The Supreme Court of Canada heard arguments in Google v. Equustek Solutions, a hugely important Internet case with implications for Internet jurisdiction and free speech online. I wrote about the lower court and appellate court decisions and I have a forthcoming piece in the Communications of the ACM on the case. I attended yesterday’s hearing and live tweeted some of the main exchanges between counsel and the court. As my final tweet of the hearing indicated, I have no idea where the court is heading in this case. A storified version of my hearing tweets is posted below.
News November 23, 2016
MyDemocracy.ca Responses Don’t Count If You Refuse To Disclose Household Income and Other Personal Information
The government’s MyDemocracy.ca survey/consultation/questionnaire launched yesterday to a steady stream of criticism as the initiative does not follow the typical consultative approach. Rather than asking direct questions about public electoral preferences, there are a series of questions on “values, preferences, and priorities” that are supposedly designed to discern user preferences. The questions focus on representation, parties, and voting rules (there are several questions on electronic voting that ask if there is support even if the systems are less secure).
Music Canada Reverses on Years of Copyright Lobbying: Now Says WIPO Internet Treaties Were Wrong Guess
In the decade of lobbying leading up to the reform of Canadian copyright law in 2012, the music industry had one core message: Canada needed to implement and ratify the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Internet treaties. While many education, consumer, and business groups expressed concern that the digital lock rules in the treaties would harm innovation, the music industry was insistent that the WIPO Internet treaties represented an essential component of digital copyright reform. The lobbying campaign was successful as Canada proceeded to implement and ratify the treaties. The legislation is still relatively new, but in a stunning reversal, the head of Music Canada now says that the drafters of the WIPO Internet Treaties were just guessing and suggests that they guessed wrong.
The intensity of the lobbying for the WIPO Internet treaties is difficult to overstate. In 2004, Billboard reported that 26 Canadian industry groups were pressuring the government to ratify the treaties. In 2006, Graham Henderson, president of the Canadian Recording Industry Association (later Music Canada), wrote an op-ed in the National Post titled “Protect Artists: Reform Canada’s Copyright Laws” which argued that:
Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly launched her surprise national consultation on Canadian content in a digital world last April with considerable excitement for the possibilities of revolutionizing policies born in an analog era. Joly spoke enthusiastically about the potential for Canadian creators to use digital networks to reach global audiences and for all stakeholders to rethink the cultural policy toolkit.
My Globe and Mail op-ed notes that submissions to the consultation closed last week and despite the hope for new, innovative thinking, many of Canada’s largest cultural groups placed their bets on extending a myriad of funding mechanisms to the Internet. Rather than overhauling older programs, the groups want those policies expanded by mandating new fees, costs or taxes on Internet services, Internet service providers, Internet advertisers, and even the sale of digital storage devices such as USB keys and hard drives.
The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage wrapped up its lengthy hearing on the media and local news last week with appearances from Facebook, Google, and the Globe and Mail (I appeared before the committee last month and my opening comments and review of the discussion that followed can be found here). The high profile witnesses sparked another round of debate over the ongoing troubles in the newspaper industry with intensifying criticism of the CBC’s emphasis on digital news services, including a new opinion section and its acceptance of digital advertising, which are both viewed as direct competition for the struggling private sector alternatives.
For example, Globe and Mail publisher Phillip Crawley told the committee that the CBC is the Globe’s largest competitor in the digital ad space. He expressed concern over the inclusion of opinion, which is viewed as further encroaching on newspapers’ turf, and pointed to the BBC’s approach, which faces government-backed restrictions on accepting digital advertising on its domestic websites. The CBC criticism has emerged as a common theme for several years with many media organizations and commentators arguing that CBC should not be in the business of competing with newspapers.
The CBC responded on Monday with a letter to the committee titled “limiting access to the digital public space is not in the public interest.” The CBC argued that given the struggles of smaller papers, its online presence is more important than ever. Further, it tried to downplay the significance of its digital advertising revenue, arguing that it amounts to $25 million annually, a very small share of the total digital advertising expenditures in Canada.