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Translations by Quinn Dombrowski (CC BY-SA 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/8CUAGo

Why Copyright Law Poses a Barrier to Canada’s Artificial Intelligence Ambitions

The federal government placed a big bet in this year’s budget on Canada becoming a world leader in artificial intelligence (AI), investing millions of dollars on a national strategy to support research and commercialization. The hope is that by attracting high-profile talent and significant corporate support, the government can turn a strong AI research record into an economic powerhouse.

Funding and personnel have been the top policy priorities, yet other barriers to success remain. For example, Canada’s restrictive copyright rules may hamper the ability of companies and researchers to test and ultimately bring new AI services to market.

What does copyright have to do with AI?

My Globe and Mail column notes that making machines smart – whether engaging in automated translation, big data analytics, or new search capabilities – is dependent upon the data being fed into the system. Machines learn by scanning, reading, listening or viewing human created works. The better the inputs, the better the output and the reduced likelihood that results may be biased or inaccurate.

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May 18, 2017 6 comments Columns
A 1950's era Canada Customs cap was purchased at the Cookstown ON Antique Centre by antefixus21 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/jCvuNY

Just Passing Through: Why Canadian Anti-Counterfeiting Law Should Not Permit In-Transit Shipment Searches

As Canadian officials prepare for the forthcoming NAFTA renegotiation, changes to Canada’s border measures provisions seem likely to surface as a U.S. demand. Late last month, the USTR released its annual Special 301 report and the issue of Canadian anti-counterfeiting law – in particular, the absence of provisions to allow for the search of in-transit shipments that are not bound for Canada – topped the list of concerns. The U.S. report states:

The United States remains deeply concerned that Canada does not provide customs officials with the ability to detain, seize, and destroy pirated and counterfeit goods that are moving in transit or are transshipped through Canada. As a result, the United States strongly urges Canada to provide its customs officials with full ex officio authority to address the serious problem of pirated and counterfeit goods entering our highly integrated supply chains.

The U.S. position has garnered some support in Canada. For example, a recent Globe and Mail editorial urged the government to change the 2014 anti-counterfeiting law by granting customs agents the power to search and seize shipments that are not bound for Canada.

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May 11, 2017 2 comments News
Justin Trudeau: "Trade needs to work for people" by European Parliament (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/RZn1gM

PBO Concludes CETA Patent Rules Will Lead To Outflow of Hundreds of Millions in Pharma Royalties

The Parliamentary Budget Officer released a report last week providing its estimate on the economic impact of the Canada – EU Trade Agreement. While the Liberal government made CETA its top trade priority when it came into office (and the Conservatives claimed that the deal would add $12 billion to the Canadian economy), the PBO report concludes that the economic benefits will be modest at best.

The report devotes a full chapter to CETA’s intellectual property provisions, particularly the patent related rules that will have a direct impact on the pharmaceutical industry.  CETA establishes patent restoration and patent appeal rules that will extend the term of patent protection for pharmaceutical products, thereby increasing consumer prices and royalty outflows. With a regulatory framework designed to address pricing in place, the report focuses on increased royalty outflows with extended protection.

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May 8, 2017 4 comments News
watcher_and_watched_1692 by Pete (CC BY-SA 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/NefB

Public Safety Committee Recommends Against Lawful Access Reforms

Last month, I wrote about the recent initiative to revive lawful access, the rules that govern police access to Internet and subscriber information. A cybercrime working group has held consultations (I participated in one) as law enforcement seeks new powers for warrantless access to some ISP information (called “pre-cursor” data) and a new, lower threshold warrant for other subscriber data. While law enforcement has argued that the current system is broken, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security has recommended that the current approach remain unchanged.

The committee’s much anticipated report on developing a road map for national security contains dozens of recommendations (my colleague Craig Forcese reviews many of them) including one on lawful access.  It states:

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May 3, 2017 3 comments News
Obama in the Backseat: Rally to Save the Internet by Stacie Isabella Turk/Ribbonhead (CC BY-SA 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/osRvjr

Why Canada’s Net Neutrality Commitment Places Consumers in Control

Canada seemed lost when it came to Internet policy a little over a decade ago. The government showed scant interest in the technicalities of Internet services and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission stood idly by as leading Internet providers engaged in traffic shaping to limit speeds of some applications and mused openly about new fees for the right to transmit content to subscribers. Internally, government policy makers were seemingly untroubled that telecom companies were gearing up to be gatekeepers of Internet content.

My regular Globe and Mail column notes those early Internet policies are unrecognizable today as Canada has emerged as a world leader in supporting net neutrality, the principle that all content and applications should be treated equally and that choices made by Internet users should be free from ISP or telecom interference. The policies do not guarantee Internet success – no law does – but it signals a clear commitment to placing consumers and creators in the Internet driver’s seat.

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May 2, 2017 2 comments Columns