I was planning on writing about this, but misseli beat me to it with the following fine summary (below in the Arial font).
The only reason why I'm not totally dismayed by this is not a done deal. It still needs to be ratified by the Australian Senate, which the Federal Government does not control. I'm sure that the Greens and Democrats will oppose most of this and the main opposition party, the Australian Labor Party has indicated it may oppose this as well. It's interesting how the electronic news media has portrayed the deal as being good for Australia, with the exception of the sugar industry. "It could have been a lot worse" is the main sentiment. True, at least the US is not yet forcing us to pay more for medicines, but if people knew more they'd realize that this is a lot worse than it appears.
Australia Joins the Mickey Mouse Club
Australia and the United States signed a Free Trade Agreement agreement on February 9 (Feb. 8, in this hemisphere). A lot of the press (here and abroad) is focused on opposition within Australia's agricultural sector (particularly sugar and dairy farmers) and the proposed benefits to its manufacturing sector.
However, warning bells have sounded regarding changes in copyright/IP laws and their effects on libraries. Like the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, Australia's copyright terms have been raised an additional 20 years. It's set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2005.
From The Age's article:
"The outcome is bad for libraries," said Colette Ormonde, copyright adviser for the Australian Library and Information Association. "It is bad for students. It is bad for researchers. It is bad for all information users."
The terms of the agreement seek to harmonize IP protections in regards to material, including digital formats ... which suggests that DMCA-type legislation is next on the agenda, if not already so.
Thanks for the 411 from /. and the chattylibrarians list-serv. [Confessions of a Mad Librarian]