Leaked TPP Text Confirms Countries Had Plenty to Hide

The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, a massive proposed trade deal that includes Canada, the United States, Australia, Mexico, Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand, Vietnam, Japan, Peru, and Chile, has long been the target of criticism owing to the veil of secrecy associated with the draft text. While negotiations have been ongoing for several years, participating countries have steadfastly refused to release the working text that addresses everything from agriculture to copyright, claiming that trade talks must be conducted behind closed doors.

Last week, Wikileaks released a leaked version of the intellectual property chapter, which confirmed that the U.S. hopes to use the agreement to export extreme intellectual property provisions that are out-of-step with international norms. Indeed, the 95-page document validates fears that the real reason for the TPP secrecy is that the negotiating countries have plenty to hide.

My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that while many of the leaked proposals are cause for concern, the good news is that Canada often finds itself opposing some of the most draconian demands with negotiators promoting Canadian law as a suitable alternative.

The U.S. finds itself relatively isolated on many issues, with only Australia offering consistent support for its positions. For example, Canada and most other TPP countries support a general objectives provision that references the need for balance, promotion of the public domain, protection of public health, and measures to ensure that intellectual property rights themselves do not become barriers to trade. The U.S. and Japan oppose these objectives.

If the U.S. is successful in pressuring other countries to meet its demands, Canada would be required to radically overhaul its current law, reversing course on many of the rules the government recently enacted as part of its long-awaited copyright reform package or negotiated in the trade agreement with the European Union.

Internet provider liability is likely to emerge as one of the most contentious issues. The U.S. is demanding a provision that could lead to terminating subscriber access, content blocking, and even monitoring of online activities. Moreover, it requires a privacy override to mandate disclosure of subscriber identities based merely on unproven claims of infringement. Canada is opposed to the U.S. proposal.

The U.S. also wants Canada to extend the term of copyright. Canada (along with several other TPP countries) currently features a term that meets the international standard of life of the author plus an additional 50 years. The U.S. would like Canada to extend the term by an extra 20 years, thereby keeping works out of the public domain for decades (Mexico is seeking an additional 50 years).

The U.S. supports the inclusion of extensive criminal penalties in the TPP, even in non-commercial cases. In one provision, it is seeking mandatory criminal liability for significant infringements without any direct or indirect motivation of financial gain. Similarly, it wants mandatory criminal rules for breaking digital locks, an approach not found under Canadian law.

The U.S. also envisions massive changes to Canadian patent law with the expansion of patent protections to plants and animals with few safeguards, altering the standard of utility under Canadian law, and extending the term of patents in a manner that would keep generics off the market and increase health care costs.

Even the proposed Canadian anti-counterfeiting bill currently before the House of Commons comes in for criticism, with the U.S. demanding statutory damages for trademark infringements and seizures of in-transit shipments of suspect goods that are not destined for the Canadian market.

In short, a TPP based on the U.S. proposals would signal a near-complete surrender of a made-in-Canada approach to intellectual property, leading to risks of lost Internet access, expansive border seizures, increased health care costs, and criminal liability for non-commercial infringement. The leaked text provides much need sunlight on the secret talks, confirming that Canada has thus far resisted many U.S. demands and that it has the potential to play a lead role in restoring some balance to the trade deal.

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  1. Cory Doctorow looks more on point with Pirate Cinema each and every day….

  2. Some agreements cost more than they grant.

    In a time with startling political corruption and hypocrisy (just in Canada: robocalls, too many scandals to name, and Harper saying with one side of his mouth that we will not lose our sovereignty with agreements like FIPA and the TPP, pipelines, etc, and then saying Canadians need to all but give it away to play ball internationally…) we should be demanding more transparency. Instead we have to get our fait accompli trade agreements through Wikileaks *and* we, the public, are increasingly being spied upon (the NSA in the US and CSIS in Canada, the dead C-30 and ISP “liability” as a reason to snoop through email and websites and downloads and build the ability for 3rd parties, the pending TPP proxy shipping policing, heck X Box Kinect can see you penis). If I said it couldn’t get any worse, it would find a way, but really… Somewhere along the line the tables turned and the servants became the masters.

    “It is the breakdown of trust — trust of oneself, trust of others — that is the worst consequence of living a transparent life.”

    “The Chinese government talks about building a “harmonious society.” But how can a society become truly harmonious if surveillance cameras are everywhere and everyone has to live with suspicion and fear? What kind of lives can we lead without trust?”

  3. Ottawa by Night says:

    Time will tell
    Let’s see if the Harper Government has the guts to do what’s right on this one. We only know when the final version of this horrible trade agreement has been signed.

  4. James Robertson says:

    If or one dominos trust Stephen a Harper, His type of a Government is not transparent, it’s highly secretive and if we do not object , our Internet privileges will be greatly be harmonious like a China saids we do not need surveillance cameras watching every move we make and living with suspicion and fear..

  5. James Robertson says:

    CORRECTION: I do not trust Stephen Harpers type of is not transparent and we do not need NSA or CSIS spying on all Mails and Web Sites tend being able to see every move we make in our homes and on the street..How can we live in Harmony if we feel suspicious and in fear…