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Council of Canadians joins OpenMedia campaign to “Stop the Internet Trap” in the Trans-Pacific Partnership

OpenMedia.ca has launched a campaign against new Internet restrictions, including new content fines, that Internet users will be subjected to through the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement (TPP). The changes to copyright and other intellectual property rights foreseen in the TPP are extreme and were in some cases rejected when Canada was developing its new copyright policy, which has just passed into law.

Given Canada’s second-rate status in the TPP negotiations, with less room to make changes to the deal, we should be very concerned that we will get stuck with these and other regulatory policy changes without so much as a whimper of a debate.

The Council of Canadians is a member of OpenMedia and supports its new petition on the TPP and Internet freedom, which you can sign by clicking here. This morning, we joined the network, as well as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Knowledge, a U.S. digital rights group, SumOfUs.org, a global consumer advocacy group, and others in issuing a press release that described the TPP as an “Internet trap,” and launched a campaign against this new trade deal.

According to a leaked intellectual property chapter in the TPP being pushed by the Obama administration, the deal would:

Criminalize some everyday uses of the Internet

– Force service providers to collect and hand over your private data without privacy safeguards, and

– Give media conglomerates more power to send you fines in the mail, remove online content–including entire websites–and even terminate your access to the Internet.

“For instance,” writes Daniel Tencer in the Huffington Post today, “Canadian law currently distinguishes between commercial infringement of copyright and non-commercial infringement, with lesser penalties for non-commercial violations. Under the TPP, there would be no such distinction, meaning a person who breaks a digital lock to copy a song for personal use could potentially face the same criminal sanctions as someone who copied songs to sell pirated music.”


Much of what the U.S. is proposing in the TPP, the European Union wants Canada to change through the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). In April this year, University of Ottawa professor Michael Geist summarized some of the EU proposals on his blog. Without passing judgement on whether they would be positive or negative for Canadian artists and creators, these intellectual property changes include:

– compliance with WIPO Internet treaties
– extension of the term of copyright to life of the author plus 70 years (Canadian law currently at life plus 50 years)
– additional copyright term extensions for audiovisual works, anonymous works, and unpublished works
– term of copyright for broadcasts for at least 50 years (Canada wants to limit to wireless broadcasts, while EU wants it to cover everything)
– greater transparency for copyright collectives
– new resale right for works of art
– new exclusive right of fixation for broadcasts (Canada wants to limit to wireless broadcasts, while EU wants it to cover everything)
– new exclusive right for broadcasters for retransmission in public places (ie. new fees for bars and other public places)
– new distribution right
– extension of the reproduction right to performers and broadcasters
– extension of the communications right for performers, phonogram producers, film producers, and broadcasters.
– anti-circumvention rules including provisions against devices that can be used to circumvent digital locks
– protection for rights management information

“While some of these demands may have changed during the negotiations — the negotiations are still shrouded in secrecy — the agreement would clearly require reforms that go well beyond Bill C-11 (which the government says strikes the right balance),” wrote Geist. “The agreement also includes major reforms to IP enforcement, trademarks, patents, and geographic indications.”

A major concern with both the CETA and TPP processes is that they enforce intellectual property changes via trade negotiation and not through public policy debate. They would require Canada to pass new copyright and drug regime legislation that the government might not be inclined to do if these changes meant going through the regular parliamentary process. And they generally enhance the rights of the owners of intellectual property over the users, which can include Internet users in the case of online content, or hospitals and public health agencies in the case of drugs.

This was partly why 132 Democrats sent a letter today to the United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk asking for more transparency and public accountability in the negotiation of the TPP.

Please sign the OpenMedia petition. There will be plenty of more information and actions on the TPP over the summer.