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Michael Geist takes on “The Trouble with the TPP”

Over the past few weeks Michael Geist has released a series of blogs detailing the definitive case against the TPP. Here are the top highlights. What do you think?

Over the past several weeks, Professor Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-Commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, has been making the definitive case against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, detailing the gaps and missteps that would affect Canada’s digital policies under the TPP. And when I say detailing, I mean meticulously detailing.

If you want to get nerdy, read Geist’s full pieces at his blog here. To date, he has detailed no fewer than 17 specific issues that Canada should be paying attention to while weighing the purported benefits of the agreement.

But if you just want the TL:DR, we’ve pulled together some of what we see as the top highlights from his series The Trouble with the TPP. These are some of the key flaws in this worrisome deal, and Geist’s in-depth pieces, linked out to below, are well worth the read.

  • The introduction of criminal penalties for disclosing trade secrets, which, as the EFF has highlighted, would disproportionately penalize and discourage journalists and whistleblowers.

  • Canada had to pay an ‘entry price’ just to be allowed to enter negotiations on the TPP. These changes include punitive anti-counterfeiting legislation passed in 2014, and restrictions on Canada’ ability to negotiate the terms of the final agreement.

  • Rules to protect companies and rightsholders are mandatory, but users’ rights are just a polite suggestion. The difference between a “shall” and a “may” in the TPP text means that no country under the TPP is actually required to strike a balance on IP and copyright.

  • The goal of this ‘made in America’ agreement is to export U.S. domestic policy to the rest of the world, regardless of its own flaws. In particular, the U.S. DMCA takedown process is deeply flawed, but that is the system that will be exported to the rest of the TPP countries, excluding Canada and Chile, who have managed to secure an exception. Other countries party to the TPP (current or future) are barred from using a more flexible and balanced system like we have in Canada and must instead adopt the U.S. takedown standard.

  • Extending copyright terms hurts artists and will cost us money without incentivizing any new creative works. Enough said.

  • We’ll be locked into some of the most restrictive DRM rules in the world, which we hoped to reform. As Geist outlines, the rules that Canada currently has show that we’ve already caved to U.S. pressure. Under the TPP there will be no going back.

  • We’ll be caught in a cross-continental privacy battle, without the option to decide for ourselves. Privacy protections in the EU differ greatly from those in the U.S., in particular when it comes to cross-border data transfers and rules that require businesses and organizations to store data in the jurisdiction where it was collected. More stringent rules in the EU have so far accommodated Canada’s data privacy laws, declaring them “adequate.” But under the TPP, restrictions on cross-border data transfers and data localization requirements are prohibited, putting Canada in the middle of growing tensions between the European and U.S. approaches to privacy.

Professor Geist will be continuing to analyse the TPP throughout January, so be sure to check back with us for more about what Canada can expect if we bring this agreement into law. You can also read more on Michael Geist’s blog.

You may have noticed the TPP picking up speed in the media this week, as Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland announced that she will be travelling to New Zealand to sign the agreement on February 4th. Previously, the Harper government had committed to the deal in principle, but this would mark the formal signing of the agreement, and start the two-year countdown clock for partner countries to ratify the TPP into law.

For the reasons Professor Geist has detailed above (and more) Canadians, and citizens from all 12 TPP nations, are asking their ministers not to sign the agreement at DontSigntheTPP.net.