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WTO "win" a boon for Australian musicians

Australian Trade Minister, Mark Vaile, and Attorney-General, Daryl Williams, have welcomed the outcome of a dispute on copyright protection brought against the US in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) that will help Australian musicians in the vital US market.

A recent change to US copyright law removed the right of songwriters and composers to receive payment when broadcast music is used commercially in an estimated 70% of US bars and restaurants and 45% of US retail stores. A WTO panel has found this exception to be inconsistent with WTO intellectual property protection rules.

“This outcome is consistent with the balanced and fair approach Australia advocated, and endorses key aspects of the case we put before the WTO panel. The WTO Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) is proving a valuable instrument for the protection of Australia’s creative and innovative exports to global markets, ranging from cultural works to high technology products and services,” Mr Vaile said.

“It’s another important win for Australia coming on the heels of our victory in the Korea beef case and in the settlement of the Howe Leather dispute yesterday. It again shows the value of WTO rules and disciplines in protecting Australian export interests.” The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has just issued a publication – Intellectual Property: A Vital Asset for Australia – which outlines how Australian industry can take advantage of the TRIPS Agreement.

Mr Williams said the WTO ruling confirmed the right of Australian musicians to be rewarded for their creativity and for their perseverance in winning international recognition, including in the vital US market.

“The recent changes to US copyright law had led to the dramatic reduction of the right of Australian musicians to be remunerated for the commercial exploitation of their musical works in one of the most important international markets for Australian music.

“We have defended the interests of Australian musicians in a key export market, and contributed to an equitable application of international rules in an industry which is a showcase for Australian creativity,” Mr Williams said.

Contacts -
Bruce Mills (Vaile) 02 6277 7420
Catherine Fitzpatrick (Williams) 02 6277 7300

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