A coalition of Internet advocates launched a campaign Wednesday against Canada’s participation in closed-door trade talks that could force Canada to rewrite its laws and impose draconian restrictions on Canadian Internet users.
The coalition, which includes Vancouver’s OpenMedia.ca, is calling on the Canadian government to lift the veil of secrecy surrounding negotiations in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement and to defend Canada’s sovereignty over Internet laws in this country.
“You could end up getting fined just for clicking on the wrong link,” said Steve Anderson, founder of OpenMedia.ca, which has been joined by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the US digital rights group Public Knowledge, the Council of Canadians, the global consumer advocacy group SumOfUs.org, software company Tucows, Chilean public interest group ONG Derechos Digitales and the Washington, DC-based watchdog group Public Citizen. “Your Internet access could be terminated; your own content could be removed from the web and you may not have access to the kind of online material you have now.
“I think if this goes through a lot of people will be looking over their shoulder and they’ll be very nervous about what they click on. If you click and end up downloading something that is covered by copyright, you could be dragged into court.”
Canada was a late entry into the TPP negotiations, only invited to join last week by US President Barack Obama .The cost of its entry included what Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair in Internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa, describes as “second-tier status,” with Canada bound by terms already agreed to among the TPP partners and with no veto authority in future decisions.
Geist said the agreement could force Canada to make changes to its intellectual property laws in the wake of Bill C-11, the copyright act which was just passed in the House of Commons.
“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 legislation Canada has just now enacted and the government has spent the better part of two years claiming it strikes the right balance,” said Geist.
Geist said Canada’s entry into the agreement leaves Canadians liable for conditions they know nothing about.
“The conditions of entry here were really problematic,” he said. “…Just by entering into discussions we have effectively agreed to a number of conditions the government hasn’t even told us about.”
Geist said the agreement could impose restrictions that are much more draconian than Canada’s current legislation. Among the changes indicated by the leaked document, the imposition of statutory damages would no longer distinguish between commercial copyright infringement and non-commercial, putting ordinary Canadians at risk of much higher damages.
“It means the liability risks would increase absolutely,” said Geist.
The leaked agreement also extends copyright term from its current 50 years after the death of an author of literary and artistic work to 70 years, the term used by the US and some other countries.
“The effect, if they were to extend the term in Canada would be to literally lock down the pubic domain in Canada for the next 20 years,” said Geist, adding a number of works, from Marshall McLuhan to Glenn Gould are scheduled to come into the public domain in the next 20 years. “Public domain would be frozen.”
Anderson said Canada’s compliance with an agreement that is essentially driven by a strong entertainment industry lobby could limit the growth of this country’s digital economy and create a culture of fear.
“This creates a much more paranoid atmosphere around the Internet,” he said.
Geist said since Canada already has trading agreements with four of the 10 participants in the TPP, there is little economic advantage to be gained by joining the TPP.
“We already have agreements with four of the TPP members, the US, Mexico, Peru and Chile,” he said.
The remaining countries, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei, represent well under one per cent of Canadian exports.
“It is hard to envision it is worth surrendering so much and making so many concessions on the basis of those six countries, it makes no sense,” said Geist.
Instead, Geist suggested Canada is pursuing the negotiations as as way of using a back door approach to making major domestic legislative reforms that would be politically risky for the Canadian government in the face of considerable opposition among Canadians.
Details of the coalition’s campaign can be found at StoptheTrap.net.
Canadians Internet users could face draconian restrictions as result of Pacific trade talks | Vancouver Sun