Stop ACTA 9 by Martin Krolikowski (CC BY 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/bs3VmD
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.
In late December 2009, Wikileaks, the website that publishes secret government information, posted a copy of the draft intellectual property chapter of the Canada – European Trade Agreement (CETA). The CETA deal was still years from completion, but the leaked document revealed that the European Union envisioned using the agreement to mandate a massive overhaul of Canadian law.
The leak generated concern among many copyright watchers, but when a German television station leaked the final text of the agreement last week, it contained rules that largely reflect a “made-in-Canada” approach. Why the near-complete reversal in approach on one of the most contentious aspects of a 500 page treaty?
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes the starting point for copyright in CETA as reflected in 2009 leaked document was typical of European demands in its trade agreements. It wanted Canada to extend the term of copyright to life of the author plus 70 years (Canada is currently at the international standard of life plus 50 years), adopt tough new rules for Internet provider liability, create criminal sanctions for some copyright infringement, implement new rights for broadcasters and visual artists, introduce strict digital lock rules with minimal exceptions, and beef up enforcement powers. In other words, it was looking for Canada to mirror its approach on copyright.
I participated in a panel titled The Internet, Free Trade, and Transparency: An International Perspective as part of Yale University’s Trade and Transparency in the Internet Age.
The panel was moderated by Margot Kaminski and the other participants were Peter Yu, Ante Wessels. We discussed the impact of WikiLeaks leaking a draft of Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement and parts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement , another free trade agreement. Both leaks led to considerable public debate over both the content of the agreement and the negotiating process. The leaks, and their policy effects suggest there is a need for discussion of trade and transparency in the Internet Age.
Liberal MP Judy Sgro continued her efforts yesterday to add lobbyist-inspired provisions to Bill C-8, the anti-counterfeiting legislation. Having already proposed removing the personal exception for travelers (leading to increased border searches) and a “simplified procedure” for the seizure of goodsthat would remove court oversight in the destruction of goods in a greater number of cases, Sgro proposed an amendment to add statutory damages with a mandatory minimum of $1,000 and a maximum of $100,000 in liability. The provision would limit the discretion of judges to order damages based on the evidence.
The statutory damages provision was another ask for intellectual property lobby groups. As I noted in my appearance before the committee:
The Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology held its clause-by-clause review of Bill C-8, the anti-counterfeiting bill yesterday. I appeared before the committee last month to express concerns about some lobbyist demands for reforms, including removing the exception for personal goods of travelers, the inclusion of statutory damages for trademark infringement, and targeting in-transit shipments.
While the committee did not complete the review of the bill – it will resume on Wednesday – the surprise of the day involved Liberal MP Judy Sgro proposing that the government remove the exception for personal travelers. Given that personal use exceptions are even included in the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, it is shocking to see any party proposing their removal, which would result in longer delays at the border and increased searches of individual travelers. The proposal failed since it was rejected by both the Conservatives and NDP, with the NDP noting that “this was one of the important provisions that brought some balance to the bill.”