Canada has officially joined Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations, a move that Canadian Internet advocates say could result in harsh restrictions on Internet use in Canada and leave ordinary citizens facing heavy fines and banishment from the online world over accusations of copyright infringement.
“The (TPP) agreement is being negotiated in secret but we do know from documents we have obtained that in the agreement are provisions that make it so there can be heavy fines for average citizens online, you could be fined for clicking on a link, people could be knocked off the Internet and web sites could be locked off,” said Steve Anderson, founder of Vancouver’s OpenMedia.ca, which was joined by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the U.S. digital rights group Public Knowledge, the Council of Canadians, the global consumer advocacy group SumOfUs.org, the software company Tucows, the Chilean public interest group ONG Derechos Digitales and the Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group Public Citizen in opposing Canada’s move to join the negotiations, binding the country to the agreement when it is reached.
“This agreement will limit innovation and free expression,” said Anderson.
Adding insult to injury said Anderson is the fact that Canada, a latecomer to the negotiations, is joining with “second tier,” status, giving it less power than other countries in the talks.
Canada will join the talks with the 15th round of negotiations, scheduled to take place early December in Auckland, New Zealand.
More than 100,000 people signed a petition protesting Canada’s participation in the agreement, which Open Media warns could impose draconian restrictions on the Internet and cost Canada its sovereignty when it comes to Internet law.
“Under the TPP, Big Media conglomerates would have new powers to lock users out of their own content and services, provide new liabilities that might force ISPs to police online activity, and give giant media companies even greater powers to shut down websites and remove content at will. The agreement also threatens to give foreign conglomerates new powers to collect the private online information of Canadians,” OpenMedia.ca said in a release.
“These Internet restrictions would be cemented into place through international tribunals, which would sidestep Canada’s own judicial system.”
In an earlier post on this issue, I included an interview with Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair in Internet and ecommerce law at the University of Ottawa, who told me the cost of Canada’s entry into the TPP negotiations was ”second tier status,” with Canada bound by terms already agreed to among the TPP partners.
The agreement would also require Canada to change its newly enacted copyright legislation.
“As it stands now in the draft that has been leaked and the goals of the United States, there is no question it would require a number of changes to the [copyright] legislation Canada has just now enacted and the government has spent the better part of two years claiming it strikes the right balance,” Geist said.
And from that earlier post, here are Geist’s comments on Canada’s inclusion in the TPP negotiations:
Geist said Canada’s entry into the agreement leaves Canadians liable for conditions they know nothing about.
“Just by entering into discussions we have effectively agreed to a number of conditions the government hasn’t even told us about.”
According to the leaked document, commercial and noncommercial copyright infringement would be treated alike when it comes to damages, putting ordinary Canadians at risk of much higher damages.
“It means the liability risks would increase absolutely,” said Geist.
The leaked agreement also extends the term of copyright in Canada from its current 50 years after the death of an author of literary and artistic work to 70 years, the term used by the U.S. and some other countries.
“The effect, if they were to extend the term in Canada would be to literally lock down the public domain in Canada for the next 20 years,” said Geist, adding a number of works, from ones by Marshall McLuhan to Glenn Gould, are scheduled to come into the public domain in the next 20 years.
Update: Since I posted this earlier today, I talked to Michael Geist and here is an update from that interview:
The move puts Canadian content protection, long defended by the Canadian government, on the negotiating table, according to Geist.
“The very provisions that were seen as absolutely essential when we negotiated the Free Trade Agreement with the United States…Now we have big lobby groups for movies, music and the U.S. government saying everything should be up for negotiation,” said Geist, noting that Canadian content rules for broadcasting are a target of the movie and music lobby in the talks.
Geist said large American music and movie industry groups see the TPP as an opportunity to force Canada to change its copyright legislation, legislation that took some years to reach and was hailed by the Canadian government as striking the right balance.
“Based on provisions we have seen in leaked documents, this would mean a wholesale rewrite of many provisions of the Canadian copyright law and it is clear the large US lobby groups see this as an opportunity,” he said. “They have argued the compromise in Canada’s copyright legislation isn’t one they like and they are hoping this will force the government to rewrite legislation that the government said took years for it to strike the right balance.”
Among other possible changes is a provision that could see subscribers banned from the Internet, Geist said, a system that was rejected by the government in the drafting of Bill C-11.
Geist said a significant part of the problem has been the secret nature of the talks and in joining the TPP, Canada is agreeing to provisions that have already been drafted, with no veto power.
October 10, 2012
Source: Vancouver Suns, blog
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