The Broadcasting Act blunder series has made several references to the risk of a trade challenge over provisions found in Bill C-10. This post unpacks the trade issue and explains why the bill could result in billions of dollars in retaliatory tariffs against Canada. The starting point for the trade issue is to recognize that Canada negotiated the continuation of the cultural exemption in the Canada-US-Mexico Trade Agreement (CUSMA or USMCA). This was viewed as an important policy objective for the government, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau insisting that “defending that cultural exemption is something fundamental to Canadians.” The exemption means that commitments such as equal treatment for U.S., Mexican and Canadian companies may be limited within the cultural sector.
Yet the cultural exemption did not come without a cost.
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U.S. President Donald Trump yesterday signed an executive order targeting Internet platforms after Twitter fact-checked one of his tweets on mail-in voting (the company followed up with a warning on another tweet earlier today involving glorifying violence). The order cannot simply reverse current U.S. law, but it encourages U.S. regulators to rethink how the Internet safe harbour provisions that limit liability for Internet platforms for third party content are implemented.
While the U.S. is obviously free to assess its statutory approach, one issue that received little attention is that the U.S. has effectively locked itself into the safe harbour system through its trade agreement with Canada and Mexico. The inclusion of safe harbour provisions in the agreement were viewed by some as an attempt to force Canada to adopt similar rules, yet the more likely reason for lobbying on the issue was to ensure that the U.S. itself was bound by the rules. Indeed, there were last minute efforts to remove the provision from the final deal, but those were ultimately rejected.
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The Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology has released its recommendations for changes to Bill C-4, the bill designed to implement the Canada-US-Mexico Trade Agreement. I appeared before the committee and used this week’s Lawbytes podcast to highlight some of the discussion. The committee had a limited time to study the bill, but arrived at some important recommendations on the copyright and digital policy provisions.
First, it recommended adding a new exception to Canada’s digital lock rules to address concerns in the agriculture sector about the right to repair their equipment. The issue has been gaining momentum around the world as many identify the over-broad restrictions often associated with anti-circumvention laws. The recommendation:
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The ratification of the Canada – US- Mexico Trade Agreement has captured considerable attention with several committees studying Bill C-4, the bill aimed at ratifying the deal. Over the past month, I’ve had the opportunity to appear before two of those committees – the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade and on Industry, Science and Technology – where I discussed the digital law and policy implications the agreement. This week’s podcast features excerpts from those appearances, including my opening statement and the ensuing discussion with several MPs on copyright term extension, cultural policy, and privacy.
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As Parliament continues its review of legislation designed to implement the Canada-U.S.-Mexico Trade Agreement (CUSMA), I have had the honour to appear before both the International Trade and Industry, Science and Technology committees to discuss the digital implications of the trade agreement. While Members of Parliament have expressed concern with copyright term extension that could cost millions of dollars and restrictions on future privacy safeguards, the issue that has sparked the greatest surprise arises from a provision frequently promoted as a “win” during the negotiations.
My Globe and Mail op-ed notes that the inclusion of a cultural exemption was viewed as an important policy objective for the government, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau insisting “defending that cultural exemption is something fundamental to Canadians.” The USMCA does, indeed, feature a broad cultural exemption that covers a wide range of sectors. The exemption means that commitments such as equal treatment for U.S., Mexican and Canadian companies may be limited within the cultural sector.
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