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Defending Your Digital Rights in NAFTA 2.0

We recently submitted a brief to the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade (CIIT), recommending what the government should do to ensure Canadians’ best interests are protected when it comes to how our digital rights are treated in a new NAFTA.

The 23 year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico is already on its way to its fifth round of renegotiations as we speak.

The renegotiations have been heated, as the trilateral trade agreement has major implications on our everyday lives – ranging from environmental protection laws, to labour policies, to the way in which we use and communicate through the Internet. The latter has kept our team busy with the renegotiation process and we were recently granted the opportunity to submit our comments to the House of Commons Standing Committee on International trade (CIIT), which deals with matters on international trade policy.

Specifically, OpenMedia was nominated as a witness to the Committee’s study of NAFTA’s impact on Canadians. This represented a key opportunity for OpenMedia to amplify your voices and express concerns about the impacts that a rushed and secretive ‘NAFTA 2.0’ could have on everyday Internet users. We made a number of concrete recommendations to ensure that the federal government defends Canadians’ digital rights throughout the renegotiations and upholds some of our most robust, uniquely Canadian and even exemplary policies in the areas of intellectual property and digital trade.

This was also our chance to speak out against Bell Canada’s recent sweeping Internet censorship proposal, which they presented to CIIT last month.

We also urged the government to embrace a transparent and democratic negotiation process. Canadians need to know what’s on the negotiating table and whether those sitting around it truly have their best interests at heart. In a free and open democracy, this is the only way for the Canadian government to live up to its claim of “progressive trade”.

The following recommendations are excerpted from our comments to CIIT. You can find OpenMedia’s full submission here (PDF) and embedded below at the end of this post.                                   

Intellectual Property                                                         

1. Retain Canada’s current copyright regime, specifically (a) commitment to balance through a “made in Canada” approach; (b) notice-and-notice; and (c) current copyright terms (i.e. reject all term extension proposals).                                                             

2. Reject any attempts to further criminalize copyright infringement or expand digital rights management (DRM) or anti-circumvention provisions.                                                         

3. Ensure positive fair dealing (fair use) obligations are in the text of any new NAFTA, including commitments to uphold and promote the public domain.

Digital Trade

4. Ensure that any provisions regarding data localization preserve Canada’s ability to make substantive domestic law protecting Canadians’ personal data and privacy rights.

5. Retain Canada’s strong net neutrality regime, and reject all attempts to weaken net neutrality in Canada or “harmonize” with the United States on this policy.    

Democratic Process    

6. Remove Chapter 11 of the current NAFTA (Investor-State Dispute Settlement).

7. Demonstrate genuine and meaningful transparency: (a) Release drafts of any new NAFTA text after each round or every other round, particularly the intellectual property and e-commerce (or digital trade) chapters; and (b) Release all comments submitted to the Global Affairs Canada public consultations on the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the United States and Mexico.



Canadians are urging the government to stand up for their digital rights in the renegotiated NAFTA at:

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