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Fair Deal campaign launched to stop TPP from changing copyright laws

The Council of Canadians is part of a new global Fair Deal coalition which wants copyright rules taken out of the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. A coalition website, launched today as a 17th round of TPP negotiations gets underway in Lima, Peru, calls on TPP negotiators to “reject copyright proposals that restrict open Internet, access to knowledge, economic opportunity and fundamental rights.” The website gives people an opportunity to send the same message and receive regular updates on Fair Deal campaign actions and successes.

“A fair deal on copyright in the TPP takes into account the interests of internet users, libraries and archives, those with disabilities, educators and business innovators as well as creators,” says Susan Chalmers from InternetNZ, one of 30 founding members of the new campaign. “We’re all part of the internet economy. The Fair Deal coalition is promoting fair copyright standards for the TPP that reflect the needs of the broadest cross-section of society.”

These beliefs are shared by many TPP participating countries. Chile’s chief negotiator, Rodrigo Contreras, wrote in a popular Peruvian magazine this week that the country should avoid limits on access to knowledge online and the over-extension of copyright protection terms for books, movies or music, that limit their availability in libraries and schools, and that would make it more expensive for lower income people. (Translation from Spanish by Claudio Riuz of the group Derechos Digitales.)

Chile is also resisting other intellectual property changes in the TPP, proposed again by the United States, related to patents for pharmaceutical drugs. Contreras writes that extending patent terms beyond the existing 20-year norm, or restricting the ability to challenge frivolous patent applications (e.g. minor modifications to existing drugs), will delay the availability of generic drugs and increase the cost of medicines. He says public health budgets and access to health services for the most vulnerable in TPP countries would be affected. This new animation By Doctors Without Borders explains it very well.

Back to the copyright issue, Ellen Broad, executive officer of the Australian Digital Alliance, another Fair Deal coalition member, says that “Countries around the world are currently looking at their own copyright regimes and asking, ‘are these working in the digital age?’. And the answer has been no. The internet has changed so much about the way we create, disseminate and access content: it’s essential the TPP not lock in 20th century copyright standards, but focus on a healthy internet future — for both creators and consumers, distributors and innovators.”

Canada is one of those countries which recently concluded a review of its copyright policies and has passed new legislation. The TPP could require Canada to re-open what was already a long and painful discussion about balancing the rights of content creators, distributors and users in the digital age. It would do this in the interest of large U.S.-based holders of copyrighted material (e.g. the music and film industry).

You can read more about the effect the TPP will have on copyright and internet policy on the Fair Deal campaign website, at the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s TPP site, or at OpenMedia.ca, which is leading the Canadian fight against unfair copyright rules in the TPP.