Archive for the ‘Internet Free Speech’ Category

James Cormie is a legal intern at Global Access to Medicine. He blogs on issues of trade, IP, and international law. He is originally from Edmonton, Alberta.

Dear Fellow Canadians:

Welcome to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations! Fresh off a bruising fight getting provisions that protect internet freedom and privacy into Canada’s copyright Bill C-11, I’m sure that you are exhausted with defending your rights. Take heart. With the TPP you will not have much of a say on laws or policies threatening your privacy, rights on the internet and access to affordable medicines. Instead, lobbyists from major American industries and some 600 “corporate trade advisors” have helped lay out some of what the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) expects from you.

These are the same industries that forced major concessions on C-11’s approach to digital locks despite near-universal criticism. Hundreds of pages of new non-trade policy contained in the most sweeping “free trade agreement.”  The USTR proposes intellectual property provisions that cover dramatically more than copyright law. They touch a wide range of IP issues.  And you thought NAFTA was a pill? Sure, Big PhRMA used NAFTA to attack our drug formulary system and all of those compulsory licenses for affordable meds. But back then, our government drew a line.  Despite some considerable hysteria from the U.S. drug industry giants, did not give away all of our policy space. This time, however, TPP gives PM Harper a way to write all of us a real prescription for high drug prices and cement his view of Canada as an extended playground for corporate America.

Here are some of the highlights of the US proposed IP chapter:

• Expand patent evergreening and create new pharmaceutical monopolies, raising medicine costs
• Dramatically increase the life of a copyright term from 50 years in most cases under C-11 to 95 years
• Increase penalties for circumvention and reduce the exceptions for individuals
• Establish an American-style notice-and-take down system for online copyright infringement

This seems like a lot. If you were worried, however, that we had some duty to at least read the proposals for the law and voice our democratic concern—fear not. Negotiators act in secret. The only glimpse of the actual agreement so far has come from leaked copies of the text from the IP, Investment, and other chapters. Remember in the good old days of ACTA when the University of Ottawa filed an access to information request but received a blacked out document with only the title? Expect similar treatment during TPP negotiations. While lobbyists and corporate liaisons are granted electronic access to the agreement, your parliamentary representative might have to walk down to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade to speak personally with The Honourable David Johnston, Minister of International Trade.

Moreover, if you are distressed by the fact that our respectable Department of Trade will have lots of work reviewing all the work done so far once Canada’s negotiators get hold of these secret drafts, you will be relieved to hear that Canada has a lesser role in the negotiations. By coming late to the table, Canada has achieved a 2nd tier position. This status requires Canada to agree to all the settled chapters, which they have not even read, and Canada cannot veto current provisions. Thus, not even lobbyists or the Trade Minister need concern themselves with settled provisions. The TPP negotiations shut individual citizens and even members of parliament and ministers out of the process.

The public response to C-11 proved that civil engagement has made a difference on intellectual property issues in Canada. The people, frustrated, fearful, and bedraggled, woke up to the oppressive measures of industry groups and fought hard. But this is far from the end. In upcoming years, we might still witness the implementation of a multinational corporations’ wish list, which seeks to criminalize copyright infringement, implement ACTA-plus provisions, and restrict Canadians’ access to affordable medicines. Through the TPP, USTR seeks to achieve all these goals and more—without too much of a voice from us. Will we allow American industry to dictate to the Canadian people our rights – or stand up and demand that Canada step down from these negotiations?

That’s the gist of today’s court victory for “Stillworldly,” an anonymous poster on Yahoo! Finance message boards. Public Citizen and the Electronic Frontier Foundation attorneys represented the anonymous poster.

The company in question is IA Global, which operates telemarketing operations overseas in addition to other activities (it touts itself as “a growing Business Process Outsourcing (“BPO”) and Financial Services corporation” on its Web site — yuck).

IA Global’s stock performance hasn’t exactly been stellar. In mid-2000, it’s stock was about $5 a share; since then, it’s tanked to around $0.05 a share.

Stillworldly observed this lousy performance on a public forum, and IA Global seemed to think this was grounds for a defamation suit.

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As revolting as a prank YouTube video featuring two Domino’s pizza employees defiling food products for delivery was, it should not have been pulled down so quickly.

A New York Times story today about the prank stated, the video was removed from YouTube “because of a copyright claim from Ms. Hammonds” (one of the two employees). In the meantime, Domino’s posted a response YouTube video, apologizing for its employees’ actions.

While Domino’s has the right to protect itself from libelous comments – the employees have since said it was not actually food for delivery – doesn’t the public have a right to know that the controversy is happening? At the moment, the public can only see Domino’s side of the issue.

If Hammond was the one who complained, that means she did not post the video herself; otherwise, she would be able to take it down on her own. Shouldn’t the video poster be able to respond before YouTube removes the video in question?

This situation reinforces the need to change the DMCA so that takedowns don’t happen without notice and an opportunity to respond.

Note: the videos are still available on the always reliable Consumerist.

Read more at Public Citizen’s Consumer Law & Policy blog.

As noted in a prior post, Facebook has been considering revisions to its terms of use in response to widespread criticism in the blogosphere. Facebook has now posted a proposed “Statement of Rights and Responsibilities” for its users to review. Instead of an arbitration clause, the agreement now states:

You will resolve any claim, cause of action or dispute (“claim”) you have with us arising out of or relating to this Statement or Facebook in a state or federal court located in Santa Clara County. The laws of the State of California will govern this Statement, as well as any claim that might arise between you and us, without regard to conflict of law provisions. You agree to submit to the personal jurisdiction of the courts located in Santa Clara County, California for the purpose of litigating all such claims.

There are still grounds to complain about requiring users to submit to jurisdiction in California, but Facebook deserves credit for doing away with binding mandatory arbitration. Hopefully other companies will learn a lesson from Facebook and realize that consumers don’t appreciate being required to give up all their rights.

Cross posted from the Consumer Law & Policy Blog.

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