ACTA treaty could pressure future changes for Aussie laws: EFA

Despite not requiring change to Australia laws on copyright, the treaty may justify changes down the track

Although the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) will not require any immediate changes to Australian laws, Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) has expressed concern over potential future pressures on Australian copyright control from other countries.

Australian Minister for Trade, Craig Emerson, last week announced Australia would not be required to change existing domestic laws in order to implement the international treaty.

However, EFA chairman, Colin Jacobs, told Computerworld Australia that while negotiations for the treaty are “basically” over with few substantial changes to take place, the treaty could potentially influence regulations in the future.

“We’ll have to wait and see how the discussions go when the treaty comes before parliament and the parliamentary committee, but our issues might be more in the international sense, the treaty might be used as justification for making changes to the law down the road if there was pressure internationally, suggesting Australian laws weren’t adequate in some cases and that we might have been in breach of the treaty,” Jacobs said.

The treaty, which attempts to harmonise laws surrounding copyright infringement and digital rights management in participating countries, has led to contentious discussion of proposals for police enactment, such as a "three-strikes" rules for repeat offenders.

Jacobs noted issues could also arise around the exportation of certain protections around the world.

“For instance, the regulations that criminalises the circumvention of technological protection measures, like DRM [data rights management], and we’re obliged to incorporate those into the copyright law under the Australia/US Free Trade Agreement so signing on to ACTA, which also has the same requirement, won’t require any changes to Australian law, if it does require that around the world then we might question whether it’s a good thing for other countries and the world in general.”

According to Jacobs, other countries signing on to the treaty - such as New Zealand and Canada - may be required to make changes to their domestic copyright laws as a result of the treaty.

The Internet Industry of Australia (IIA) recently gave its tick of approval to the treaty, praising the lack of a ‘three strikes’ rule which would have seen repeated copyright infringers barred from the internet.

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