It’s just not (copy)right
Associate Professor Kimberlee Weatherall of the Faculty of Law at Sydney University says the WikiLeaks draft of the IP chapter of the TPP “would lock in provisions that have been repeatedly criticised by Australian politicians, including most recently in the Joint IT Pricing Inquiry”.
She says: “The US push for endless criminalisation of even private activities (partially supported, I am afraid, by Australia) is frankly horrifying. Although the Australian negotiators do not support every last detail of the US proposals they are signing up to far more than they should and will, if they sign, lock Australia into a new, complex, and damaging set of IP obligations that will be giving users, IP owners, and policymakers headaches for many years to come.”
Jail time for copyright infringement
The leaked draft of the intellectual property chapter of the TPP indicates that US-style copyright laws could be adopted by all TPP members. Australia is among the minority of countries pushing for the criminalisation of copyright infringement that has no direct or indirect motivation of financial gain. And if the US has its way, downloading an episode of Game of Thrones from BitTorrent could lead to criminal penalties. The good news is the Australian government has said it is opposing this measure.
Parallel importing out, IT pricing up
The US is fighting for a ban on parallel imports without the permission of the copyright holder, which would mean Australians could not buy products cheaply overseas and ship them here unless a company says they can (Australia and several other countries are opposing the ban).
The TPP may also lead to greater protection for companies using geo-blocking on movies, music, books and software, and could lead to enforcement provisions against those who seek to get around these blocks.
And the leaks indicate that parties to the TPP may enact laws that force an internet service provider to give out “information in [their] possession” about their customers to copyright owners if there is just a “claimed” infringement, without requiring evidence or probable cause. That means if a Hollywood studio asked your ISP for details such as your name and address because they suspected (without necessarily having evidence) that you’d downloaded a movie illegally, your ISP may have to provide it to them.
Medication costs to rise
The TPP may also extend the life of pharmaceutical patents and allow companies to get new patents on existing drugs by making small changes to their formulation, such as changing the dosage, or even changing from a tablet to a capsule. This could mean cheaper generic versions of medications take a lot longer to reach the market, costing Australian consumers and taxpayers buckets of cash in the long run. Dr Rimmer says: “The Trans-Pacific Partnership promotes the evergreening of pharmaceutical drugs. One would expect higher drug prices.”
The impact of the TPP on prices and availability of medication is so great, in fact, that Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) (also known as Doctors Without Borders) have taken the unprecedented step of campaigning against it.
"The TPP currently includes some of the harshest provisions against access to medicines ever included in a trade agreement with developing countries, gutting public health safeguards and leaving them unable to take the steps needed to protect the lives and health of their people above the profit of multinational pharmaceutical companies," says a spokesperson.
MSF’s Advocacy and Public Affairs Manager Jon Edwards says the TPP threatens HIV/AIDS treatment in sub-Saharan Africa and beyond, and could potentially delay the availability of more effective treatments.
“It seems to us that the TPP is protecting [pharmaceutical] monopolies. MSF is for competition when that competition delivers affordable medicine,” he says.
Australia’s position on medication is one of the few areas where we stand opposed to the US, according to the WikiLeaks draft of the IP chapter.
Patents go further than they have before
If the US has its way, “diagnostic, therapeutic, and surgical methods for the treatment of humans or animals” would be eligible for patents. This could mean that hospitals performing surgery using a new, less invasive method, for example, would be forced to pay royalties. This could significantly delay the introduction of improved treatments, and is likely to make the methods expensive to train in and perform.
The US also wants to “make patents available for inventions for the following: plants and animals”.