The CRTC released it much anticipated decision on the wholesale wireless industry yesterday, painting the decision as fostering “sustainable competition, innovation and investment in the wireless services market.” The ruling generated supportive comments from consumer groups, community groups, new entrants such as Wind Mobile, and business analysts who thought that the CRTC might go further. The regulated wholesale roaming rates has attracted the lion share of attention, but the bigger story is what the Commission did not do. Indeed, given the CRTC’s finding on the competitiveness of the Canadian wireless industry, it should have done more to address the issue. Instead, it adopted a regulatory approach that suggests it thinks it knows the right formula for more competition and it has placed its bet primarily on a fourth national wireless player rather than on an environment that facilitates as much new competition as the market can support.
My recent posts on the government’s surprise budget announcement that it plans to extend the term of copyright protection for sound recordings generated considerable private feedback, with several industry sources suggesting that the change is not quite what it seems. In fact, despite painting the reform as an effort to protect the rights of artists, foreign record companies have been primarily concerned with eliminating new competitors who offer cheaper, legal public domain recordings of popular artists such as the Beatles, Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, and the Rolling Stones.
From a consumer perspective, there is little doubt that the change will lead to higher prices for music. Multiple studies on copyright term extension for sound recordings have concluded that public domain recordings encourage competition between release companies and drive down the price for consumers. The songwriters are paid either way, but the consumers win with more choice and lower priced music.
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that while some artists have lent support to the government’s proposed changes, the bigger story is what has been happening behind the scenes. As new public domain-based recordings began to appear at major Canadian retailers, foreign record labels adopted a two-pronged strategy: intense lobbying for legislative changes to lock down recordings for decades and blocking royalty payments to copyright owners to keep the new competitors out of the market.
The launch of Canada’s anti-spam law generated considerable criticism suggesting that the law was unenforceable and would not have a discernible impact on spam. Recent enforcement actions by the CRTC and the Competition Bureau, which led to millions on fines, demonstrates that the law can be used to target businesses that run afoul of the law. Now a new study from Cloudmark, a network security firm, concludes that there was a significant drop in spam originating from Canada once the law took effect. Moreover, Canadians received considerably less email after CASL was implemented. Cloudmark states:
The flood of copyright notices in Canada continues to attract attention and generate concern among many Canadians. I’ve posted several pieces on the issue, including a recent post on what recipients should consider if they receive a notice. I still receive daily emails from notice recipients, with some admitting that they quickly paid the settlement in a panic and now fear that they may have opened the door to even more settlement demands. In response to this copyright abuse, I was pleased to participate in an open letter signed by many groups calling on the government to fix the loopholes in the notice-and-notice system by prohibiting the inclusion of settlement demands within the copyright notices.
A recent Metro article suggests that the government is well aware that the system is being misused. Industry Minister James Moore’s press secretary Jake Enwright emphasizes that “there is no obligation for Canadians to pay these settlements” and that the current system is “not a notice-and-settlement regime.” Those are encouraging words that come as close as the government can to tell consumers that it does not believe that settlements should be included in the notices and to hint that it does not expect Canadians to pay.