Archive for May, 2017

Miranda Mulholland for Great Lake Swimmers by Brenda Lee (CC BY 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/7zTo1U

Music Industry’s Canadian Copyright Reform Goal: “End Tech Companies’ Safe Harbours”

Miranda Mulholland, a Toronto-based musician and music label owner, delivered an exceptionally passionate, accessible, and deeply personal keynote speech last week to the Economic Club of Canada. Mulholland’s talk was notable not only for providing an artist’s perspective, but for coming ready with next steps for everyone. She urged artists to create and protect their intellectual property, consumers to create playlists, write reviews, go to shows, and subscribe to digital music services, the music industry to be upfront about payment, to better support artists (including providing daycare services), and to pay for tickets to their own artists (Kate Taylor offered her take on the talk here, which includes an incredible comment from Music Canada that it wants only a level playing field, not public money. Music Canada has spent the last few years successfully lobbying for tens of millions in taxpayer support from provincial governments).

Given the active support from Music Canada for the event, her recommendations for policy makers were a core part of her message and largely mirror those of the industry. Unlike the 2010-2012 copyright reform process, piracy is no longer a key issue. Indeed, the issue of peer-to-peer file sharing and unauthorized downloading was not even mentioned in the speech. With the Canadian digital music market enjoying remarkable growth – Canada leaped ahead of Australia last year to become the 6th largest music market in the world and SOCAN generated record revenues – the industry focus is no longer on whether the public is paying for music (they are) but whether they are paying enough.

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May 29, 2017 0 comments News
Summer hasn't even started, fall schedule is up? by AJ Batac (CC BY 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/ceKE95

Can Cancon Compete?: A Response to the WGC on The Future of Canadian TV Production

My post this week on the recent CRTC’s television licensing decision elicited a strongly worded response yesterday from the Writers Guild of Canada. My original post made two key points. First, responding to Kate Taylor’s assertion that CRTC Chair Jean-Pierre Blais has offered no consistent strategy to the challenges facing the Canadian television production industry, I noted that over the course of the past five years, Blais has charted a very clear path toward making Canadian policy and regulation relevant in the digital age by promoting a competitive marketplace for Canadian creators, consumers, broadcasters, and broadcast distributors.

Second, I defended the recent CRTC decision on several grounds, including the need to address the gap between regulated and unregulated services (such as Netflix), the already-significant public support for Canadian content creation, the incentives for Canadian broadcasters to invest in original content, and the fact that Canadian broadcasters contribute a very small slice of the overall financing of domestic fictional programming which suggests that the harm to the sector from a further reduction is overstated.

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May 25, 2017 7 comments News
Private by James Cridland (CC BY 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/5DTsBs

Anti-Lawful Access Tide Continues: Security Consultation Finds Public Strongly Opposed to New Reforms

Law enforcement efforts to revive lawful access reform continue to face political and public opposition. Earlier this month, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security recommended that the current approach remain unchanged. Indeed, Committee Chair Rob Oliphant said that police sought expanded powers, but that the argument was not yet “compelling.”

Public Safety’s report released last week on responses to its national consultation on security indicates that the broader public agrees. The issue drew the majority of feedback during the consultation:

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May 24, 2017 3 comments News
Another control room by Loozrboy (CC BY-SA 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/c97JZC

Canadian TV in the Netflix Age: In Defence of the CRTC Television Licensing Decision

Last week’s CRTC decision on group licensing for the major Canadian broadcasters has the creative community in a panic, claiming that it could “mean the devastation of Canadian domestic [television] production.” The decision, which set a uniform spending requirement of 5 percent on programs of national interest (PNI, which includes dramas, documentaries, some children’s programming, and some award shows), means a reduction in spending requirements for some broadcasters. The Writers Guild of Canada fears that the decision could lead to a reduction in spending on PNI of $200 million over five years.

Groups have heaped criticism on CRTC Chair Jean-Pierre Blais, whose term ends next month. The WGC labels him a “Harper appointee”, while Kate Taylor says “he doesn’t leave much of a legacy for himself” and that “his piecemeal approach offers no consistent strategy to address the challenges facing Canadian television production in the Netflix age.”

Blais may have his faults, but claiming that he has not had a strategic vision for the digital age is not one of them. He recognized that the advent of the digital networks, an abundance of consumer choice, and the effective removal of longstanding analog protections for Canadian creators would gradually reduce the relevance of the regulator and leave it with two choices. The first – favoured by the creator groups – was to temporarily prolong the protections by extending Cancon regulations to Internet services and increasing regulatory costs on broadcasters. The second was to jump on the digital bandwagon, gradually removing the safeguards and creating a regulatory environment premised on competition at all levels – creators, broadcasters, and broadcast distributors. Anyone following the CRTC broadcast and telecom decisions in recent years knows that he chose the latter.

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May 23, 2017 4 comments News
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 2 comments Columns