Tag Archives: Intellectual property

TPP Trade Negotiations Re-open in Australia

The latest round of talks to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership began in Canberra, Australia yesterday, bringing the twelve participating nations back together to discuss wide-ranging trade issues.

The negotiations will have a significant impact on how the major nations handle intellectual property rights, among other things, and an early leak of the copyright proposals has stoked online opinion, even before any clear consensus has been reached by participants.

Canberra Australia

Canberra Parliament | Image Credit: Brenden Ashton


The provisions include a standard copyright term, generally mooted as life of the creator plus somewhere between 50-100 years, measures to prevent getting around Digital Rights Management systems designed to prevent piracy, and a form of penalizing Internet Service Providers (ISPs) for illegal access that occurs through the connections they run.

On the latter point participating nations are being particularly careful. Despite feeling that ISPs have a supporting role to play in enforcing intellectual property law, the tendency towards draconian measures such as long term disconnections and jail time has long since passed. The desire now, as indicated by Australia’s attempts to put cost limits in place and the wider desire for some form of intermediary “safe harbor,” is to bring ISPs more effectively into the fight for copyright protection. This is something that their business depends on, given how much content is consumed online and the increasing popularity of streaming music and movies.

As early drafts of the proposal confirm, the end game here is to create “remedies for rights holders to address copyright infringement in the online environment.” This has to be a good thing for creative rights, but it hasn’t been a smooth ride for the TPP so far.

Even with opposition to the way the negotiations are being held behind closed doors (not at all irregular for early draft international treaties) and the concern that any legislation will overreach (though individual nations will still be responsible for how they integrate any requirements into their own legal systems), the outcome of the TPP should accomplish a long overlooked goal: to help creators take control of their intellectual property rights beyond their own borders.


More Countries Pursue Anti-Piracy Education

The British government is coming under increased pressure to pursue a multi-pronged approach to copyright infringement. That’s the finding of MP Mike Weatherley, the man tasked by Prime Minister David Cameron with finding more effective ways to protect intellectual property (IP) in the United Kingdom.

Pulling no punches as to the importance of early education when it comes to copyright law and the need to both understand and respect creative rights, Weatherley states in his report that:

“The school curriculum needs to prepare pupils – from early years through to the end of secondary school and higher education – for the 21st century knowledge economy.”

If pursued by the country’s Prime Minister, the initiative would see new training for educational professionals on the legal side of IP, as well as a slew of resources like online tool kits and classroom materials to support the underlying message of any additions to the curriculum.

Education has become an increasingly important counterpoint to broader anti-piracy strategy. Where site shutdowns and political lobbying form the main drive of copyright activists, public education is the quieter follow up, a reminder that laws exist for a reason and legal alternatives to piracy are readily accessible.

The UK is just the latest country to pursue a deeper angle on piracy education. Following a concerning study showing that 7 in 10 people in Singapore engage in illegal downloading, the country moved quickly to explore not only blocking illegal sites, but rolling out information campaigns to steer new generations away from piracy. This was around the same time that the influential Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) backed an anti-piracy curriculum module called “Be a Creator,” aimed at promoting IP rights in the classroom and keeping children from the clutches of illegal activity here in the U.S.

Education is only one facet of the fight against piracy, but it’s ever-more important on a global scale. Countries around the world are quickly realizing that punishment is one thing, but when it comes to curbing illegal activity for a whole new generation, helping children to understand the value of copyright and the property of creators is something best achieved with early and subtle intervention.


Cartier IP Case Poses Questions for Global Enforcement

Parisian luxury accessories company Cartier is set to test the waters of international intellectual property (IP) enforcement, as it goes after counterfeit goods sold online.

While this all sounds fairly standard for a luxury brand with trademarks to protect, the focus of its litigation is not. Rather than the going after the end-sellers and the websites that host them, Cartier has asked a London court to force the Internet service providers in between to block the offending sites outright. If upheld, the brand’s actions could give the green light for other international names to pursue similar action, potentially flipping the burden of enforcement to the middlemen rather than the distributors.

Unsurprisingly that’s a big “if,” as there’s plenty of opposition to this approach, and not only from ISPs.

Free speech activists and civil rights groups will also have a part to play, as whenever there’s talk of shutting down a site, there follow the claims that reckless accusations will be made and legitimate services or speech shut down without “a fair trial.” On the other side of the argument, brands and other rightsholders point out that when their IP is being infringed upon, value is lost with each passing day and their infringement claims are based on a sound knowledge of who is licensed and who isn’t. All ISPs need do to avoid being placed in the spotlight themselves is comply with block orders promptly.

site blocked notice

This approach to cutting off counterfeiting via its online middle men closely resembles a tactic being weighed by countries around the world to fight content piracy.

The so-called “number of strikes” legislation adopted by the likes of France and Great Britain calls on ISPs to warn customers about infringement that goes on through the connection they pay for, with a final threat of being cut off if the accessing of illegitimate content doesn’t stop. The same complaints are heard against this method of IP enforcement, calling the approach heavy-handed and denying the right to be online to everyone on that connection, in much the same way that blocking a site for hosting counterfeit goods would punish users doing nothing wrong, as well as those buying unlicensed products.

The path ahead is unlikely to be as clear as “block all sites upon any infringement,” but it’s obvious that something has to be done to empower rightsholders to control the way their intellectual property is used.

Bootlegging, piracy and counterfeiting are age-old concerns that have been given a whole new lease of life by being able to access consumers online. The problem has gone global and legislation now needs to rise to the occasion, not only by the countries in which the IP is owned but across international boundaries. There should be no safe haven for criminals intent on living off the creativity of others, and those who facilitate the connection to criminal activity must play some part, even if that doesn’t mean bearing the brunt of enforcement activities.