Stop ACTA 9 by Martin Krolikowski (CC BY 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/bs3VmD
The day after Canada signed the TPP (and a Leger poll found huge opposition to the agreement’s IP and ISDS provisions), the shift toward consultation and study can continue in earnest. Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s Minister of International Trade, used the signing to emphasize once again that signing is not the same as ratifying and that the government is committed to a robust Parliamentary and public review of the agreement.
The Trouble with the TPP series continues today with another example of the lack of balance in the text. An earlier post noted how in the TPP rights holders’ provision are often mandatory, while those for users are treated as optional. The lopsided approach is also evident in the border measures rules. This week I discussed the expansion of border measures provisions without court oversight, which could lead to customs officials being asked to make difficult legal assessments on whether to detain goods entering the country.
This weekend, former Research in Motion co-CEO Jim Balsillie wrote a must-read opinion piece in the Globe and Mail on the TPP. Balsillie makes a compelling case for how Canadian IP policy has failed in light of decisions to consistently cave to foreign pressures:
Starting in the 1980s, Canadian policy makers and politicians blindly bought the narrative lobbied by foreign corporations, first in the pharmaceutical industry and then across all sectors, that stronger IP protection would lead to more domestic innovation and prosperity.
Three decades later, our pharma R&D has declined dramatically and drug prices for Canadian consumers are among the highest in the world. Our largest technology companies are much smaller now than 10 years ago and we have zero growth in innovation outputs over the past 30 years.
We should have learned our lesson by now, and yet the same outdated thinking from the 1980s is back on display from today’s TPP proponents: Focus on aligning our domestic IP laws with the U.S. system and hope for the best. TPP needs to be assessed not for its legal purity or alignment to U.S. laws, but for the economic impacts colonial IP policies have on Canada. After all, Canada has aligned its laws with the United States both directly and indirectly in several international treaties over the past three decades, and our innovation performance always faltered thereafter.
The Trouble with the TPP series has already reviewed how the TPP offers more of the same through policies such as copyright term extension and locking in extended patent protections. The agreement also addresses IP enforcement and border measures, just months after Canada changed its rules to provide more protections and enforcement.
An examination of the Trouble with the TPP copyright provisions would not be complete without discussing how Canada reformed its law before entering the negotiations as part of the price of admission to the TPP talks (prior posts 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”). The pre-TPP reforms must surely be considered part of the cost of the agreement even if proponents now argue that the TPP is consistent with (the reformed) Canadian law.
Canada was not an initial participant in the TPP negotiations. The Harper government began working on entry into the TPP in 2009, leading to a formal request for participation in the negotiations in 2011. The U.S. held a consultation on Canada’s proposed entry into the TPP a year later, resulting in the IIPA, the lead lobby group for the movie, music, and software industry, urging the U.S. government to keep Canada out of the negotiations until a copyright bill was passed that satisfied U.S. expectations. The Canadian government responded by promising to pass the law and noting that it had also signed the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). The U.S. demands had an enormous impact on the contents of the Canadian copyright bill, particularly the retention of restrictive digital lock rules that were at the very top of the U.S. priority list.
The Price of Admission to the TPP Talks Revealed: U.S. Demanded Canada Pass Anti-Counterfeiting Legislation
In the years leading up to Canada’s entry into the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations, there was considerable speculation about demands imposed by the U.S. For example, I wrote in 2012 about two reported demands: that Canada was stuck with any chapters concluded before entry and that it would not have any veto authority. This meant that if all other countries agreed on a particular provision, Canada would be required to accept it.
Yesterday, Industry Minister James Moore provided the first official confirmation of at least one other condition of admission to the talks: anti-counterfeiting legislation. Bill C-8, the anti-counterfeiting bill that focuses on providing new border measures provisions such as enhanced search and seizure powers for customs agents without court oversight, is really a bill about satisfying U.S. demands for TPP entry. According to Moore:
Last year, the federal government trumpeted anti-counterfeiting legislation as a key priority. The bill raced through the legislative process in the winter and following some minor modifications after committee hearings, seemed set to pass through the House of Commons. Yet after committee approval, the bill suddenly stalled with little movement throughout the spring.
Why did a legislative priority with all-party approval seemingly grind to a halt?
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) suggests that the answer appears to stem from the appointment of Bruce Heyman as the new U.S. ambassador to Canada. During his appointment process, Heyman identified intellectual property issues as a top priority and as part of his first major speech as ambassador, singled out perceived shortcomings in the anti-counterfeiting bill.