Canadian MP demands answers on secret copyright treaty

Canadian MP Charlie Angus — a successful musician, the former front-man for punk legends L'Etranger — has stood up in Parliament to demand that Prime Minister Harper and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Peter Van Loan explain exactly what the hell they think they're doing negotiating a secret copyright treaty without Parliamentary oversight or input from Canadians. Remember, this is the government that is meant to be working to design a copyright law based on an unprecedented public commission on copyright, where thousands and thousands of Canadians told government what they wanted from their national copyright law.

The secret copyright treaty — ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement — contains provisions for border searches of laptops and personal media players, asks ISPs to spy on their users, and requires signatory nations' ISPs to disconnect the households of Internet users who are accused of copyright infringement.

It is presently being negotiated in Guadalajara, Mexico, in smoke-filled back rooms that are off-limits to the press, the public, public interest groups, independent copyright and trade experts, independent copyright creators — just trade negotiators and representatives from big business are allowed to know what's going on.

1) First and foremost, why the secrecy? When the original WIPO treaties were being negotiated, the draft of texts were posted online and made available by Industry Canada. The federal government invited submissions on the process being undertaken.

ACTA, on the other hand, is being negotiated entirely behind closed doors. Your government has gone along with this process by freezing out input from Parliament, public interest groups and key internet industries that could be adversely affected. This secrecy undermines the credibility of the Ministers of Industry and Heritage who have both made efforts to engage the public prior to the development of any new copyright framework for Canada.

Canadians deserve transparency on this issue. Therefore I am asking if you will produce for the House of Commons the latest draft held by your Department of the (a) civil enforcement, (b) border measures, (c) criminal enforcement and (d) intellectual property rights enforcement section of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement?

2) Will you produce the mandate letter given to Canada's negotiation team at ACTA? This will help provide the Canadian public with a sense of how far you've directed our representatives to go on key issues that affect our domestic laws and sovereignty.

3) What instructions have you given your negotiators regarding the issue of searching and seizing I-pods and laptops at international border crossings for potential non-commercial infringement of copyright? The ACLU reports that U.S. customs officials searched hundreds of devices last year. Is Canada prepared to authorize similar activities at our borders in an effort to ferret out alleged infringements by private citizens?

4) Is your government willing to impose a "Three Strikes and You're Out" approach to claims of copyright infringement?


Letter to Minister Van Loan