Kim Weatherall has written about how the FTA will affect Australia's intellectual property laws. To summarize, if Australia signs onto this, we're going to be stuck with - copyright term extension a la Sonny Bono & Mickey Mouse, strengthening our anti-circumvention laws, weakening exemptions including ones granted to libraries, and the creation of some sort of ISP take-down rule.
It is a horrifying prospect to be saddled with the worst of US intellectual property law. But the most pathetic thing is the way that it's been imposed on Australia. The DMCA is an awful law for the US, but at least it was a genuine product of the American legislative process. At least it went through the various committees and was debated, and voted on as to whether that particular law was good for the country or not. It is pathetic that Australia is poised to rubber stamp elements of this law at the behest of another country.
These are significant changes to our intellectual property laws. Whether you support them or oppose them, these changes should be fully debated by the Australian people.
But there is not going to be a debate about the proposed changes to intellectual property laws in isolation. The negotiation is finished and now the only choices are to ratify or reject the FTA. Now we have the situation where our government is forced to consider all of these disparate issues which have bundled together. How can one weigh the restrictions on Australian creativity and freedom that will be caused by these IP laws, against protecting Australia's Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme which gives us affordable medicines, against the livelihoods of Australian sugar cane farmers, against the benefits which we would gain from otherwise free trade with the US?
Enough ranting for now. The Age has reported that Australian open source advocates are sponsoring an online petition against the IP provisions of the FTA. Please sign it - especially if you are Australian or American (if you dislike US intellectual property laws and would hate to see them exported and imposed on other people).