This list is incomplete. At the moment the search facility on the link archive is not working properly. Sorry - Brendan March 2002.
short interlude on the meaning of Geodesic and Riemannian Geometry
5 March 2001
Short History of TRIPS changes adn the Reason Australians have a more restrictive copyright law. 5 March 2001
** Begin Text of TRIPS history post:
Just to pick up on Nick's and other comments about international harmonisation.
The reason Australia has passed this legislation is because it is bound by the TRIPS agreement, and because it doesn't want to become the target of US 301 processes (this is where the US says, "change your law to suit our interests or we'll impose economic sanctions on you" - not quite this simple, but broadly accurate if you ignore its many procedural requirements). The reason Australia is a bound by the TRIPS agreement is because it is a member of GATT/WTO. That is, it wants to sell *agricultural products* using the WTO trade infrastructure and the quid pro quo for that is to provide a high(er) level of *IP protection* (this might be called "linkage" or "cross linkage" of the IP issue to the sale of agricultural products).
IP protection has been strengthened around the world over the last 20 years primarily as a result of US efforts and its so called "Task Force on Intellectual Property", which was established in 1981(?) as an offshoot of its Advisory Committee on Trade Negotiations (under the chairmanship of the then head of the Pfizer corporation). The US first shifted IP out of WIPO (where it had little power because of the voting rules - 1 nation 1 vote) into GATT (where it has plenty of power), then used its economic power in the GATT negotiations to single out opponents to the legislation and force them away from the table. In the end the only real contestants in the TRIPS negotiations were the US, the EU and Japan - and Japan wasn't that active.
The major practical effect of the TRIPS agreements will be in the expansion of the criminal law to protect the holders of copyright and similar rights. This changes a civil enforcement procedure, in which the copyright owner bears the cost and responsibility of enforcing their rights into a criminal one, in which society picks up the tab for the copyright owner. The US, as a net exporter of IP has a vested interest in strengthening IP protection and in shifting IP enforcement into the criminal arena in other countries - this reverses a payment from US companies to the domestic economy (in lawyers' fees, investigators' fees and court costs) to a payment from the taxpayers of target countries to the US (that is, the taxpayers subsidize [sic] US corporations' enforcement of IP rights in the domestic economy by paying for the police and court time to prosecute offences which were previously dealt with in a civil action). This is sweet given the ironic use of "user pays" rhetoric in order to effect this cost shifting, and particularly so because criminal law rarely has this effect in relation to (ubiquitously analogised) property rights (because the articles that property vests in are usually owned by a player in the domestic economy).
For further irony, the US is limited in what laws it can impose on its own citizens by its Bill of Rights - eg the freedom of speech arguments raised against the DMCA - Australians have no such protection. By dragging its feet on enhanced IP protection the EU is effectively protecting its industries/consumers. This is really a story about US power and its willingness to exercise it, rather than whether or not the Federal Government are a bunch of wallies.
Some legal stuff:
you may only forward this email on condition that you release any copyright
works you have into the public domain, that release becoming effective on
their receipt of this email :-)
*** End text of TRIPS history post