Over the past month, Music Canada, the lead lobby group for the Canadian recording industry, has launched a social media campaign criticizing a recent Copyright Board of Canada decision that set some of the fees for Internet music streaming companies such as Pandora. The long-overdue decision seemingly paves the way for new online music services to enter the Canadian market, yet the industry is furious about rates it claims are among the worst in the world.
The Federal Court of Appeal will review the decision, but the industry has managed to get many musicians and music labels worked up over rates it labels 10 percent of nothing. While the Copyright Board has more than its fair share of faults, a closer examination of the Internet music streaming decision suggests that this is not one of them.
The Music Canada claim, which is supported by Re:Sound (the copyright collective that was seeking a tariff or fee for music streaming), is that the Canadian rates are only 10 percent of the equivalent rate in the United States. That has led to suggestions that decision devalues music and imperils artists’ livelihood.
On September 12, 2011, the Council of the European Union issued a 20-page press release that provided updates on the 3109th Council meeting. On page 13, there was single sentence on EU trade policy:
The Council authorised the Commission, on behalf of the EU, to open negotiations on investment with Canada, India, and Singapore within the framework of the ongoing bilateral negotiations with these countries on trade liberalisation.
The Canada – EU trade negotiations had started several years earlier and the late addition of investment did not attract significant attention at the time (the major focus was on the divide over intellectual property and procurement issues). Yet months after Canada and the EU announced that they had reached agreement on CETA, it is the investment provisions, particularly the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) rules, that could seemingly derail the entire agreement.
Several years ago, the United Kingdom passed the controversial Digital Economy Act, which included provisions for disconnecting Internet users accused of repeat copyright infringement. That bill generated protests, but ultimately passed. The disconnection provisions never took effect, however, as they were the target of legal challenges. Now reports indicate that the copyright enforcement scheme has been shelved altogether as rights holders and Internet service providers have reached agreement on a voluntary system that looks a lot like Canada’s notice-and-notice approach.
The system involves a maximum of four warning letters to a customer per year. There is no disclosure of the subscriber information and no threat of loss of Internet service. Rights holders can take further legal action if they so choose. I wrote about Canada’s notice-and-notice system here (which similarly involves notices, no disclosure of personal information, and no loss of service), discussing its effectiveness and warning against the possibility that the Trans Pacific Partnership could be used to override the “made in Canada” approach.
In the aftermath of the Supreme Court of Canada’s Spencer decision, several leading Canadian ISPs have publicly announced that they have changed their practices on the disclosure of subscriber information (including basic subscriber information such as name and address) to law enforcement. For example, Rogers announced that it will now require a warrant or court order prior to disclosing information to law enforcement except in emergency situations. Telus advised that it has adopted a similar practice and TekSavvy indicated that that has long been its approach. SaskTel says that it will release name, address, and phone number.
Unlike its competitors, Bell has remained largely silent in recent weeks. In media reports, the company says little more than that it follows the law. In fact, the Toronto Star’s Alex Boutilier tweets that the company is now declining to respond to journalist inquiries about the issue. In the past, the company was a clear supporter of disclosing “pre-warrant” information in some circumstances to law enforcement. As detailed in this Canadian Bar Association article:
The OECD released its latest Internet broadband data yesterday, covering the 34 OECD member states. The update emphasized wireless broadband access, comparing subscription rates across the OECD (many other aspects of the OECD data collection, including pricing and speeds, were not updated). Wireless broadband has emerged in recent years as a critical method of Internet connectivity with consumers and businesses relying on mobile broadband, yet the OECD data has Canada ranking poorly for wireless broadband subscriptions when compared to the rest of the developed economy world (coverage from the Wire Report (sub req)). The OECD release comes one week after a CRTC sponsored report found that Canadian wireless pricing is among the most expensive in the G7 in every tier of usage.
Seven countries, including Finland, Australia, Japan, Sweden, Denmark, Korea, and the U.S., have at least one subscription for every inhabitant. In Canada, the number drops to 53.3 subscriptions for every 100 inhabitants. That places Canada 24th out of 34 OECD countries.