ACTA comes to Canada: Will protests follow?

On Friday the Conservative government introduced legislation that would implement the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (h/t Geist). Four quick comments:

  • The government’s being a bit sneaky with its briefing materials. C-56 primarily amends the Copyright Act and the Trade-marks Act, but you’ll have to look long and hard to find any reference to copyright in the government’s briefing materials. It’s all trademarks, all the time.

Could it be that the government doesn’t want to draw attention to the fact that it wants to get border guards to become copyright cops? Copyright law is so complicated that copyright lawyers have a hard time agreeing on what core concepts like “fair dealing” actually mean. Is this really something that we want our border guards (who should be concerned with dealing with actual threats to Canadian security) to be enforcing?

  • Despite ACTA’s unpopularity elsewhere, this bill shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone. This is still the same government that followed the U.S. lead on providing very strong protection to digital locks in their 2012 copyright reform bill despite a huge public outcry.
  • I would be very surprised if Canadians took to the streets to protest it. The normally astute Mike Masnick wonders: “It’s really amazing that they’re willing to open this can of worms, given just how strongly people fought back against ACTA elsewhere.” Things get a bit clearer, though, when we remember what these people were fighting against and then look at the actual bill. The protests in Europe and Mexico, as elsewhere, were almost exclusively focused on ACTA’s digital-copyright angle and its effects on online freedom and privacy.

This digital lightening rod is conspicuously absent from (at least) the copyright bits of C-56 (the protests also weren’t very focused with ACTA’s trademark angle). There might be a lot that’s wrong with the bill, but the lack of anything affecting online activity directly will probably mute any public outrage. People (like myself) who thought we’d been witnessing a sea change in the public’s view of copyright, as opposed to rising concern for digital rights, should pay very close attention to how the public reacts to this bill.

  • One brief reminder/clarification about Mexico and ACTA. A lot of the online ACTA commentary is treating the 2011 rejection of ACTA by the Mexican Senate as a fait accompli. I’m working on a paper on this, so I’ll have more later, but ACTA is far from dead in Mexico. Outgoing Mexican President Felipe Calderón signed it in July 2012, and the conditions that led the Senate to unanimously condemn the treaty (they never rejected it, since it’s never been formally sent to them) no longer hold, in part because of the election-related turnover in Senate membership. It could still end up in the Senate, and the people I talked with seemed to think that there’s a good possibility that it could pass, though that’s far from certain.

Never a dull moment…

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