Reviewing the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement

By Drew Wilson

After reviewing known information about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trans-Atlantic Partnership Agreement (TAPA), we now shift our focus to another known threat to the Internet – the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

Like the TPP, CETA has had known leaks of its own in the past. It was these data leaks that have allowed activists to get a glimpse of what the otherwise secretive agreement is really about on some topics. It turned out, it carried the same sort of threats to the Internet as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement that died in the European Union after intense opposition.

Michael Geist, in 2009, offered a review of the European demands in the agreement from a Canadian perspective. Here’s some of what Geist found:

– Copyright term extension. The current term of copyright law in Canada is life of the author plus 50 years. This is consistent with the term requirements under the Berne Convention. The EU is demanding that Canada add an additional 20 years by making the term life plus 70 years.

– WIPO ratification. The EU is demanding that Canada respect the rights and obligations under the WIPO Internet treaties. The EU only formally ratified those treaties this week.

– Anti-circumvention provisions. The EU is demanding that Canada implement anti-circumvention provisions that include a ban on the distribution of circumvention devices. There is no such requirement in the WIPO Internet treaties.

– ISP Liability provisions. The EU is demanding statutory provisions on ISP liability where they act as mere conduits, cache content, or host content. ISPs would qualify for a statutory safe harbour in appropriate circumstances. There is no three-strikes and you’re out language (which presumably originates with the U.S.).

– Enforcement provisions. The EU is demanding that Canada establish a host of new enforcement provisions including measures to preserve evidence, ordering alleged infringers to disclose information on a wide range of issue, mandate disclosure of banking information in commercial infringement cases, allow for injunctive relief, and destruction of goods. There is also a full section on new border measures requirements.

– Resale rights. The EU is demanding that Canada implement a new resale right that would provide artists with a royalty based on any resales of their works (subsequent to the first sale).

– Making available or distribution rights. The EU is demanding that Canada implement a distribution or making available right to copyright owners.

With anti-circumvention and the possibility of a sort of three strikes law, many activists since concluded that CETA is just another threat in a long list of threats to the Internet.

Of course, some things have changed since the initial leaks of 2009. One of the biggest changes is that ACTA since died thanks to a storm of criticisms over the provisions surrounding the Internet. Observers have noted that this has put a twist on the negotiations of CETA given that there was growing momentum to oppose agreements that could adversely affect free speech on the Internet. While CETA may be somewhat dormant at this point (most of the recent articles as of this writing were written back in the first half of December of 2012), it will no doubt come back to the forefront in the future as negotiators continue to craft it in secret.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85

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