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About-Face on Canada-EU Trade Agreement Shows Enduring Consequences of a Mobilized Internet Community

· November 1, 2012

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Providing fresh evidence that the landscape-altering Internet mobilization against SOPA/PIPA is part of a broader trend, leaked documents apparently reveal a change in Europe’s approach on copyright in the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union.  Following an EU member state meeting last month, IDG News Service reports, European negotiators will not be seeking to mandate criminal copyright penalties, and possibly camcording penalties, in the far-reaching trade agreement.

Some controversial language in CETA drew upon the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which was derailed in spectacular form on July 4, following European protests which themselves followed on the U.S.-focused Internet blackout prompted by the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA/PIPA), now on indefinite hold.

One of the initial challenges to ACTA was that the agreement dealt with criminal issues, where the European Commission arguably lacked competence in the quasi-federal structure of the European Union.  Even after attempts to address those issues through amendments, however, the agreement went down in flames.  Some of the outrage over ACTA was attributable to the SOPA/PIPA mobilization in the United States, which altered the political landscape in the United States, even briefly entering the presidential campaign debates.  This reflected a new reality, previously discussed here at DisCo, in which Internet technology has enabled a generation of Internet users to disintermediate incumbent political intermediaries.

Excising these controversial criminal provisions from CETA is arguably an effort to avoid another European trade agreement fiasco.  This is the new normal.

Digital Trade

Companies rely on clear, predictable rules that facilitate digital trade to export their products and services around the world. These rules include balancing the competing interests between encouraging investment and enabling information access; promoting the free flow of information online; and maintaining balanced intermediary liability regimes.

Intellectual Property

The Internet enables the free exchange of ideas and content that, in turn, promote creativity, commerce, and innovation. However, a balanced approach to copyright, trademarks, and patents is critical to this creative and entrepreneurial spirit the Internet has fostered. Consequently, it is our belief that the intellectual property system should encourage innovation, while not impeding new business models and open-source developments.