2015 contributors
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