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Australia to support geo-blocking as part of Trans-Pacific Partnership deal

Despite the recommendations of the IT pricing inquiry, Australia is supporting a proposal to prohibit the circumvention of "technological measures" such as geo-blocking.

At the end of the IT pricing inquiry held by the House of Representatives back in July, there were a number of recommendations made.

(2010_1310 - Coins_3 image by Ben Hosking, CC BY 2.0)

One of these included that consumers be granted the right to circumvent geo-blocking and be provided with education on the most effective ways to do so to allow Australians access to more equitable prices.

This was because the inquiry found that Australians consistently pay more for IT products than their US counterparts, including (on average) 50 per cent more for professional software and 84 per cent more for games.

However, a draft of the intellectual property (IP) chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, released by WikiLeaks, suggests that these recommendations have been swept under the rug.

The TPP is an agreement that's currently being negotiated between Australia, the US, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore, aimed at simplifying trade between the 12 nations.

According to Josh Taylor on our sister site ZDNet, a "clause proposed by Australia, the US, Singapore, Peru and Mexico would also seek to prohibit circumvention of 'technological measures' put in place by copyright holders over their works".

While the definition is certainly broad, ZDNet notes that "it could be seen to include the use of virtual private networks to access geo-blocked content, such as Netflix, from outside the US".

It's important to be aware that the TPP has not been finalised, and the leaked chapter does represent draft text.

ZDNet also found that the TPP may cause issues for Australian internet service providers (ISPs). Australia and the US are actually opposing a part of the chapter that would limit the liability for ISPs for the infringement of copyright committed by its users on its network.

The "safe harbour" proposal would ensure that, with a few exceptions, ISPs are not responsible for what their users do on the network. Given that the High Court of Australia previously ruled that iiNet wasn't liable for copyright infringement on its network, Australia's opposition to the safe harbour seems unusual.

For a more detailed analysis of the leaked IP chapter, please head to ZDNet.