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Recapping the Trouble with the TPP: Pt 2

Part two of our summary on Michael Geist's "the trouble with the TPP" series exposes more threats to our digital future in Canada. Find out more about how this agreement will be felt here at home.

Now that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been signed, more and more people are asking: what is the TPP? And why is OpenMedia so concerned about it?

Since the mammoth agreement was finalized and published in November 2015, experts have been going over it with a fine-tooth comb, examining the implications of the 6000+ page set of rules.

One such expert is Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-Commerce Law, Professor Michael Geist, who has been detailing in almost-daily blogs the ways in which we’ll be affected by the TPP. Endlessly prolific and thorough, to date Geist has written 30 blogs highlighting what he sees as the Trouble with the TPP. We’ve pulled out and highlighted what we see as some of the most pressing issues for our digital future, and now we’re back to round out the list.

To see Part 1 of the “Trouble with the TPP” roundup, click here.

So where are we at? Well, here’s the second installment of highlights from Michael Geist’s the Trouble with the TPP:

  • We could see meddling in Internet governance, most notably through CIRA, the body that manages the Canadian dot-ca domain. If, for example, CIRA (an independent nonprofit organization) decided to bolster privacy for domain registrants, they would be either be at risk of violating the TPP, or have to be legislated into compliance by our government. You might think government oversight = good, but this as Geist points out how this goes against Canada’s long-standing government policy of taking a relatively hands-off approach to Internet governance, an approach that the government itself noted as “[having] been a key driver in the success of the Internet to date.”  

  • The TPP ties the hands of the government in making policies that would promote and support the creation of Canadian cultural content. We won’t get into the Cancon vs. no Cancon debate here, but it’s worth noting that the TPP would essentially prevent Canada from changing the way it applies Cancon payments, regardless of a future in which we may want to revisit these policies.

  • The Canadian government didn’t consult with our tech sector, and did not negotiate any side letters to the agreement that would help us grow in this sector in the future. This is a huge oversight, and as has been pointedoutrepeatedly by Jim Balsillie, Michael Geist, and others, it does nothing to ensure that Canada’s digital and innovation future is secure, let alone help it thrive.

  • Weak attempts at ensuring Net Neutrality. ‘Nuff said.

  • Government summaries of the agreement have consistently included misleading or incomplete (if not inaccurate) information about how the agreement would affect us here in Canada. As Geist notes, “summaries on copyright and patent reform fail to mention significant legislative changes that would could raise education and health care costs.” It’s essential for Canadians to be able to weigh the cost/benefit of the TPP before we dive in headfirst. And to be able to do that, we need accurate information – both in terms of the potential financial gains and losses, and in terms of major changes to Canadian legislation that will shape our future, online and off.

  • It contains provisions forbidding any required disclosure of source code of software (with some exceptions). As Geist alludes to, this is a brain-melting issue to properly conceptualize as many of the terms within the provisions are yet undefined – things like “software used for critical infrastructure” and “mass market software” – raising concern about implementing rules that are unclear. Additionally, source code disclosure has been put forward as a possible solution to stemming the threat posed by malicious actors online, seeking to exploit poorly-constructed software. Simply put, adding restrictions on source code disclosures has the potential to make us all less safe.

And that brings us to the end of Professor Geist’s detailed examination of the Trouble with the TPP. No doubt as more academics, experts, lawyers and others sift through the many pages of the agreement we’ll identify other issues that are cause for concern. It will be up to us as Canadians and Internet users to raise these important issues with the government in our promised consultation.

Importantly, we’re cooperating with our partners from across the globe towards a world where citizen stakeholder engagement is built into the trade process, so that we never again find ourselves without a seat at the table when the rules are being made. We know from experience that it’s much harder to have influence after all is said and done, than to be a part of the conversation from the outset.

But right now we’re working with what we’ve got.

In the meantime, you can take action here to stay in the loop about the next steps in ensuring that the TPP gets the scrutiny it deserves.


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