Wednesday, October 10, 2012

U.S. lobbyists pushing hard against Canadian cultural trade barriers

Some assumed, naively, that Canadian culture was permanently removed from the table in the North American Free Trade (NAFTA) agreement many years ago, and that how we managed Canadian content regulations was our own business. Also that we'd finally sorted out copyright to our satisfaction or were at least resigned to the outcome. 
However it may come as a nasty surprise that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which the Harper government campaigned so hard to join (successfully, this past summer) has put Canadian content regulations and copyright firmly back in play.
The United States Trade Representative (USTR) is being lobbied hard by the International Property Alliance (IIPA), a group of U.S. software, film, TV and and music companies to negotiate removal of what the alliance considers to be "trade barriers" . 

Canada's copyright reform legislation "fell short of bringing Canadian law into step with the current global standards that the TPP agreement should embody" said a memorandum which IIPA posted on its website. And it "strongly supports" negotiation of an intellectual property chapter similar to that negotiated in the Korea-United States free trade deal. 
Though magazines are not specifically mentioned, it doesn't take much imagination to see where things could go, powered by the zeal of the U.S. negotiators. The USTR 2012 report, for instance, identified as foreign trade barriers 
"the CRTC's Canadian content exhibition quotas for the airing of Canadian programming, some of it during prime time; music exhibition quotas for radio; minimum Canadian channel carriage requirements for broadcast distributors; CRTC-required approval of the distribution on non-Canadian specialty channels; and CBC/Radio-Canada rules that say the public broadcaster must not “show popular foreign feature movies between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m.”
The next round of TPP negotiations will take place in Auckland, New Zealand, Dec. 3-12. The trade agreement's 11 member countries are Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Singapore, United States, Australia, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia, Mexico and, now, Canada. 

Stuart Johnston, president of the Canadian Independent Music Association (CIMA), told The Wire [published by the Hill Times] in a phone interview that Canadian content regulations have been a foundation of original growth for the Canadian independent music industry.
“Canadian content regulation is one tool on which we can ensure Canadians can enjoy the Canadian music as produced by our independent artists,” Johnston said. “It’s one of those measures that has proven success and has enabled the industry to grow and then use that as a platform to export music worldwide.”
(Magazines Canada is one of the several industry associations working behind the scenes to assure Canadian control of Canadian media, software and content. )


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