Australia-US Trade Agreement Proposes Massive Piracy Crackdown, Potential Tech Price Hike

Forget the Australia Tax. We're about to enter a new world of restrictions and geoblocks that might see us pay more for tech and get busted hard for piracy if a document leaked by Wikileaks is to be believed.

The free-trade agreement between the United States and Australia has been shrouded in secrecy during its delicate construction, but Wikileaks managed to get hold of what it purports as the Intellectual Property section.

It proposes sweeping IP reforms, which include enforcing geoblocks and restricting the sale of devices that might be able to circumvent geoblocking.

Experts tell our sister-site Kotaku that Aussies could feasibly pay more for video games, software and tech in general if these clauses were enforced:

“It’s pretty restrictive,” said Kimberlee Weatherall, an Associate Professor at the University of Sydney, specialising in Intellectual Property.
“The US and to some extent Australia are pushing for more restrictions against the circumvention of devices and software — that would include video games.”
One end result for consumers would most likely be the continuation of increased prices for gamers locally here in Australia...

In another concerning development, the document proposes a massive crackdown on internet piracy and the duplication of rights-protected software, movies or games.

The document draft, penned in late August 2013, requires all 12 parties — including Australia — to provide details on new "criminal procedures and penalties" for pirates, including those "that include sentences of imprisonment as well as monetary fines sufficiently high to provide a deterrent to future acts of infringement, consistently with the level of penalties applied for crimes of a corresponding gravity" and "that its judicial authorities shall have the authority, when determining penalties, to account for the seriousness of the circumstances, which may include those that involve threats to, or effects on, health or safety."

The document also prescribes an increase in liability for carriers like iiNet or YouTube that may see them held responsible for the material their users "pirate".

This new document comes in the wake of the Coalition's plans to call industry heavyweights back to the table to negotiate a new anti-piracy plan for Australia that may involve ISP-level blocking of websites to prevent people acquiring such material.

Scary stuff. [Wikileaks via Kotaku]



    This nonsense is supposed to curb pirating right...? Wow....!! :)

      Nah just the excuse they throw up to justify it.

    I read another NZ based article on this this morning. There are other concerning aspects; restrictions on medicines, ability to patent animals and plants and a few other things which all seem to point to the US dictating the terms in their favour. Unsurprisingly, most of the potential signatory countries have (so far) rejected the vast majority of the proposals.

      Yeah, but Australian politicians are all about pleasing the US, so it's only a matter of time before Australia signs this (presumably while dropping pants and bending over for old Uncle Sam).

      If this gets the go ahead all it'll do is force more people to pirate. It's easy to do and we'll only be punished for not doing it, so why not? The Government clearly doesn't mind (I realize it's not a new thing just implemented by Abbott and his lackeys. I mean "the Government" in general, because let's face it, regardless of who's who they're all trying to screw us over).

        We're a vassal state to the US.

          For now.

            Unfortunately, it's been getting much worse for the past 20 years. We'll be their sycophantic little political/economic lapdog for a while yet, unless our major parties grow some actual, quantifiable balls in the mean time and show some genuine independent thought and Australia-centric leadership. I don't see that happening somehow, since both sides of politics continue to fight over the scraps our US 'friends' feel appropriate to partition out to us.

            It won't change. That wikileaks stuff revealed top politicians in this country give weekly reports on the inner going on of the parties to the US ambassador. Yet the media pretty much ignored that and no one knows and there for cares.

        This free trade agreement was negotiated under the previous LABOR government. Write to the new minister and ask them what their intentions are with this. Until then, vent your anger at the ones who created it.

          Do some further research prior to making incorrect s̶t̶a̶t̶e̶m̶e̶n̶t̶s̶ ̶ rhetoric. Perhaps use google to look up Howard US trade agreements, even wiki - you have heard of these I take it? It will make you look much more edumacated.

          that's right, blame the other guy.. predictable stuff, you must read a lot of news corp.

      Patenting animals and plants.... hello Monsanto, no doubt they had a heavy hand in this shit.

