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:
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As part of the contentious debate over the implementation of anti-circumvention rules in Canadian copyright law in 2012, the government tried to assure concerned stakeholders that it had established specific mechanisms within the law to create additional exceptions to the general rule against circumvention. The law includes a handful of exceptions for issues such as security or privacy protection, but there is also a process for adding new limitations to the general rule. There are two possible avenues for new limitations and exceptions. First, Section 41.21(1) allows the Governor in Council to make regulations for an exception where the law would otherwise “unduly restrict competition.” Second, Section 41.21(2)(a) identifies other circumstances to consider for new regulations for exceptions including whether the circumvention rules could adversely affect the fair dealing criteria.
In addition to those two potential regulation making models for new exceptions and limitations, Canadian law also establishes the possibility of creating a positive requirement on rights holders to unlock their locked content. It states that the Governor in Council may make regulations:
The Trouble with the TPP series has featured several posts on the impact of the agreement on copyright law, including copyright term extension and changes to the digital lock rules. The potential changes to Canadian copyright law do not end there, however. For the next three days, I will focus on concerns arising from the TPP’s damages provisions that might restrict future Canadian copyright policies or require legislative change.
The first involves the TPP damages requirements associated with the anti-circumvention rules. As with many aspects of the TPP, the rules get very complicated, very quickly. The analysis starts with the TPP requirements. Article 18.68 establishes the rules for technological protection measures. The mandatory penalties for circumvention can be found in Article 18.84 (17):
Yesterday’s Trouble with the TPP post focused on the possibility that the agreement could restrict the ability for the Quebec government to regulate online gambling, as it is currently seeking to do in Bill 74. While that might be a good outcome – the Quebec bill is ill-advised and sets a dangerous precedent – it raises the question of whether a trade agreement is the right way to dictate provincial laws.
In fact, the TPP leaves behind a complex array of regulations for services industries that is almost certain to result in unintended consequences. Many trade agreements feature obligations to specific service sectors based on commitments from negotiating parties. These are relatively clear and make it easy for business to understand the new rules and for governments to identify their regulatory requirements. The TPP adopts a much different approach that is likely to lead to confusion and regulatory complexity. It features a series of generally applicable restrictions or requirements for services (the big four are national treatment, most favoured nation, market access, and no local presence requirements) and then seeks to exclude specific sectors in the hope of identifying problems with the general rules. As the Quebec gambling example illustrates, however, there are invariably new sectors or new issues that fall through the cracks.
Another possible complication could come from demands to regulate ride sharing services such as Uber.
Last year, the Quebec government introduced legislation that would require Internet service providers to block access to unlicensed online gambling sites. It provides that “an Internet service provider may not give access to an online gambling site whose operation is not authorized under Québec law.” The Quebec bill, which is currently before the provincial legislature, is a terrible idea that has been opposed by ISPs and consumer groups. The government views this initiative as a revenue enhancing measure because it wants to direct gamblers to its own Espacejeux, the Loto-Québec run online gaming site. The mandated blocking legislation is unprecedented in Canada and if enacted, it will surely be subject to legal challenge, including the possibility of a constitutional challenge.
The legal challenge may not be limited to constitutional issues, however. The Quebec bill may also be blocked by the TPP, which may be a good outcome, but raises the question of whether a trade agreement is the right way to dictate provincial laws.
How might the TPP apply to provincial online gambling regulation?