How Donald Trump’s NAFTA Bluster Could Impact Canadian Content

Donald Trump wants to renegotiate NAFTA, saying that it’s very, very unfair to the United States. As America’s biggest trading partner, we have plenty to be worried about because to The Donald, it seems that any trade agreement can only have winners and losers. Compromise doesn’t seem to be part of his world.

If you’re in the auto industry and part of the softwood lumber industry, you’re worried. But there’s also good reason to be concerned if you’re involved in any aspect of the care and feeding of Canadian culture.

A big part of NAFTA has to do with the flow of intellectual property and the legal protection thereof–copyright and cultural protectionism, in other words.

When the Trans Pacific Partnership was being negotiated, Canada had this clause inserted:

Canada reserves the right to adopt or maintain any measure that affects cultural industries and that has the objective of supporting, directly or indirectly, the creation, development or accessibility of Canadian artistic expression or content, except:

a) discriminatory requirements on services suppliers or investors to make financial contributions for Canadian content development; and 

b) measures restricting the access to on-line foreign audiovisual content. 

So what does that mean in the real world? The ability for Canada to establish and retain Cancon levels on radio and TV were supposed to remain sacrosanct. Will Trump want to repeal the similar provisions in NAFTA?

Another possibility is that the US will demand that we impose the same penalties for copyright infringement as the US.

Michael Geist sounds some alarm bells in this article. It’s a bit dense with jargon, but it’s worth reading.

Meanwhile, back at home, there’s a debate on how to modernize Cancon rules for Canadians. This is from the Globe and Mail:

Ever since the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission first decided to exempt “new media” from regulation back in 1999, federal jurisdiction over content delivered via the Internet has proved mainly theoretical. If Ottawa wanted to intervene to make Canadian programming more discoverable online, it would certainly help if the government asserted its role by updating the Broadcasting Act, last revised in 1991. And if the government wanted Internet service providers, who don’t compensate the content creators who help build their profits, to contribute to the system, it would definitely need a whole new law – because in 2012 the Supreme Court ruled that ISPs are not broadcasters.

You can expect such issues to become hotly debated in coming months since last week’s federal budget promised that the Liberals are going to “review and modernize” both the Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act. As Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly wraps up her cultural policy review, the government now faces the hard part: how to intelligently update regulations to nurture Canadian choices without finding itself embroiled in political battles with popular foreign services such as Netflix and Google, Canadian telcos such as Rogers and Bell, and the vociferous user lobby, which likes to position the Internet as a law unto itself.

Read it all here.

 

 

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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