The U.S. President Joe Biden’s visit to Ottawa this week has begun to place the spotlight on the mounting tensions over digital policy. For months, Canadian officials have not only been dismissive of the issue, but – as this week’s fishing expedition into Google and Facebook demonstrates – have not shied away from making the issue front and centre. I have been posting about trade-related risks with Canadian digital policy for months, noting that the risks are real and could result in billions in retaliatory tariffs that hits some of Canada’s most sensitive sectors. Indeed, this issue has been raised at every major meeting between senior trade officials for the past year. Is retaliation likely to happen? Certainly not immediately, but the longer the issues fester, the greater the impediment to advancing Canadian trade priorities. As Scottie Greenwood notes, “these are top-of-mind issues. They are not a small obscure issue.”
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The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 155: Mark Swartz on the Harm Caused by Canada’s Copyright Term Extension
Many Canadians started the new year with an unwelcome surprise as they learned that Canada had extended the term of copyright by additional 20 years with no mitigation measures or efforts to limit the harmful effects of the policy. That the extension did not get much attention was seemingly by design as the government buried it in a budget implementation bill and posted no news releases on it. Mark Swartz is a Scholarly Publishing Librarian at Queen’s University and has been an active participant in copyright reform issues for many years. He recently published an op-ed in the Toronto Star and Hill Times identifying both the harms of term extension and potential mitigation measures. He joins the Law Bytes podcast to talk about Canada’s approach to copyright term extension, the impact on the public domain, and what could come next.
U.S. concerns with Canadian digital policy continues to mount with both the U.S. Administration and Senators from both parties raising fears of discrimination. U.S. pressure seems likely to grow as the issue emerges as a major irritant in the bi-lateral trade relationship with Canada’s most important trading partner. With U.S. President Joe Biden scheduled to visit Ottawa later this winter, it seems likely that digital policy – particularly a proposed digital services tax, Bill C-11, and Bill C-18 – will be on the agenda at the meeting.
The latest signals came last week at a bilateral meeting between U.S. and Canadian trade officials. The U.S. readout of the meeting states:
A Tale of Two Readouts: U.S. Escalates Trade Concerns With Canadian Digital Policy as Canada Seeks To Downplay the Issue
Canadian International Trade Minister Mary Ng and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai met yesterday to discuss Canada-U.S. Trade issues and concerns regarding Canada’s digital policy – most notably a proposed digital sales tax and Bills C-11 and C-18 – continue to mount. The U.S. raised digital policy concern over the summer, specifically citing Bill C-11 with a reference to “pending legislation in the Canadian Parliament that could impact digital streaming services.” The latest readout suggests that the concerns are growing, as the U.S. now cites both Bills C-11 and C-18 by raising “pending legislation in the Canadian Parliament that could impact digital streaming services and online news sharing and discriminate against U.S. businesses.”
Bill C-11, the government’s online streaming legislation, has caught the attention of the U.S. government, which raised it as a concern during a recent meeting between U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Canadian Minister of International Trade Mary Ng. The issue is cited in the U.S. readout of the meeting, though the Canadian readout of the same meeting notably excludes any reference to the issue. The readout specifically states that “Ambassador Tai expressed concern about Canada’s proposed digital service tax and pending legislation in the Canadian Parliament that could impact digital streaming services.” The reference to concerns with a digital services tax has been raised before, but the inclusion of Bill C-11 is new. The concerns may reflect Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez’s decision to regulate user generated content, an approach not found in any other country in the world.