Will The Canada-EU Trade Agreement Harm Our Freedoms Online?

Paris, 21 October 2013 — After more than four years of secret negotiations, the text of the Canada-Europe trade agreement, CETA, reached agreement in principle during a meeting between José Barroso, the President of the European Commission, and Stefen Harper, the Canadian Prime Minister. While waiting for evidence to ensure that CETA does not contain measures endangering our freedoms online, citizens and MEPs should be ready to reject this trade agreement.

Karel De Gutch
Karel De Gutch

As was the case in the negotiations of ACTA and today in those of TAFTA, the negotiations of CETA, the Canada-Europe trade agreement, were conducted 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, no official version of CETA has been made ​​public up to date. This opacity is all the more worrying as the last leaked version of the agreement, in July 2012, contained ACTA-like provisions, and documents3 issued by both Canadians and European institutions continue to refer to measures related to the protection of “intellectual property” (in particular patents and copyright).

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.

Reflecting TAFTA, the situation demonstrates that CETA negotiators have failed to, or could not, learn from the ACTA fiasco and hear the calls from citizens. Rather than negotiated in opacity, these issues must be discussed in democratic and open debates. Continue to circumvent the legitimate processes to impose repressive measures, on the pretext of trade agreements, can only contribute to feed the citizens mistrust for representatives and European institutions. Thus, La Quadrature du Net joins requests calling for immediate publication of documents relating to CETA and urges citizens and MEPs to be ready to reject this new trade agreement.

“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