The Impact of Free Trade Agreements on Information Technology Based Business
Abbe E.L. Brown
University of Edinburgh - School of Law
University of Sussex
Jordan S. Hatcher
April 15, 2007
This report considers the Dominican Republic - Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) and its impact on Information Technology (IT) based businesses. The report summarises the factual background to, and contents of, the agreement, and then reviews those parts of the agreement (or omissions from the agreement) that are relevant to the IT field. IT is of interest both because of its potential importance as a contributor to business (and social) growth, but also because of the lesser international roles accorded to it in comparison with its sister, intellectual property (IP). The IT-related provisions of DR-CAFTA reflect international IT (and IP) controversies. But DR-CAFTA also raises questions of the place of agreements between states, their legal validity and their impact upon international relationships and global development.
The primary objective of this project was to explore the extent to which DR-CAFTA impacts upon IT based businesses; the implications of this; to assess how much these issues, and associated economic and legal questions, had been addressed; and to lay the foundations for further legal and interdisciplinary work. We have not, at this stage, explored all the issues covered and not covered in DR-CAFTA, and arising in respect of other agreements of this nature. Rather, we have sought to introduce the issues, provide preliminary comment, and provide a list of resources for further study. We hope that this will be helpful to those coming to the project from a variety of backgrounds, including different legal specialities.
We have concluded that there are important issues to be developed regarding all free trade agreements and IT. These issues are highlighted in the following sections. In terms of immediate further work, we propose investigating the present and future impact of UDRP provisions in DR-CAFTA countries, and liability of Internet Service Providers (ISPs). We believe that these can raise important questions combining IT, e-commerce, IP, trade, human rights and competition issues; both for DR-CAFTA countries and those contemplating their own agreements. We also consider that there is a need for international and interdisciplinary collaboration for this work to be done, including through empirical research with ISPs and domain name owners. We propose holding an international meeting of experts. As a preliminary step, we are also publishing this report in Spanish.
Progress has been shared on the project blog, throughout, and we have been delighted with the interest expressed from a variety of corners. We anticipate this report being transformed into a wiki and for further contributions to be developed via web-based. We hope to maintain the project's momentum through the wiki, and details of this will be posted on the blog.
This project was one of the final activities of Phase 1 of the AHRC Research Centre for Studies in Intellectual Property and Technology Law at the University of Edinburgh (AHRC Research Centre). We are grateful to the AHRC for their support, and look forward to pursuing parts of this work in Phase 2.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 52
Keywords: FTA, TRIPS-plus, CAFTA, electronic commerce
JEL Classification: K33
Date posted: May 8, 2007