Canada’s CETA Implementation Bill Spells Copyright Relief for Now

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) bill has been tabled in Canada’s House of Commons. Bill C-30 shows a first glimpse into how ratification may take place.

We’ve been saying all along that one of the critical steps in CETA becoming law is how the countries choose to implement the agreement. This step is one of the last opportunities for changes to take place.

On Sunday, we reported on the signing of the agreement. The news broke shortly after some were speculating the agreement would fall through thanks in part to Wallonia – a region of Belgium whose government had reservations on accepting the agreement. After some under the table negotiations, Wallonia withdrew its veto on the agreement, paving the way for the signing of the agreement.

Then, on Monday, we reported on Justin Trudeau announcing that the implementation process is to begin immediately. CETA’s implementation bill was put on the notice paper. In fact, some reports said that the ratification process could be completed by December.

We conducted our own original clause-by-clause analysis of the agreement last year. What we found was startling. There were provisions revolving around three strikes laws, site blocking, seizing cell phones at the border, and a global DMCA. Naturally, this raised a lot of red flags for us.

Now, the first reading of the agreement implementation bill has been tabled as Bill C-30. So, we dug into what was going to be taken from the agreement and implemented under the bill.

Perhaps, for the first time in this process we’ve seen on this file, there is some good news. Site blocking, a graduated response, and all references to Technical Protection Measures (TPM), and border security screening for copyright infringement is nowhere to be found that we can tell.

This obviously didn’t mean they were never a threat to begin with, it just means that the government seemingly decided not to implement those specific provisions at this point in time. Unfortunately, this is where the goods news ends.

While the bill is expected to sail through government and become law quickly, keep in mind that this is simply the first reading version. For all we know, amendments can be added between now and when the bill receives royal assent. One of those amendments could be the copyright provisions that we earlier flagged.

Even if non of these intellectual property provisions are never added to the bill, and the bill receives royal assent, there is still the ISDS (Inter-State Dispute Settlement) provisions to contend with. Provisions referencing these tribunals are found in the implementation bill:

Tribunals, Arbitration Panels and Panels of Experts

Powers of Minister

11 (1) The Minister may
(a) propose the names of individuals to serve as members of the tribunals established under Section F of Chapter Eight of the Agreement; and
(b) propose the names of individuals to be included in the sub-lists referred to in paragraph 1 of Article 29.‍8 of the Agreement.

Expenses

Payment of expenses

13 The Government of Canada is to pay its appropriate share of the aggregate of
(a) the expenses incurred by tribunals established under the Agreement and the remuneration and expenses payable to members of those tribunals;

(b) the expenses incurred by arbitration panels and Panels of Experts established under the Agreement and the remuneration and expenses payable to those arbitrators, panellists on those Panels of Experts and mediators; and

(c) the expenses incurred by the CETA Joint Committee and the specialized committees, bilateral dialogues, working groups and other bodies established under the Agreement and the remuneration and expenses payable to representatives on the CETA Joint Committee and those specialized committees and to members of those bilateral dialogues, working groups and other bodies.

In other words, the possibility of the Canadian government being overruled by others will always be there. A record label, a movie studio, or a software developer may try and sue the Canadian government for not enacting these copyright provisions. As a result, Canadians will always have to be on their guard if they even hope to prevent these provisions from making their way into the law books.

While, on the surface, there is good news to be had here for Canadians, there are still a lot of caveats to this at this point.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.



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