The NAFTA negotiations resume in Montreal this week with Internet liability emerging as an increasingly contentious issue. I was pleased to be part of a group of 55 Internet law experts and organizations that recently urged negotiators to include Internet safe harbour rules that promote freedom of expression in the agreement. The provision, which is already found in U.S. law, would lower barriers to startup online companies, advance free speech, and protect sites publishing consumer reviews.
I wrote about the benefits of Internet speech safeguards last year, concluding:
As Canada seeks to attract global players such as Amazon and foster the creation of the next generation of home-grown Internet success stories like Shopify, there is a need for a level legal liability playing field. Indeed, the absence of Canadian safe harbour rules is longstanding weakness in the efforts of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains to build an innovative online economy. The NAFTA digital trade chapter offers an ideal venue to simultaneously give the U.S. delegation a “win” and for Canada to pursue much-needed domestic digital reforms.
The provision represents an opportunity to satisfy U.S. demands while benefiting Canadian Internet companies and users, who have long been disadvantaged by the absence of equivalent safe harbour protections.