La Quadrature du Net: CETA Will Impact Internet Freedoms

Canadian Internet rights group La Quadrature du Net warns that a trade treaty between Canada and the European Union will ultimately hurt internet freedoms in both regions if its ratified. CETA recently reached "agreement in principle" status during a meeting between José Barroso, the President of the European Commission, and Stefen Harper, the Canadian Prime Minister. The group says that until evidence is produced to "ensure that CETA does not contain measures endangering our freedoms online, citizens and MEPs should be ready to reject this trade agreement."

Like other trade treaties in recent years, CETA negotiations and drafting of language has been done behind closed doors between 2009 and 2013, by a small group of individuals led by Karel De Gucht1 for Europe and Ed Fast2 for Canada. Despite "repeated requests from both European and Canadian citizens, organizations and elected representatives," an official version of CETA has been made public. A leaked version of a draft of CETA in July 2012, contained ACTA-like provisions, and documents issued by both Canadians and European institutions continue to refer to measures related to the protection of “intellectual property” (in particular patents and copyright).

Here's more from the group:

"These documents still refer to a 'reinforcement' of the copyright protection. Until the text has been published, one cannot exclude the possible return of measures already rejected with ACTA. Even if it is not the case, the agreement provisions could limit in practice the benefits of the Canadian approach to copyright. Canada has a more extensive definition of the public domain, and has also introduced a pioneering law for positive user rights4 (for example regarding the education exception). Though the Canadian government has stated that it would not have to revise the C-11 law because of the agreement, this remain to be checked – let's remember similar statements regarding the compatibility of ACTA with the Community acquis that proved completely wrong. Even if the law is not revised, the de facto access to many public domain works could be threatened by changes regarding the enforcement of copyright."

The group goes on to say that CETA negotiators have failed to learn from the ACTA fiasco and hear the calls from citizens for more transparency, adding that more contentious issues associated with trade agreements in recent memory (internet freedom, free speech, fair use, abusive copyright and patent infringement enforcement schemes, etc.) "must be discussed in democratic and open debates."

"Now that an agreement in principle was reached, CETA will enter into the legislative process of the European Parliament, which will ultimately lead the MEPs to vote for adopt or reject the agreement as a whole. A few months before the 2013 European elections, there is an urgent need for the European institutions to hear the citizen rejection of these illegitimate practices, and to finally opt for transparent and democratic processes," concluded Jérémie Zimmermann, spokesperson for citizen advocacy group La Quadrature du Net.

You can learn more about the group's efforts to stop CETA here.

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