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The election of Donald Trump has brought renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement to the forefront of Canada’s trade priorities. Discussions have ranged from our agricultural supply regimes to tariffs, but one potentially transformative aspect relates to digital rights.

NAFTA, which came into force in January of 1994, was the first international trade agreement to include obligations to protect intellectual property rights. This was to ensure that intellectual property law enforcement is consistent with free trade principles such as market access and non-discrimination. If a country doesn’t respect the intellectual property rights, trade is inhibited.

But intellectual property takes on new dimensions given the digital economy and the Internet. Intellectual property rights are intended to encourage innovation and creativity through the ownership and protection of ideas by way of patents, copyrights, or trademarks, depending on the nature of the idea. In a world of new technologies and a knowledge-based economy, ensuring Canadians have rights to their inventions and access to leading technologies are key to our economic growth.

Since the inception of NAFTA, the United States has developed strict protocols related to intellectual property protection. During negotiations for the now scrapped Trans-Pacific Partnership, the U.S. pushed for stronger copyright protections, stricter enforcement measures to combat counterfeiting and piracy, and longer patent terms. It’s expected that the U.S. will use these as a starting point for NAFTA 2.0 negotiations.

On our side of the border,  Canada has been more moderate with its IP protections. During the TPP talks, Canada was the middle ground between the U.S. and developing countries, striking a balance on areas such as pharmaceutical data protection and Internet service provider liability for third-party copyright infringement.

But so what? How does IP affect us? What does NAFTA mean in today’s digital world? How would changes to NAFTA impact Canadian innovations? We’re here to break these questions down for you. In today’s episode, we’re joined by two policy experts to help us better understand the implications of certain NAFTA reforms, and what these mean for Canada.

Richard Owens is an adjunct professor at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law. He’s a lawyer who specializes in intellectual property and technology and is a past chair of the board of directors of the University of Toronto Innovations Foundation, Senior Munk Fellow of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, and a member of the advisory committee to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. He is also a member of the board of the Center for Innovation Law and Policy at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, and has been a long-serving director of the International Technology Law Association. Richard has written and published widely on the law of intellectual property, information technology, privacy, and the regulation of financial institutions–and has been repeatedly recognized as one of Canada’s leading technology lawyers. [Interview at 5:03]

“We want rules that will encourage our innovating economy.” – Richard Owens, University of Toronto Law Professor and Director of the International Technology Law Association

Peter Loewen is the Director of the School of Public Policy and Governance and Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto. His work encompasses questions on elite and citizen behaviour, and the role of technology in improving governance and representation. Previously, Peter served as the Director of the Centre for the Study of the United States at the Munk School of Global Affairs. [Interview at 27:50]

Majenta Braumberger, Host
Kevin Hempstead, Host
Shirin Bithal, Producer
Julia Chan, Technical Producer
Jean-Paul St. Rose, Lead Social Media Director
Ian T. D. Thomson, Technical Producer and Executive Producer

Music Credits
Not Dead 
by Fine Times
Ode to Viceroy 
by Mac DeMarco
Salad Days 
by Mac DeMarco
Over My Head
by Fleetwood Mac
Weighty Ghost 
by Wintersleep