Will Bill C- 56 resurrect ACTA?

Opponents of a proposed copyright bill are saying it is meant to bring to life once more an anti-counterfeiting treaty which was roundly rejected by the European Union last year.

Bill C-56, which was introduced by the Conservative government last Friday as an act to amend the Copyright Act and the Trademarks Act, appears to have been created to revive the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), according to MP Charmaine Borg of the New Democratic Party.
 

The ACTA was treaty negotiation meant to establish global standards for enforcement of intellectual property (IP) right. Among other things, the treaty covers digital content and software and many companies and organizations such as those in the entertainment industry, pharmaceuticals and manufacturing sectors support ACTA.

However, the European Parliament in 2012 voted 478 to 39 to reject ACTA, which was seen to have the potential of overlapping existing institutions such as the World Intellectual Property Organization and circumventing worldwide norms on IP enforcement. Eleven countries including the United States, Canada and Japan signed ACTA in 2011 but only Japan has ratified the treaty.

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Many opponents of ACTA particularly question a provision that allows customers officers to search and seize copyright-infringing material at border entry points. The provision poses concerns for travelers that might carry songs, video and software on their phones, laptops and tablet devices.

The Conservative’s Bill C-56 has some aspects akin to those of ACTA. For one, the bill empowers customs officers to search for copyright infringing materials. The bill, however, makes as exception for travelers who carry such materials for personal use.

“The European Parliament rejected the anti-counterfeiting trade agreement over serious concerns about the regressive changes it would impose on intellectual property in the digital age,” Borg said during question period in Ottawa earlier this week. “Yet on Friday, the Conservatives introduced a bill in the House that would pave the way for ACTA without question.”

Canadians, Borg said, are worried that their property will be seized or destroyed without any oversight by the courts.

“…Is Bill C-56 not simply a way to support ACTA through the back door?” she asked in a question aimed at MP Christian Paradis, minister of industry and minister of state.

Paradis replied that the Bill C-56 is a response to a growing counterfeiting problem in Canada.

“Counterfeiting deceives Canadians and is linked to security-related issues,” he said. “So it was our duty to modernize the legislation to ensure that we can end counterfeiting…”

Maria Sutton, global policy analyst for the digital rights advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the new bill is an indication of how willing Canada is to cave in to pressure from the largely United States-based IP enforcement lobby.

Apart from Bill C-56 search and seizure provision, Sutton noted that timing of its introduction roughly coincided with the release by the Office of the United States Trade Representative of its 2013 Trade Policy Agencda and 2012 Trade Policy Report. The report said that the U.S. was working with Japan and other negotiating parties to “ensure that ACTA can come into force as soon as possible.”

The report also encourages Canada “to meet its (ACTA) obligations,” she said.

“Canada did not miss a beat to satisfy this demand,” Sutton said in a recent blog. “The Canadian government introduced a bill today to make Canada compliant with provisions of ACTA, paving the way for its eventual ratification.”