Copyright in the new TPP: A milestone or a PR move?

photo of Marie Aspiazu

by Marie Aspiazu

In early November, citizens watched in suspense as leaders from 11 of the original Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) signatories met in Vietnam at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit. They were there to discuss the future of the controversial trade agreement without the US, which withdrew from the agreement back in January.At first, reports indicated the Canadian Prime Minister didn’t show up, delaying the process. Moments later, it was confirmed the 11 nations had reached an “agreement in principle” on “core elements” of the TPP, now relabelled as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

The news dismayed hundreds of thousands of Canadians who had spoken out against the politically toxic deal for years. This was a clear sign that, once again, the government had ignored the feedback of Canadians before making a major decision, merely using the consultation as a public relations strategy.

However, in a win for digital rights advocates, the Canadian government took a strong stance on the Intellectual Property (IP) chapter, despite strong pressure from other nations to rush the deal through. While it significantly improved the TPP’s original unbalanced copyright rules by suspending the Intellectual Property provision almost in its entirety, the suspended chapters in the new agreement are still subject to discussion and could be reopened, should the US decide to rejoin the deal down the line.

Additionally, as Electronic Frontier Foundation points out, other problematic provisions for Internet users are still pulsating in the deal, like ISDS (Investor-State Dispute Settlement), a provision that allows multinational corporations to sue governments for millions of dollars for laws that simply don’t fit their business interests in unaccountable tribunals.

So it’s still too early for Internet users to throw confetti; the fight isn’t over yet. And despite a significant improvement to the original agreement, this whole process still happened behind closed doors. We cannot let this become the norm for how Canada negotiates future trade agreements and builds its relationships with other nations. If the government is truly committed to “progressive” trade, as they claim, they must embrace open, transparent and democratic processes throughout the entirety of the negotiations.

It will also be interesting to see if the Canadian government takes a similar approach in the renegotiated NAFTA. Hopefully, Canada will show leadership in achieving a balanced copyright approach in the face of extreme proposals by US industry lobbyists and even Canada’s own largest telecom, Bell. The company has proposed to introduce a website blocking system and radical new copyright rules that would criminalize everyday, online activities, resulting in an unprecedented, widespread chilling of free expression.

OpenMedia, Leadnow, Private Internet Access, United Steel Workers, CUPE and CWA Canada are teaming up to do a massive bus ad campaign in Ottawa to remind Prime Minister Trudeau we will not be silenced on the TPP. Citizens can contribute to the initiative at and follow OpenMedia on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates.

Marie Aspiazu is a campaigner and social media specialist for OpenMedia, a community-based organization that works to keep the Internet open, affordable and surveillance-free.

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