The Canadian government today introduced a bill aimed at ensuring the Canada complies with the widely discredited Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. Despite the European Union’s total rejection of ACTA along with assurances that ACTA provisions would not resurface in the Canada – EU Trade Agreement, the new bill is designed to ensure that Canada is positioned to ratify ACTA by addressing border measures provisions. The core elements of the bill include the increased criminalization of copyright and trademark law as well as the introduction of new powers for Canadian border guards to detain shipments and work actively with rights holders to seize and destroy goods without court oversight or involvement.
While the bill could have been worse – it includes an exception for individual travelers (so no iPod searching border guards), it does not include patents, and excludes in-transit shipments – the bill disturbingly suggests that Canada is gearing up to ratify ACTA since this bill addresses many of the remaining non-ACTA compliant aspects of Canadian law. Moreover, it becomes the latest example of caving to U.S. pressure on intellectual property, as the U.S. has pushed for these reforms for years, as evidenced by a 2007 Wikileaks cable in which the RCMP’s National Coordinator for Intellectual Property Crime leaked information on a bill to empower Canadian border guards (the ACTA negotiations were formally announced several months earlier). [Update: On the same day the Canadian government introduced Bill C-56, the U.S. Government issued its Trade Policy Agenda and Annual Report, which calls on Canada to “meet its Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement (ACTA) obligations by providing its customs officials with ex officio authority to stop the transit of counterfeit and pirated products through its territory”]
A full examination of Bill C-56 is forthcoming, but its introduction raises four immediate issues: that Canada is moving toward ACTA ratification, that it is pursuing policy based on debunked data on counterfeiting, that the bill could have serious harmful effects with border guards forced to serve as copyright experts without court oversight, and the increased criminalization of copyright and trademark law.