[A2k] Exclude copyright from all trade agreements: Heritage committee report - Canada

Tanya Woods artsconsultancy at gmail.com
Thu Mar 24 07:32:11 PDT 2011

 Exclude copyright from all trade agreements: Heritage committee report
March 23, 2011 - 11:57am — The Wire Report

The opposition parties on the House of Commons heritage committee have
recommended that the government exclude copyright policy from trade
negotiations and focus on developing international copyright policy through
bodies like the *World Intellectual Property Organization *(WIPO).

A committee report tabled in the House Monday, supported by the opposition
members on the committee, called on the Conservative government “to ensure
that domestic copyright policies are not part of any present or future trade

The report<http://www2.parl.gc.ca/Content/HOC/Committee/403/CHPC/Reports/RP5035513/403_CHPC_Rpt08_PDF/403_CHPC_Rpt08-e.pdf>
cultural diversity issues and trade negotiations related to the EU-Canada
Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement
and the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement
both of which deal substantially with copyright.

Michael Geist, the Canada research chair of Internet and e-commerce law at
the *University of Ottawa*, said the position of the opposition parties is
significant as a spring election now appears unavoidable.

He said the CETA and ACTA trade agreements depart from the conventional
norms of what trade agreements should cover.

“This is not part of what we would traditionally think of with respect to
market access, tariff barriers, and those sorts of issues around trade,” he

He added that Canada can work with international partners to try and avoid
putting copyright into trade agreements.

“I think there are many jurisdictions we should be talking to that are
like-minded on this issue.”

Parties to the ACTA released a final text last year, which was considered a
watered down version of earlier drafts modeled on the United States Digital
Millennium Copyright Act.

The ACTA’s participating countries are Australia, Canada, the EU and its
member states, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore,
Switzerland and the United States.

Critics such as Geist have taken aim at the CETA and ACTA negotiations as a
kind of back-door “policy laundering” to change Canada’s intellectual
property laws to suit the interests of large trading partners.

The agreements have also been criticized for a lack of transparency.

In the CETA, the EU is proposing changes to Canada’s copyright law,
including an extension of Canada’s term of copyright from 50 to 70 years, a
measure that is not currently in the Conservative government’s copyright
reform legislation, Bill C-32.

Canada and EU officials ambitiously say they hope to finalize CETA by the
end of the year.

The CETA also includes a
with telecommunications, in which the EU seeks to open up Canada’s telecom
sector to foreign ownership, but the Canadian government has not yet made a
decision on that matter.

Industry Minister Tony Clement is the lead on the issue.

The heritage committee also recommended that the Canadian government’s
commitments to implementing the ACTA “are limited to the agreement’s focus
on combating international counterfeiting and commercial piracy efforts; and
that the Government of Canada retains the right to maintain domestic
copyright policies that have been developed within the framework of its
commitments to the World Intellectual Property Organization and the Berne

Geist agreed with the committee report that international copyright should
be discussed—but said it should be talked about within international,
multilateral institutions.

“It’s not that you can’t talk about international copyright. Of course you
should talk about international copyright,” he said.

Geist added that he believes digital issues such as copyright and
usage-based billing will become part of a coming election campaign.

An election this spring, triggered by a confidence vote, would kill the
Conservative government’s Bill C-32 before it passes.

The heritage committee report also recommended that:

   - the government “fully respect cultural diversity treaties” and called
   on the Conservatives to reaffirm their “commitment to fully uphold UNESCO
   obligations while negotiating any present or future trade agreements”;
   - the government ensure that in trade agreements “Canada retains the
   right to set domestic cultural and telecommunications policies, including
   the right to establish programs and incentives to support our domestic
   cultural industries”;
   - the government examines Canadian trademark laws and their enforcement
   to ensure that “necessary tools are in place to combat counterfeiting”;
   - and that the government negotiate agreements with greater transparency
   and public input.

The Conservative members of the committee issued a dissenting opinion,
saying that a study on the ACTA and CETA should not have been brought before
the heritage committee.

The Tories said the trade agreements could have been more effectively
studied at the House of Commons international trade committee and that “the
government members therefore also disagree with the 4 recommendations
attached to the report.”

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