        You know you can't use the word 'Monsanto' without using a specific Monsanto font that has to be licensed from them for roughly $17k/year, right? And if you make a mistake, you need to contact Monsanto to get an approved clean up team to remove any errant characters, again for a nominal fee (usually your first born son), otherwise, they may affect other text for which you are liable and Monsanto can sue your balls off. Just a heads up dude, wouldn't want to see them sink their venomous fangs into you too.

        Last edited 14/11/13 5:56 pm

          LOL holy crap. I read a story about a farm where they 'found' their genetically created crop seeds amongst a farmers naturally grown corn. Monsanto allegedly took along Blackwater troops to 'peacefully investigate' his farm. I mean seriously. Blackwater. Wtf. Really? Worst PMC in the world and they use them... why do they even NEED them?

            Yeap and they then sued that farmer for patent infringement even though he wasn't using the seeds they had just blown in from farms nearby.
            And don't get me started on the lies they have been telling farmers in Africa so they can use them as guinea pigs, trapping them in debt they can't pay back which then leads the farmers to kill themselves.

              So the question is why do people think EA is the 'most evil' company in the world when these arseholes exist... ah yeah because Monsanto don't ask for online passes or dlc lol. Was just told yesterday that two farmers have been shot and killed in the past by their 'agents' for not allowing them onto property. Wtf.

                Honestly? Because a lot of people simply are not aware of the stuff that Monsanto is doing. Monsanto also shuts people up with law suits if they try to tell people what's happening.
                And for a lot of people it doesn't have an immediate impact in their lives.
                Also most gamers are whinging, entitled children. Even if they are in their 20's and 30's.

                Last edited 15/11/13 10:11 am

                Yep, they are seriously one of the most evil companies in the world. Suing for other people having contaminated crops through natural pollination (Which I think they were forced to stop only this year) A war against naturally grown crops, creating bacteria that could destroy the ability for soil to grow plants. Flooding the south American market with cheap corn to destroy their corn industry (Then actually driving buses to to Mexico to pick up illegal workers)

                Last edited 15/11/13 2:50 pm

                  Haiti gave them the finger and refused to plant their seeds, they burnt every one of the 60k bags they sent there lol

      Yeah let's hope Australia rejects that crap as well. That stuff really makes me feel like we're getting screwed into a detached state with little benefits.

    restricting the sale of devices that might be able to circumvent geoblocking

    So... computers?

    All iOS devices can connect to a VPN. That makes them devices able to circumvent geoblocking too.

      Liberals ban computers........that would be a great headline to go with the no science minister and the CSIRO sackings. I know governments like to create a narrative for themselves but I think this one needs a little work........

      Last edited 14/11/13 1:06 pm

        Liberals ban all computer, smart phones, tablets, and anything that connects to the internet.

        In other news Australia's population is now down 97% leave only parliament members the only humans left in Australia.

          Your sentence is wrong. When writing 'humans' in term of politicians its spelt "C U N...." you get the idea.

          Last edited 14/11/13 1:41 pm

          The document is dated August 30, 2013. Who was in charge then?

          Unless the Coalition has a time machine it is not possible.

          The document doesn't even name a party so for all we know, both Labor and the Coalition may have a mutual interest in it.

          who needs the internet, soon foxnet will be providing us with everything.

        This supposed free trade agreement was negotiated with the previous, Labor government. You were saying?

          But will push ahead faster now, under the Libs.
          Your point?
        Look who's in the photo, that looks like Gilard, both sides of government are there to screw the populace.

    most trade agreements are against protectionist ways of doing business internationally... i.e. trade agreements attempt to the lowering of barriers for entry into markets... i don't believe that these foreign pharmaceutical are trying to make more money, rather, they are trying to kill local competition, then sell us their goods, then make more money on greater economies of scale... we the consumers should be better off under most trade agreements (in theory), but at what cost to our local industries???

    eg, US selling crap cars here within australia after the lowering of barriers to the car market... result; cheap shit cars made by crysler, but the inevitable end to our car making industry.

    now; US extending their reach of law into our backyard... now i wanna know what we gained for that exchange???

      A pat on the head for our PM.

        Document penned 30 Aug...not sure but I recall one K Rudd being PM.. So that would be pat on the head for our former PM

        That would've been Krudd. He was PM when this agreement was made. Sorry to burst your anti Abbott balloon.

