Friday, 16 October 2009

Google's Drummond & internet free speech

Last week I mentioned a recent Policy Exchange event where Google's Chief Legal Officer David Drummond was going to talk about freedom of expression on the internet.

I couldn't go but I managed to find a couple of reports of what was discussed, from:

Both reported him as saying that censorship is a trade barrier and that governments or blocs like the US or EU should require freedom of expression as part of their trade agreements with other countries.

The approach of using trade agreements to achieve broader ends is not new - e.g. effectively requiring countries who want to be party to the trade agreement to beef up the intellectual property rights protection in their jurisdictions, as happened with the WTO Uruguay Round and the TRIPS agreement.

Interestingly also, in the US complaint against China (dispute DS362) under TRIPS, the Panel said in their 2009 report (at 7.50) that the denial under Chinese laws of copyright protection to certain works whose publication and/or dissemination was prohibited in China because of their content (i.e., because they were censored), was inconsistent with China's obligations under the Berne Convention on copyright as incorporated by TRIPS (7.139 of the report).

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