tpp why so secret? by Public Citizen (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/daKbUD
The final Trans Pacific Partnership intellectual property chapter leaked this morning confirming what many had feared. While the Canadian government has focused on issues like dairy and the auto sector, it caved on key copyright issues in the agreement. As a result, works will be locked out of the public domain for decades at a cost to the public of hundreds of millions of dollars. Moreover, the government will “induce” Internet providers to engage in content blocking even where Canadian courts have not ruled on whether the content infringes copyright. As a result (and as expected – this was raised years ago), the government’s “made in Canada” approach to copyright – which it has frequently touted as representing a balanced approach – faces a U.S. demanded overhaul. In fact, even as other countries were able to negotiate phase-in periods on copyright changes, the Canadian negotiators simply caved.
The biggest change is a requirement to extend the term of copyright from life of the author plus 50 years to life plus 70 years. The additional 20 years will keep works out of the public domain for decades. The New Zealand government estimates that this change alone will cost NZ$55 million per year for a country that is one-ninth the size of Canada. Moreover, New Zealand was able to negotiate a delayed implementation of the copyright term provision, with a shorter extension for the first 8 years. It also obtained a clear provision that does not make the change retroactive – anything in the public domain stays there. Malaysia also obtained a delay in the copyright term extension requirement.
The initial Canadian press coverage on the conclusion of the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations has unsurprisingly focused on the dairy sector, with word that the government plans to effectively create a milk tax by transferring billions of dollars to dairy farmers without any evidence of loss. Lost in the coverage are the copyright and privacy implications of the deal. From a copyright perspective, it is notable that the Canadian government has sought to downplay the TPP, releasing a summary that suggests that it is consistent with current law. The government’s description of the copyright provisions in the TPP state:
The Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations concluded early this morning in Atlanta with the 12 countries reaching agreement on the remaining outstanding issues. The U.S. quickly posted a summary of the TPP and the Canadian government has followed with its own package on the deal. At a just-concluded ministerial press conference, the ministers noted that this is one step in a longer process. The text itself must still be finalized and then each country will have its own rules before signing onto it. In the U.S., there is a review period with the full text, so this will be a 2016 issue. In Canada, new treaties must be tabled for review in the House of Commons, so there will be a Parliamentary review.
With the election only two weeks away, that means that there will be no text to review before the national vote. Instead, Canadians will face a barrage of TPP claims:
Negotiations aimed at concluding the Trans Pacific Partnership are underway in Atlanta with plenty of signs that the various countries are prepared to compromise in order to reach a deal when the ministers (including Canadian International Trade Minister Ed Fast) arrive toward the end of the week. Canada has already caved on most intellectual property issues (copyright term, etc.) and Prime Minister Harper recently signaled Canada’s willingness to cave on the issues related to the auto sector and the dairy industry. Meanwhile, Japan is said to be ready to compromise on rice and there is a proposal on biologics that may not change much, but could be enough to garner support from some Asian countries.
While I think there remain questions about whether a caretaker government can/should be committing to such significant changes (the New Zealand Minister of Trade noted that Canada is negotiating as if there is no election underway), the TPP is clearly viewed as a major political prize by the Conservatives in the midst of an election campaign. The usual suspects (Chamber of Commerce, Council of Chief Executives, etc.) presumably have their press releases and quotations of support for a done deal already submitted and even opponents in the auto sector are reportedly afraid to criticize the government.
Late last month, Canada joined eleven other countries including the United States, Japan, and Australia in Hawaii for what many experts expected would be the final round of negotiations on the Trans Pacific Partnership. According to media reports, the Canadian government was among those expecting the talks on the proposed trade deal that covers nearly 40 per cent of world GDP to conclude, with officials lining up the corporate community to immediately express their support for the agreement.
However, negotiators left Hawaii empty handed, as disputes over intellectual property laws, safeguards and tariffs for the dairy and sugar industries, as well as disagreement over the auto sector, could not be resolved. With Canada plunged into an election campaign hours later, the government sought to assure its TPP partners that it could continue to negotiate even while acting in a “caretaker” capacity.
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that while those negotiations are expected to resume in the weeks ahead, sources advise that Canada dropped numerous demands on key patent and copyright issues in Hawaii, likely in the mistaken belief that a concluded deal was imminent. Indeed, after withholding agreement on critical issues such as anti-patent trolling rules, website blocking, restrictions on digital locks, trademark classification, and border enforcement, Canadian negotiators caved to U.S. pressure but failed to garner agreement.