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TPP protects rights holders, not consumers, says Senator Ludlam

As Trans-Pacific Partnership talks continue, Greens Senator Scott Ludlam has said the trade deal is just designed to protect big rights holders -- an argument one Senator says is a "conspiracy".

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Greens Senator Scott Ludlam has slammed the Trans-Pacific Partnership currently being negotiated between 12 major nations, including Australia, saying it is designed to protect the profits of major corporations, including major movie studios and rights holders.

Senator Ludlam said Australian individuals were the ones with the most to lose under the TPP, which he said "effectively imported some of the worst aspects of US IP [intellectual property] law, without their protections". He also argued that if proposed data retention laws came into affect alongside the TPP, big corporations would have an easy route to pursuing (and fining) Australians for piracy.

"This is an agreement being hammered out by global corporations in their benefit. It is an investors' rights agreement; it is not a free trade agreement," Senator Ludlam said in a speech to the Senate yesterday.

"It is all about enforcing the rights of rights holders, most of them from overseas, and there is nothing at all about public interest protections."

In conjunction with mandatory data retention laws currently under review by Parliament, Senator Ludlam argued that the TPP would provide an open avenue for rights holders to chase pirates.

"Rights holders from the US and elsewhere can go and trawl the metadata records of your teenage kids and send them threatening legal letters and the threat of gargantuan fines unless they pay up, or lengthy court cases unless they pay enormous fines," he said.

He pointed to US fair use protections that mean the average internet user "cannot be prosecuted under US intellectual property law for doing stuff that is quite clearly not impinging on profits".

However, Ludlam argued that under the TPP, rights holders would be able to argue that they are losing "future profits" through piracy, opening up an avenue to "track down and prosecute teenagers BitTorrenting stuff".

Conspiracy theories

In response to these criticisms of the TPP, Queensland Coalition Senator Matthew Canavan accused Senator Ludlam of bringing up conspiracy theories about big corporations and secret negotiations.

"Apparently we are all beholden to corporate interests and corporations. I do not know if the strings are visible to people today, but I am just a puppet, apparently, for corporate interests. It is all based on conspiracies," he said.

"It reminds me [of] "Team America", and one of the characters in that movie was asked to explain their claims about corporations. They said, 'Oh, yeah, well, corporations are out there, and they do 'corporationy' things, and they go and make money'."

However, Senator Ludlam argued that it was parliament's job "to protect the public interest, not the commercial interest and the corporate interest".

The Green Senator said the TPP "may be as close as two or three weeks away from being signed". Only then will it be presented to parliament -- potentially on a "take it or leave it" basis, with oversight from the treaties committee (the body that evaluates these sorts of trade agreements) only coming after it has been signed by the Government.

While there is no official word on a completion date for the agreement or when it will be tabled before Parliament, UTS Law School Professor and former head of the Australian Law Reform Commission Jill McKeough today said it is likely to be finalised before the end of the year.