Leaked Document Points to Government-Condoned Measures to Protect Intellectual Property

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Documents published by WikiLeaks reveal details about a Trans-Pacific Partnership between 12 prospective member countries aimed to further liberalize the economies of the Asia-Pacific region. The leaked chapter sheds light on policy measures that could affect the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights, which could wide-ranging effects on medicines, publishers, internet services, civil liberties and biological patents.

On Wedensday, WikiLeaks posted a 95-page chapter of a secret negotiated draft text for the TPP dealing with the topic of IP. The countries in negotiation include the US, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand and Brunei. Notably, China is excluded.

Some of the prescriptions for discouraging IP infringement 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.”

The section dealing specifically with Internet service providers shows a majority of member nations (excluding the US and Australia) that the liability of ISPs should be limited when they act as intermediaries in the infringement of copyright or related rights.

While this proposed measure could treat ISPs as neutral bodies, countries are also proposing ISPs put procedures in place for notifying right holders of infringements to facilitate their removal and disabling access to them.

In its analysis of the document, NGO Knowledge Ecology International, notes that the TPP closes many of the spaces used for exceptions from IP law. This has caused some to worry that the provisions will hurt the free access to knowledge and even impede innovation or creative work that builds on the work of others.

The TPP will be negotiated later this month in Salt Lake City, Utah, and many countries are hoping to sign and ratify the TPP before the end of 2013. Depending on the outcomes of these negotiations, ISPs might inadvertently be in the center of a conflict between rights owners and their customers.

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