The Trouble with the TPP series focus on privacy has thus far examined weak privacy laws, restrictions on data localization requirements, and a ban on data transfer restrictions. The data transfer restriction post cited one of my recent technology law columns in concluding that the net effect of a recent European privacy case and the TPP provisions is that Canada could end up caught in a global privacy battle in which Europe restricts data transfers with Canada due to surveillance activities and the TPP restricts Canada’s ability address European concerns.
Interestingly, at least one TPP country identified the potential risk of a clash between European privacy rules and the TPP. Australia obtained a side letter with the United States that largely addresses the concern. The letter states:
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During the years of debate over Canadian copyright reform, I frequently argued that caving to U.S. demands on issues such as digital locks would not relieve the pressure but rather invite more of the same. While Canada has done much of what the U.S. has asked – digital locks, anti-counterfeiting […]
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Each April, the U.S. Trade Representative releases the Special 301 report which represents its take on the countries with inadequate intellectual property laws. Inclusion on the report is often framed as an embarrassment as the U.S. seeks to paint those countries as out-of-step with international norms (Canadian officials have rightly dismissed the report as a lobbying document without substantive merit). The latest leaks of country positions on the Trans Pacific Partnership highlight that the opposite is true. It is increasingly the U.S. that is out-of-step with international norms as it seeks to export laws that are widely rejected by most other countries. From its demands for the criminalization of copyright (even in cases of inadvertent infringement) to the prospect of termination of Internet access over allegations of violations, the U.S. approach finds little support among most of its allies. While Canada opposes the U.S. on virtually all remaining IP issues in the TPP, the U.S. is often isolated on each issue, sometimes entirely alone or occasionally supported by one or two other countries.
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The NY Times reports that the U.S. law enforcement authorities are seeking new powers to require all communications – including email and social networks – to have the capability to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages.
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With yesterday’s leak of the full ACTA text
(updated to include the recent round of talks in Lucerne) the simmering fight between the U.S. and the E.U. on ACTA is now being played out in the open. During the first two years of negotations, both sides were at pains to indicate that there was no consensus on transparency and the treaty would not change their domestic rules. Over the past four months, the dynamic on both transparency and substance has changed.
The turning point on transparency came as a result of two events in February and March. First, a Dutch government document leak that identified which specific countries were barriers to transparency. Once identified, the named European countries quickly came onside to support release of the text, leaving the U.S. as the obvious source of the problem. Second, the European Parliament became actively engaged in the ACTA process and demanded greater transparency. As the New Zealand round approached, it was clear that the Europeans needed a resolution on transparency. The U.S. delegation used the transparency issue as a bargaining chip, issuing a release at the start of the talks that it hoped that enough progress could be made to allow for consensus on sharing the text. The U.S. ultimately agreed to release the text, but subsequent events indicate that it still views transparency as a bargaining chip, rather than as a commitment.
At the conclusion of the latest round of negotiations in Lucerne, the U.S. did not achieve its goals for the talks and refused to agree to the release of an updated text. The disagreement between the U.S. and E.U. has played out in the open this week, with the USTR’s Stan McCoy acknowledging that the talks did not achieve as much as the U.S. hoped and EU Commissioner Karel de Gucht plainly blaming the U.S. for blocking release of the text, indicating that he did not expect much progress in the next round on talks in Washington, and calling out the U.S. for its “hypocrisy” on key issues. The fact the text was leaked within hours of de Gucht’s comments highlight Europe’s frustration with the U.S. position on transparency.
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