A prominent consumers’ advocate says he’s worried Canada will sell out its new copyright law in favour of tough new restrictions on consumers as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
Steve Anderson, executive director of OpenMedia, says Canada’s chief negotiator at the TPP talks, Kirsten Hillman, would not answer a question on whether Canada would fight to maintain the copyright policies it put into effect earlier this year.
Anderson says he asked Hillman during a stakeholders’ question-and-answer session in New Zealand last week if she would commit to not overwriting copyright laws as part of the TPP agreement.
“She just sat there without reply,” Anderson told The Huffington Post Canada during an online chat. “The audience of mostly lobbyists, and TPP bureaucrats erupted with laughter.”
OpenMedia and other consumer advocates groups have previously warned that the TPP represents an “internet trap” that would potentially make small-scale file-sharing a matter of criminal law, and would criminalize some other common uses of the internet such as mash-ups.
Anderson concluded from Hillman’s response that “our digital policy is on the chopping block in the TPP.”
The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade would not comment on the incident directly, but wrote in an email to HuffPost that it is “committed to developing a truly gold standard TPP agreement, reflecting a balanced outcome that is in the best interests of Canadians.”
“Our Government has consistently demonstrated its commitment to ensuring a strong intellectual property rights regime. We have ... completed the enactment of Bill C-11, the Copyright Modernization Act that will allow all Canadians to take full advantage of digital technologies,” spokesperson Caitlin Workman wrote.
Bill C-11, which became law this fall, limits the amount that file-sharers can be sued for, to $5,000, if the file-sharing was not for commercial purposes. It also limits the liability of internet providers in the case of copyright infringement, and puts in place a “notice-and-notice” system for repeated file-sharers.
Critics say all of these provisions could be overwritten by the TPP.
TPP negotiations are being held in secret and draft texts are not being made public, but a copy leaked last year showed the deal would significantly expand the amount of time works would be under copyright, and would require countries to adopt criminal sanctions for non-commercial infringement of copyright, such as file-sharing.
In a column Wednesday, prominent digital law expert Michael Geist reported that the federal government is keeping back the results of a public consultation on the TPP, but a freedom of information request found “the government was overwhelmed with negative comments urging officials to resist entry into the TPP and the expected pressures for significant intellectual property reforms as part of the deal.”
Canadians are among the most active sharers of unauthorized music in the world (see slideshow below).