    Ill miss Netflix if they figure out how to enforce geo blocking. I do pay for it, and the US based DNS - am I pirating content if I paid for it in the wrong continent?

      Yes, because doing it like that, you miss out on paying the Australia Tax

        I've already been taxed at least $400 this month, that should kinda make up for it :/

          but that tax doesn't go to the TV studios. Watching TV shows on NetFlix, you only pay what Americans pay. Australians are unworthy of watching American TV shows without paying at least 200% more than Americans.

      Under the current laws, it is probably Netflix that is guilty of piracy.

      Even though you're paying Netflix and Netflix is paying the studios, Netflix has only paid for a license to distribute the content within the US. When they stream films and TV shows to you, they are doing so without a license, which is copyright infringement.

      You are probably still on the hook for breaking the terms of service, which could make you liable for civil lawsuit (provided jurisdictions could be sorted out).

        But technically netflix is streaming to the vpn server ip address in the US, then the vpn provider is delivering it to you, could they be in trouble somewhere along the line?

      Under the MPAA and the RIAA definition that's a yes

    “that include sentences of imprisonment as well as monetary fines sufficiently high to provide a deterrent to future acts of infringement, consistently with the level of penalties applied for crimes of a corresponding gravity”

    Funnily enough that can really only mean a reduction in sentencing, since downloading 3 MP3s is most definitely not WORSE than murder.

      4 years for murder, 10 years for piracy.

      Seems legit.

    This whole Trans Pacific Partnership deal is corporation-devised trouble for everyone. Any country that signs it is seriously f-cked from hereon out. For instance, if a signatory country makes a law that precludes a corp from doing business in that country (eg, making GM foods illegal) then the affected corporation has the right to sue the government for loss of trade. It's seriously bad news for all of us.

    Last edited 14/11/13 1:07 pm

      Or if they pass a law you can't drill in the middle of the great barrier reef. A company can sue for damages. It'll be insane.

      In canada they don't allow certain drugs approval. Companies now sue the government for hundreds of millions of dollars. It's insane. Basically if companies can't do what they want, they can sue for damages. The people, conservation, common sense be damned!

      So if Abbott changed the law so dope is legal, he could start a dope company and then sue the U.S.for one trillion dollars of lost revenue. Cool

        What has Abbott got to do with this story???? He wasn't PM when this agreement was made.

          Save your Liberal loving marching band for Murdoch's papers where it belongs.
          THIS government is continuing to agree with the US on this deal therefore THIS government needs to be held accountable for it's actions.

            WTF are you talking about? The government hasn't said anything about this. Discussions that were under way prior to the election are continuing. That is all. The discussions aren't done by the politicians, they are done by lawyers from DFAT.

          I think you may have misinterpreted his comment. He was just saying If Our Current Government were to make illegal drugs legal then start a company, They could sue the US for damages to their business by banning drugs... (i think)

      The TPP is meant for corporations, governments have no say as negotiations r done by business lobbyists (especially in the US side) where all they do is making money

    It's coming - our only savior will be federal judges that refuse to enshrine this garbage into Australian law.

    I'm with iinet because they challenged the previous attempts at this in court and I hope they will do so again should the need arise.

    If it all goes to crap - we can still play kik-the-can and that game where you catch the ball with on a string with that thing-a-ma-bob...there's always dreidels...

    And South Korea wants a similar deal whereby they (Korean companies trading in aus) have legal rights in Australia to sue for lost income etc. or challenge our laws if it infringes on their ability to profit. The globalisation of finance and now law is homogenising the planet.

    Last edited 14/11/13 1:27 pm

      Except that's not how law works - If statutory provisions go in, they can only be overturned by the High Court, and that's only if the government is acting outside its power under s51 to create laws in respect to that. Once it hits the books with bipartisan support, we're screwed.

        So would that mean iiNet would be able to challenge a new law by arguing the government acted outside it's power under s51? Is that the only way it could be challenged?
        ie: Universal Pictures demands iiNet surrender the names of persons DLing a torrent of one of their movies and iiNet challenges the validity of the new law in the High Court using the above argument?

          The would be the only way. However, they would need to prove they didnt have that power, and they would probably fail, as these would fall under subsection (i) and subsection (xviii), trade and copyright provisions. It would all depend on the wording of the law, the enforcement regulations etc. Courts take a 'purposive' approach to examine powers under s51, so it often ends up with a wider net than a narrower one.

