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New document shows EU using trade talks to push copyright reform in Canada

A month ago yesterday I predicted a leaked intellectual property rights (IPR) chapter in the proposed Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) was “bound to create a furor.” Boy was I wrong. The story caused a stir among the fair copyright movement and other followers of IPR reform in Canada. But not a single mainstream news outlet followed up on the story or commented on the leak — not even in the lead-up to this week’s second round of bilateral trade talks in Brussels.

Now we have a second leaked document, reported by The Hill Times this week, showing that the EU Commission will use CETA to pressure Canada to change its laws. And again we’re still waiting for it to make the dailies!

“We can hope that the negotiation of the bilateral CETA … will provide a good opportunity to exert pressure on [Canada] regarding the upgrade of its IPR regime to developed-country standards,” says the document obtained by The Wire Report, a Hill Times publication on Canadian communications policy, regulations and industry news.

“Having viewed the document, I can report that it goes downhill from there, promoting the key message that Canadian laws are inadequate, while liberally quoting a report from the Canadian IP Council and discredited counterfeiting data,” writes University of Ottawa professor and copyright activist Michael Geist, commenting on the new EU document on his blog yesterday.

A spokesperson from Stockwell Day’s office told The Wire Report that CETA is “not the basis for copyright or other intellectual property reform in Canada” and it “will not override the copyright consultations” that the Harper government held last summer.

But the EU document suggests that Canadian consultations might have been “a tactic to confuse,” and that much more opposition from “anti-IPR lobbyists” is to be expected, further delaying reforms sought by the EU (and the United States for that matter, through the equally secret Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) talks, which resume in Mexico at the end of January).

I wonder if eBay Canada would fall into the category of “anti-IPR lobbyists”? Geist’s entry today cites eBay’s submission to the Canadian government as part of its business consultations on CETA:

we believe a potential Canada-EU economic agreement should not contain provisions that create intellectual property rights or obligations that could extend beyond, or modify, domestic laws in ways that do not serve the interests of Canadian consumers and businesses.

According to an IPS news story from January 12 about the upcoming ACTA talks in Mexico:

It is the section [in ACTA] on enforcing intellectual property rights in the digital environment that is causing the most concern among civil society organisations that are dedicated to promoting wider access to the internet.

ACTA negotiators are proposing that internet service providers should undertake proactive filtering of copyright material that users share with each other.

Furthermore, they suggest these companies should be obliged, subject to penalties, to deny internet access to those accused of copyright infringements. This could mean, for example, that a whole family could be cut off from the internet if one of its members is suspected of piracy, with no right to a trial or a lawyer.

The ACTA controversy does have traction in Canada but with the EU and U.S. tag-teaming Canada on copyright reforms we don’t need and don’t want, it’s time to exert pressure on our politicians to make both sets of negotiations transparent and consult widely on the entirety of the CETA proposals.

If the IPR chapter is this bad, what should we expect from its procurement, finance, investment or energy provisions?