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Canada's digital future at risk as Ottawa joins Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

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Canada has become the latest country to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a secretive international trade agreement that will include rules for copyright, trademarks and patents that are far more restrictive than those currently required in Canada by existing treaties or regulations. But as Canada prepares to join the talks, digital rights advocates are expressing concerns that the TPP would extend Internet restrictions across the globe.

The TPP’s intellectual property measures would give large media conglomerates new powers to lock users out of their own content and services, provide new liabilities that might force ISPs to police online activity, and give giant media companies even greater powers to shut down websites and remove content at will.

The TPP also encourages ISPs to block accused infringers’ Internet access, and could force ISPs to hand over citizens’ private information to corporations with few privacy safeguards.

The TPP negotiations have been ongoing since 2008, and sources suggest Canada will be signing on to already-agreed sections of the TPP, without seeing the text in advance. Canada may also be considered a “second-tier” negotiator, meaning that Ottawa will have far less input into the agreement.

“Canadians need to know that these talks will have a broad impact on their rights,” says Steve Anderson, Executive Director of OpenMedia.ca. “If it is finalized in the coming months as expected, these restrictions will hurt the the future of the Internet’s global infrastructure, and innovation in Canada and across the world.”

“The negotiations around the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement have so far provided no forum for citizen or stakeholder input, certainly not for Canadians.” says Anderson. “This approach to establishing digital policy is backwards, it’s undemocratic, and it’s patently unfair. Without proper citizen and stakeholder consultation and open access to TPP documents, there are no checks in place ensuring that negotiators have the concerns and well-being of global citizens in mind.”

The next set of formal negotiations will be the 13th round, with past rounds having taken place around the globe. According to the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office, negotiators are seeking to finalize the TPP by this July.

OpenMedia.ca is encouraging Internet users in Canada and around the world to stand up against international efforts to restrict Internet use at: http://openmedia.ca/community

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