            I miss my childhood...things were foreign and scary and that was a good thing! - now its just one big dogpile massing to abuse any opportunity.

            What's better - fear of global thermonuclear war or fear of climate change?
            "Shall we play a game?"

        Once it hits the books with bipartisan support, we're screwed.

        Our only hope is Clive Palmer.

        Wow, that's depressing.

          "Help us Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're our only hope"

          Don't worry, he'll probably be taking a sickie that day.

        And it will have bipartisan support, you just don't go against the mafia
        Or they break your legs

        Also look what happened to Gough Whitlam when he tried to go against Pine Gap

      External Affairs power in constitution would allow the government to do it.

        Pretty much, that power has been horrendously expanded in recent High Court cases

    Enforcing criminal proceedings for a civil infraction? Do they even know how copyright works? How much would you have to pirate to be anywhere on par with something requiring imprisonment?

    Holy f#!k.

      Some copyright violations already require criminal sanctions, most notably anything "on a commercial scale". P2P clients communicate with hundreds of other clients, therefore bringing in the criminal sanctions.

      Private 1-to-1 copying in Australia is pretty lightly penalised as I recall. At the moment.

      Of course, the devil is in the details, particularly in how "of corresponding gravity" is read. You can bet the people who created that phrasing are not thinking in slap-on-the-wrist terms.

    restricting the sale of devices that might be able to circumvent geoblocking.
    So restricting the sales of routers, computers, games consoles, Android phones/tablets, iOS devices, the internet, airplane tickets (travelling to America to watch netflix is still circumventing geoblocking), international cruises, wifi cards, the NBN and pretty much anything that can be plugged into a computer.
    The plan is absolutely flawless.

    Who did Gerry Harvey stroke off to get this idea floated?

    There's an easy solution to piracy.. Structure your operations the same as pirates have been doing for 15 years and charge people what it really costs to sell a single title, not what greedy industry deems a single title to be worth.

    I buy movies from Google Play when they are on special. But there is no way you'll ever get $30-$45 out of me for poor quality movies. The most I'll drop for a good title is $15 and thats to own it til death.

    Fuck that, if this shit comes through I'm going to try my hand at politics and fix this bullshit up.

      With well constructed and thoughtout statements like that I'm sure you will go far

    So what's a nice country that has warm weather, sunny days, nice beaches, good countryside and sensible laws, oh and preferably a place where I don't run the risk of being murdered by crazy people.

    This country is quickly going down the sinkhole.

    Sounds like Uncle Rupert is getting his payment early.

      Document is dated August 30, 2013. Who was in charge then?

        It was a caretaker government at that point, but from what we've seen in the past many of these international treaties get drafted with relatively little actual political input. It's all bureaucracies, typically reading from a sheet provided by commercial interests.

          Nice theory, but I'd love to see the evidence. Just for once I really would. If it is the case, then why is it that you know, but the rest of us don't? Maybe it's because the US are protecting their revenue base, or is that a bit too simple?

            The US system's vulnerability to commercial manipulation is well known. Do I need to give examples? Government by the lobbyists, for the lobbyists, of... the people. Look at the ramping up of copyright (and patents) over the years, or the complete nonlegislation of "supplements."

            These treaties typically take years to put together and span multiple governments. I won't say that the result is entirely due to bureaucratic action, but in many ways this is why we HAVE a bureauracy - so the little things get looked after all the time, under general direction of their political masters.

            The treaty released August 30th did not come out in a day; it was probably the result of years of work. As such, if any government had a hand in its shaping, it would mostly have been Labor. However, the submissions made which shape these treaties will mostly have been from commercial interests so we can expect the result to favour them. Hard to be objective when only one side gets to state its argument.

    I was under the impression that free trade agreements were supposed to result in LOWER prices, not higher?

      Lower prices for American Corporations.

      Anybody who thinks that the USA would ever let another country benefit more (if at all) than they would from an FTA they enter into, is extremely naive.

