Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Latham should walk tall, like McEwan, Hawke and Keating.

Tim Colebatch in the Age.

In his desperation for a deal, the PM accepted an agreement that would mean free trade in one direction, but restricted trade the other way...

Could you imagine Sir John McEwen, Bob Hawke or Paul Keating accepting this cringing, second-rate outcome?

As one advocate of a Australia-US deal puts it privately, the problem is that negotiations ended at the half-way mark. In February the negotiators should have walked away, taken a long break for consultations and rethinking, and then resumed talks after both countries had got their elections out of the way.

That is still the way to do it. It is only possible if Labor has the guts to defy the Murdoch empire - half-owner of Australia's pay TV network, and hence a major beneficiary of the deal - vote this agreement down, and restart negotiations in 2005.

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Thursday, July 15, 2004

"Among the most pro-American agreements... we've seen before this House"

This morning's AM has sound of US Congressman describing the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement as

among the most pro-American, pro-worker agreements that we've seen before this House.

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Do most Australians have any idea what our Government has just signed us up to?

The US House of Representatives has just approved the proposed FTA between Australia and the US.

Here Kim Weatherall gives us a taste of what's in store.

Removing Consumers’ Freedoms

The basic aim of the AUSFTA digital copyright provisions is to ensure copyright owners have the power to exercise complete control over how their material is used, played, accessed by individual consumers and new creators. The basic idea is: if they want to control some use or access; if they want to control some technology used to play their works: our laws will have to enforce that control. Let's follow that thought. What does it mean?

If copyright owners want you to pay a little bit every time you listen to the song? Australia will probably have to enforce that decision.

If copyright owners use technology to prevent home taping of TV broadcasts – Australia will probably have to enforce that.

If copyright owners want to stop Linux desktops playing DVDs or music files: Australia will probably have to enforce that.

Ever copied a CD onto a tape or a mp3 player because you didn’t want to carry your CD collection around? If copyright owners want to impose rules that say you can’t take a song you bought, and move it to your new digital music player, Australia will probably have to enforce that decision...

Has your child ever copied a picture from the Internet and put it in their school project? If copyright owners want to stop school students using copyright clips or pictures in their projects, or stop university students in media studies using clips to make documentaries or other movies: Australia will probably have to enforce that.

if the copyright owner wants to stop you fast forwarding through the ads on their content (or blocking or removing them) , Australia might also have to enforce that - depending on how the technology was put together
Once works are digital, and once TPM is imposed, all those "fair use" type rights you thought you have exist only so far as copyright owners think they should.

The government has said that we have our exceptions still. Reality check: not once the works are digital. If copyright owners use technology – the rules that physically prevent you making a home copy, or using a clip for your documentary – we can’t create effective new exceptions for those...

And you know what? Australia are the suckers here. This is not law that meets an international standard. This is law that has been rejected by other developed countries a bit like us – Canada, and NZ.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2004

The New York Times on the imminent US - Australia "Free Trade" Agreement

The Times says:

In negotiating the pact, the United States, for the first time, challenged how a foreign industrialized country operates its national health program to provide inexpensive drugs to its own citizens.

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