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September 16, 2006

Free trade agreement redux - I don't like to say "I told you so" but

Nigh on two years ago I wrote, at the time of Australia's entering into a so called free so called trade, so called agreement with the US

I believe the recent US/Australian "free trade agreement" (which is not about free trade, and is no more an agreement than the schoolyard bully and the wimpy nerdy guy "agreeing" that the wimpy guy give all his pocket money to the bully) undermines Australia's ability to adapt to the profoundly changing legal, technical and business landscape created by the current revolutions in intellectual property (IP) thrown up by the increasing digitization of the processes of creation, distribution and use of IP, from software to music to cinema and beyond.

Well, it has come to pass. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that

"The Australia United States Free Trade Agreement requires Australia to prohibit the use of devices and services to circumvent TPMs. Currently Australia does not prohibit the use of devices and services to circumvent TPMs but does prohibit activities in relation to circumvention devices (such as manufacture or sale)," Minter Ellison said in a recent statement.

These would include digital rights management (DRM) systems used by the film, gaming and music industries as well as any applied to the recent generation of gaming consoles.

So there you have it. Entirely, and tediously as predicted, Australia now is required to incorporate US law as our own without debate, in this case the highly controversial Digital Copyright Millenium Act (DCMA) (and any other amendments the U.S congress may seem fir to incorporate in the interests of their corporate paymasters). Why the f#&k do we even have a parliament anymore? Could this possibly be constitutional? We may, as our Prime Minister said "decide who comes to our shores and under what conditions" but apparently we don't decide which laws affect Australians. We've signed a treaty which undermines that. Why is there no outrage? We get worked up about "migrants" and "Australian values". But this represents Australian values I guess.

I sound angry? I'll repeat this bit from Minter Ellison's legal advice "The Australia United States Free Trade Agreement requires Australia" to pass U.S. laws as Australian law without debate.
Why doesn't the free trade agreement oblige the U.S. to repeal the DCMA? Why is that not "harmonisation" of the IP laws of the two countries? That's why I refer to it as a so called free so called trade so called agreement. It was entered into at an executive level without parliamentary vote, it is not about trade, it's about U.S. laws and interests, and and it is not even remotely an agreemment, It's a Fiat from the U.S. to Australia.

If you are not angry you are an idiot.
Where on earth is our opposition in all this? Oh, pandering to nonsensical political non issues like making new Australian citizens take language tests.

BTW, some people argue it's worth this cost, as it helps trade, which helps the country. Trade between Australia and the U.S. fell 3% in the year after we signed this agreement.

Shame on our country. What's next? We'll be forced to adopt U.S. sentencing laws, including the death penalty?

It is a mighty slippery slope when you hand over your sovereignty to another country - and this is precisely what we have done here.

September 16, 2006 in Rants | Permalink


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Hi, um.. imperialist American running dog here. Sorry.

Three things:

1. It's DMCA, not DCMA. I don't care how you put it but, that's it. I don't like it anymore than you do.

2. I'm amazed that trade with Aus. only fell 3%. I haven't bought shit in a while and certainly not Australian shit. What do you guys make? I'm serious on that one. I can't think of a single Australian export. Fosters? I'd always heard that was Australian for ass. So, anything else?

3. This is how we get ya. It's how we dick Canada, Mexico, the entire of the South American continent, Europe and anyone else that wants to buy a Coke.

Again, sorry bout that.

Posted by: Chris C. | Sep 16, 2006 10:35:15 AM

Wow. Well, maybe with two pissed off countries' worth of citizens we can fight that piece of legislative crap known as the DMCA. John, I'm a pretty damn proud American, but we've got some serious wank'd out meat sacks in our diplomatic and legislative offices. I'm 'bout as big of a proponent of term limits for elected officials as it gets and these slack-jaw'd mouth breathers who decide they want to screw with intellectual property and technology are living (barely) proof of why we need to restrict the number of time they can feed from the public trough.

Posted by: Patrick | Sep 16, 2006 10:46:36 AM


I always get that anagram mixed up. Must be a psychological thing!
We sell coal and minerals. There is a huge boom right now., wiith China taking all the primary stuff they can. Of course, we then buy it back as TVs and soon cars. Same as it ever was.

You are right Chris, it is hgow it works, and has been for years (20+). But we should be wise to it now! What infuriates me is actually OUR attitude here - that we accept it. With barely a whimper. At th esame time we get so excited about 4 peoiple a year who emigrate here without a PhD. in English literature from Oxford, as if it is eroding the fabric of our society. Yet this stuff doesn't?

Thanks my imperial running dog friend :-)


Posted by: John Allsopp | Sep 16, 2006 12:18:24 PM


no one on earth actually wants the DMCA, except hollywood and the musci industry. What an extraordinary irony that they are monopolistic cartels, and so in order to protect their out of date business models, under the guise of free trade we protect their monopolies. The ironies compound.

A great irony is that of course I am all for trade - I am an avowed capitalist for heaven's sake. But genuinely free, fair trade, not this nonsense.

"same as it ever weas, same as it ever was" (or will quoting talking heads get me sued and fined?) (no, I am being serious!)



Posted by: John Allsopp | Sep 16, 2006 12:21:33 PM

Although I have not examined the so called free trade agreement to the depth that you obviously have. I like you was appalled when i realised that a law passed id the US would automatically become law here.

I see it as the thin edge of a wedge that eventually will see more and more US laws automatically applying to Australia.

I doubt that most of our politicians are even aware of the contents of the FTA certainly the general public is unaware the US is passing laws that are implemented here.

A public awareness, political lobbying campaign could change that. A paper that could be distributed to all politicians and news outlets would soon have questions asked in parliment.

All that is needed is someone who understands the issues and has the necessary literary skills.

I can just imagine the reaction from the Australian public to the realisation that the US can pass a law that applies here.

Posted by: Rob Unsworth | Sep 17, 2006 10:44:25 AM

I agree with you on all counts. I have never heard of the US engaging in a "Free Trade Agreement" that benefits anyone outside of the US. I am becoming quite sick of this country's foreign policy on all fronts. And that's before I even get to the DMCA!

Look on the bright side: You aren't being bound by the "Patriot" act (yet).

Posted by: Dave Vogt | Sep 18, 2006 7:22:47 AM

Every empire will die apparently… Just wait.
Be happy that USA didn't bought Australia as they did with Georgia and Ukraine or didn't destroy it as Afganistan, Jugoslavia or Iraq.

Posted by: Dmitry Baranovskiy | Sep 18, 2006 10:44:49 AM

@Dmitry: Yet.

Posted by: Deb Lander | Sep 18, 2006 10:46:55 AM

"no one on earth actually wants the DMCA, except hollywood and the musci industry."

Ah, but they're the ones with all the lobbying cash.

Posted by: MrLefty | Sep 19, 2006 8:05:35 AM

As a Canadian, I'd like to just say welcome to the club.

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