      Lower prices but higher margins means more profits for them, also longer timeframe for goods as they would need both legal and R&D permission

    Might be a good idea if people went and read the thing before blanketing with anti-piracy and medi-mogul bashing.
    The thing only stipulates that parties need to provide for cyber-piracy distinctly on commercial scales. So it does not impose any new threat to you at home, just on the services from which you get things.
    All the rest seems fairly reasonable - though as someone mentioned above, it'll all be in the details of how elements are put into practice (eg. protection of local industry, etc).
    Try to be informed before throwing up your hands in disgust. A partial (and in places, poorly written) leaked document is no indication of future Aussie policy.

      They're going on the information they have. If truth was made public instead of trying to make secretive deals behind closed doors then these assumptions would not be made.

      Might be a good idea if people went and read the thing before blanketing with anti-piracy and medi-mogul bashing.

      Too many people seem to be having fun bashing the Coalition and blaming all their woes on Murdoch.

      Here's an interesting tidbit. The document is dated 30 August, 2013. Who was in power then?

        If you scroll down to the bottom of the document you can see that a lot of "work" has been done by the signatory country's including Australia to try and get this agreement right, i would think that they have been working on this for quite a while.

        However the bottom line still sits with the coalition as the are the ones in power who can put it into law or not.

        I apposed Stephen Conroy's internet filter and i also appose this crappy agreement.

          I oppose your apposement!

          So what you're saying is that all the people screaming "F... Tony Abbot for doing this" are wrong because the process was started before he was in power, and he has done nothing one way or another about it?

            No what i am saying is no matter who started it Labor or the coalition at this point it does not matter, what matters is if it becomes law and the people who can make that decision are the coalition because they are in power right now.

            Regardless if this is a Labor or Coalition idea, it is a shit idea and should be opposed.

            Let me ask you this, has Tony Abbott come out and said he is for this agreement?

            I am not a Tony Abbott supporter but to my knowledge he has said nothing about this topic yet, when he does and if you don't like it go ahead and say "F... Tony Abbot for doing this" or better yet take some kind of (legal) action to try and stop it from going through.

            Last edited 15/11/13 3:55 pm

              I've been following this since I first heard about it a month or two ago, and "Prime Minister Tony Abbott has indicated he is keen to see the trade talks pushed to a successful conclusion next month".

              Regardless of who started it, I just hope the current government does not finish it. I think it's a terrible idea for the piracy controls, the changes to pharmaceutical patents and price controls, and the powers it gives foreign corporations to challenge government decisions like plain cigarette packaging and mining restrictions.

                At the end of the day, regardless of if the deal is signed or not, the "anti-piracy" will fail and always will. Video rental stores days are numbered.

                Video streaming services that we have available to us will continue to be useless until we all have a decent internet connection. That leaves downloading via P2P.

                It will be interesting to see how the Geo-blocking provisions of the deal will go considering the parliamentary inquiry recommended Geo-blocking circumvention.

            This new government has been sworn in for what, 60 days? So every bit of policy of the previous government has to be addressed instantly now? One might think talks on this agreement will come to light when Abbott visits Obama first? Until then, who really knows? Perhaps the author of this story could do some journalism and call the trade minister and ask, perhaps? Thats what I would do, but hey, I'm no journalist, am I.

    The more you read about this, the more insane it gets. We'd have to get rid of plain packaging for cigarettes under the trademark sections of this. High Court be damned.

    Same with saying isp's not liable for users breaches. Like the iinet. High Court be damned.

    Insane clauses about jurisdiction if you want to challenge the take down notice.

    They need to do the reverse of geoblocking etc. allow Netflix, Hulu, BBC, Amazon Prime etc. to operate world wide and watch piracy plummet.

      Funny how a "Free Trade" agreement contains provisions for geoblocking...

    What this is, is the first step towards destroying freedom of speech for the 99%/. It's so things like wiki leaks cant exist. So that the privileged few can do whatever they want and not get caught, while the rest of the Human race will be forced into silence. Do this or we will lock you up and fine the shit out of you!

    Reall! has no one put two and two together and figured out why genourous governments like Aus and Nz all decided to give the people high speed internet at the same time? And why Internet traffic in and out of the country ran through government servers? This has been the plan for many years, it's nothing new.

    With the improvement in 3D printing technology, looks like they're prepping to stop people from downloading cars =(

    There goes my hopes and dreams....

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now