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.