Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

A Critical Juncture for Intellectual Property

By Christoph Antons

Efforts to establish a global IP authority have provoked debate over where intellectual property becomes theft and piracy becomes community action.

Professor Antons is a Chief Investigator with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation at Deakin University’s School of Law.

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In early July, the European Parliament voted against the ratification of the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which had triggered demonstrations in various countries. The treaty intensified a debate in the media about the reform of intellectual property in general and copyright in particular. This reform has also become a primary agenda of the Pirate Parties that recently entered several parliaments at local, state and European level.

This level of public attention and scrutiny is new for IP law, which was previously of concern to a relatively small circle of experts interested in IP and its contribution to innovation, culture and commerce. The relatively low public interest meant that IP industries for many years found it easy to lobby for new and stronger forms of protection.

The 1990s in particular were golden years. In 1994, the Agreement on Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) was included in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreement. The TRIPS agreement brought higher standards of protection and included, for the first time in international IP treaties, rules on the enforcement of IP rights.

Internet-related issues were included a little later in two treaties concluded under the auspices of the World Intellectual Property Organization in 1996. Since TRIPS was a requirement for WTO membership, a large...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.