3D Broken Copyright by StockMonkeys.com (CC BY 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/ogWUh1

3D Broken Copyright by StockMonkeys.com (CC BY 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/ogWUh1


The Trouble With the TPP, Day 39: Quiet Expansion of Criminal Copyright Provisions

The past two Trouble with the TPP posts have focused on the disconnect between the TPP and Canadian copyright law which raises the possibility that the Canadian digital lock rules may not be consistent with the TPP.  In addition to those concerns, the Electronic Frontier Foundation recently identified a subtle change that was added during the “legal scrub”. The change involved a provision on applying criminal procedures and penalties in cases of willful copyright infringement on a commercial scale. The version released in November stated:

With regard to copyright and related rights piracy provided for under paragraph 1, a Party may limit application of this paragraph to the cases in which there is an impact on the right holder’s ability to exploit the work, performance or phonogram in the market.

The new version posted after the legal scrub changed the words “application of this paragraph” to “application of this subparagaph”. EFF argues that the change has enormous implications:

What does this surreptitious change from “paragraph” to “subparagraph” mean? Well, in its original form the provision exempted a country from making available any of the criminal procedures and penalties listed above, except in circumstances where there was an impact on the copyright holder’s ability to exploit their work in the market.

In its revised form, the only criminal provision that a country is exempted from applying in those circumstances is the one to which the footnote is attached – namely, the ex officio action provision. Which means, under this amendment, all of the other criminal procedures and penalties must be available even if the infringement has absolutely no impact on the right holder’s ability to exploit their work in the market. The only enforcement provision that countries have the flexibility to withhold in such cases is the authority of state officials to take legal action into their own hands.

Government officials have not responded to requests for clarification. If this is correct, however, the TPP extends criminal provisions to copyright cases in a far broader manner than previously envisioned.

(prior posts in the series include Day 1: US Blocks Balancing Provisions, Day 2: Locking in Digital Locks, Day 3: Copyright Term Extension, Day 4: Copyright Notice and Takedown Rules, Day 5: Rights Holders “Shall” vs. Users “May”, Day 6: Price of Entry, Day 7: Patent Term Extensions, Day 8: Locking in Biologics Protection, Day 9: Limits on Medical Devices and Pharma Data Collection, Day 10: Criminalization of Trade Secret Law, Day 11: Weak Privacy Standards, Day 12: Restrictions on Data Localization Requirements, Day 13: Ban on Data Transfer Restrictions, Day 14: No U.S. Assurances for Canada on Privacy, Day 15: Weak Anti-Spam Law Standards, Day 16: Intervening in Internet Governance, Day 17: Weak E-commerce Rules, Day 18: Failure to Protect Canadian Cultural Policy, Day 19: No Canadian Side Agreement to Advance Tech Sector, Day 20: Unenforceable Net Neutrality Rules, Day 21: U.S. Requires Canadian Anti-Counterfeiting Report Card, Day 22: Expanding Border Measures Without Court Oversight, Day 23: On Signing Day, What Comes Next?, Day 24: Missing Balance on IP Border Measures, Day 25: The Treaties With the Treaty, Day 26: Why It Limits Canadian Cultural Policies, Day 27: Source Code Disclosure Confusion, Day 28: Privacy Risks from Source Code Rules, Day 29: Cultural Policy Innovation Uncertainty, Day 30: Losing Our Way on Geographical Indications, Day 31: Canadian Trademark Law Overhaul, Day 32: Illusory Safeguards Against Encryption Backdoors, Day 33: Setting the Rules for a Future Pharmacare Program, Day 34: PMO Was Advised Canada at a Negotiating Disadvantage, Day 35: Gambling With Provincial Regulation, Day 36: Why the TPP Could Restrict Uber Regulation, Day 37: Breaking Digital Locks for Personal Purposes, Day 38: Limits on Canadian Digital Lock Safeguards)


  1. Can you explain that, to me, please? I read the section a few times and fail to see how that term subclause requires that almost all circumstances require a concomitant criminal liability. What I took away was that a State was not bound to only applying a criminal penalty to commercial scale piracy, but, could also apply penalties for other downloads as long as the rights holder was damaged by the type of piracy.

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