TPP Proponent Makes Incoherent Denial of Copyright Changes

Proponents of the hugely controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement have tried just about everything to try and sell the agreement to Canadians. While they have tried denial in the past, they have gone on to other tactics as well. Now, it seems they have gone back to just denying what is in the agreement. For one proponent, just staying on topic is a challenge.

In all fairness, TPP proponents have the unenviable position of trying to push an unsellable agreement. We already know that the Intellectual Property chapter requires Canada to do a complete overhaul of its copyright, trademark, and patent laws. This includes ratifying many other controversial treaties including WIPO treaties, kills domain name registrant privacy, forms a “TPP Commission” to oversee enforcement of the agreement, enforces a copyright term that was, until recently, longer then what Canada already has to life plus 70 years, adds criminal liability to circumvention of copy protection, enforces “deterrent” level liabilities where the sky is the limit, adds government mandated spying for the purpose of tracking copyright infringmeent, allows copyright enforcement when infringement is “imminent”, and allows border security to seize your cell phone at the border for the purpose of copyright enforcement.

So, the TPP would mean a complete overhaul of copyright laws in Canada and makes them anti-consumer and pro-multinational corporate. As a result, proponents have had the task of selling an agreement that would decimate civil liberties including online rights to the Canadian people. Judging by the protests that have happened all over the world, these efforts have not been very successful so far.

Still, that hasn’t stopped proponents from trying. Already, we’ve seen arguments like how software patents don’t exist and that copyright term extension is a good thing because so few works are in demand after 90 to 110 years after publication. The Canadian media has also been quite active in pushing the agreement including going into damage control after Trudeau did a 180 and went from denying that he would sign the agreement to signing the agreement because he hasn’t decided what to do on the matter. In addition, they’ve downplayed the drop in support for the agreement, and went into radio silence when Canada, along with the 11 other countries signed off on the agreement.

When facts and evidence is not on the proponents side, what is a TPP proponent to do? One of those answers is deny. Already, we’ve seen this strategy play out that when faced with evidence and studies that run contrary to the talking points, proponents revert to denying the credibility of such studies. When people question some of the provisions of the TPP, deny they even exist. recently, we’ve seen that come into play recently when one proponent went running to TPP friendly publication, the Globe and Mail to make the denial case.

In the article, Finn Poschmann, president and chief executive officer at the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council starts off by saying that business people and economists are all confused as to why there is opposition to the TPP. The reason, Poschmann claims, is because innovation is great for the economy. Presumably, this is under the false premise that TPP is great for innovation. Even them, it’s difficult to really see where the connection is in the first place. What’s more, Poschmann doesn’t really cite who these “economists and business folk” are in the first place. We can only assume that the people he is referring to are representatives of multinational corporations who are the only ones who stand to benefit, but again, we are only left to guess as to what Poschmann is talking about.

Shortly after, Poschmann goes into great detail about chips in cell phones. He discusses how a multinational corporation sells cell phone technology to a country and how domestic businesses simply “innovates” by selling these cell phones. Again, connections between the debate about the TPP are, at best, very fuzzy because it’s quite difficult to see what connections he is making in the first place.

Poschmann then talks about the oil industry for reasons that aren’t all that clear. After that, he talks about tax evasion tactics of pharmaceutical companies that are just moving money around because they are “seeking shelter from the cold”. The only reference he makes that is even remotely related to the TPP was that they are big patent holders. He then says how ideas are valuable after. How the readership hasn’t gotten lost in this multiple times by now is unclear, though he does spend a couple paragraphs after talking about the lowering of taxes.

After that, he admits that hardly anything he talked about has anything to do with the TPP. Probably the only relevant sections about the TPP are reserved towards the end of the article:

And what has this to do with the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

Not so much. The TPP pushes out to partner countries pharma patent rules similar to those Canada and the United States already share. There are other minor changes with respect to patent lives’ beginnings and ends, but nothing to write home about. The goal of TPP is to see our partner countries adopt IP protections much like the ones we now have.

As to copyright, some current U.S. rules will apply, which means that if you are an author or composer, your grandchildren may get cheques they otherwise would not. This is an application of what is fondly known as the “Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act,” and will do nothing for consumers or creativity, and falls in the category of a minor annoyance on the way to a deal.

Indeed, putting innovation to good use is an issue for the Canadian economy. Potential tools for doing so, like the innovation box, are ready to our hands, and the TPP does not tie them.

At this point, you can almost hear the collective facepalm. For one, the author just spent 15 paragraphs being off topic, then admitting he was off topic before going back to the TPP. For another, he just makes a blanket statement that the TPP changes little in the way of copyright even though it is a widely known fact that the TPP would make copyright laws in Canada completely unrecognizable when its done. After that, he calls what changes there are a minor inconvenience. It’s hard to read that while laughing when you know unlimited damages and liabilities are in the agreement. What’s more, he, by extension admits that the TPP does “nothing for consumers or creativity”. Not exactly an argument you want to make in light of public opinion on the matter.

So, it would seem that this is the latest face being put forward for supporting the TPP. Perhaps it isn’t so much “business folk” and “economists” who are puzzled in all of this so much as it is Poschmann. Believe me, I’ve read through his article three times and it doesn’t make much more sense to me.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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