Trans-Pacific Partnership and Public Domain in Canada

Earlier today, I saw a post on slashdot about the potential extension of copyright length in Canada as part of a free-trade negotiation called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CBC article):

slashdot (a little overblown, as usual):

The Canadian government is now considering a plan to enter trade negotiations that would extend the term of copyright by 20 years, meaning nothing new would enter the public domain in Canada until at least 2032. The government is holding a public consultation with the chance for Canadians to speak out to save the public domain.

Michael Geist:

Based on leaks of the current drafts of the TPP IP chapter, the agreement would overhaul Canadian copyright law far beyond what is contemplated in Bill C-11. In fact, the TPP would require even stricter digital lock rules, extend the term of copyright, restrict trade in parallel imports, and increase various infringement penalties.


Canada's term of copyright meets the international standard of life of the author plus 50 years, which has now become a competitive advantage when compared to the United States, Australia, and Europe, which have copyright terms that extend an additional 20 years (without any evidence of additional public benefits).

I wrote the following e-mail to the the public consultations address, consultations@international.gc.ca, cc-ing it to my Member of Parliament (find yours here -- ask me for help if you need it!):


I am a lifelong innovator as a software developer for the last 25 years. I expect to continue doing this for a further unspecified period and I am committed to seeing the best and the brightest be able to develop to their full potential here in Canada, continuing to produce wealth and competitive advantages for Canada well into the lifetimes of my grandchildren. Because of that, I strongly oppose any trading away of freedom to tinker, to study, to reverse engineer, to learn the State of the Art from existing devices. Bill C-11, while less egregious than its forebears, is still an onerous impairment to that freedom but going further, as the TPP IP chapter negotiations would have us do is an unacceptable further impairment.

I urge my government to stop restricting their geeks from becoming excellent geeks. Broader trade is important, yes. But even more important is the development in Canada, by Canadians, in service of Canadian-owned companies of unique and valuable products that can command market premiums wherever they go, regardless of free trade pacts. And the simplest easy way to enable that is for Canada to insist on preserving for its geeks, present and future, the freedom to tinker, study, reverse engineer and learn for private study even where doing so for profit would represent a theft of others' duly gained competitive advantage.

Just as the right to media-shift, to back up, to maintain personal access to digital assets that individual consumers may have purchased is of inestimable value to the consumer, even more the freedom to tinker for geeks and potential geeks, present and future is of inestimable value to all Canadians. Trading such a birthright in return for the week-of-pottage that a free trade agreement might give is as foolish now as it has ever been.


Arthur N. Klassen

Looking further at the press around this deal, I have to assert, as well, that this agreement looks bad in a bunch of other directions, including opening threats to the high-quality for slightly-higher-price milk and egg market in Canada, so there is no shortage of reasons why an informed Canadian should oppose forging such close ties with all these nations at such a high cost.

Consider writing a letter of some variety to

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