Last week, Canadian Heritage posted the Ministerial briefing book that officials used to bring new minister Mélanie Joly up-to-speed on the issues in her portfolio. The proactive release is a great step toward further transparency. While the mandate letter from the Prime Minister provides insight into government policy priorities, the briefing book sheds light on what department officials view as priorities and how they frame key issues.
The copyright presentation is particularly revealing since it presents Minister Joly with a version of Canadian copyright lacking in balance in which “exceptions are always subject to certain conditions” but references to similar limitations on rights themselves are hard to find. Department officials present a frightening vision of emerging copyright issues, pointing to mandated Internet provider blocking, targeting copyright infringement that occurs on virtual private networks, and “hybrid” legal/illegal services that may be a reference to Canadians accessing U.S. Netflix. The suggestion that Canadian Heritage officials have identified site blocking or legal prohibitions on VPN or U.S. Netflix usage as emerging copyright issues should set off alarm bells well in advance of the 2017 copyright reform process.
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As the world grapples with the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, the policy implications for issues such as the acceptance of refugees and continued military participation in the fight against ISIL have unsurprisingly come to the fore. The attacks have also escalated calls to reconsider plans to reform Canadian privacy and surveillance law, a key election promise from the Trudeau government.
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) argues that despite the temptation to slow the re-examination of Canadian privacy and surveillance policy, the government should stay the course. The Liberals voted for Bill C-51, the controversial anti-terror law, during the last Parliament, but promised changes to it if elected. Even in the face of a renewed terror threat, those changes remain essential and should not have an adverse impact on operational efforts to combat terror threats that might surface in Canada.
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The Supreme Court of Canada issued its long-awaited decision in SODRAC v. CBC today, a case that has major implications for the role of technological neutrality in copyright. As I noted when it was argued before the court, though the case was about whether CBC should be required to pay royalties for incidental copies necessary to use new broadcast technologies, at stake was something far bigger: the future of technological neutrality under Canadian copyright law. The case offers wins and losses for both users and creators, but the manner in which the court strongly affirmed the principle of technological neutrality runs the risk of actually undermining technological adoption.
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The official release of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a global trade agreement between 12 countries including Canada, the United States, and Japan, has generated considerable confusion over where the Trudeau government stands on the deal. The TPP was concluded several weeks before the October election and the Liberals were careful to express general support for free trade, but refrain from embracing an agreement that was still secret.
Over the past month, there have been mixed signals over the issue. Chrystia Freeland, the new Minister of International Trade, has committed to a public consultation and noted that her government is not bound by commitments made by the Conservatives (in the interests of full disclosure, I had the opportunity to meet with Minister Freeland to discuss the TPP earlier this month). Yet following a meeting between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Barack Obama at the APEC conference in Manila, Obama indicated that he expects Canada to soon be a signatory to the deal.
How to explain the seemingly inconsistent comments on the Canadian position on the TPP? The answer may well lie in the differences between reaching an agreement-in-principle, signing the formal text, and ratifying the deal. Each step is distinct and carries different legal obligations.
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The official release of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a global trade agreement between 12 countries including Canada, the United States, and Japan, has sparked a heated public debate over the merits of the deal. Leading the opposition is Research in Motion founder Jim Balsillie, who has described the TPP as one of Canada’s worst-ever policy moves that could cost the country billions of dollars.
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that as Canadians assess the 6,000 page agreement, the implications for digital policies such as copyright and privacy should command considerable attention. On those fronts, the agreement appears to be a major failure. Canadian negotiators adopted a defensive strategy by seeking to maintain existing national laws and doing little to extend Canadian policies to other countries. The result is a deal that the U.S. has rightly promoted as “Made in America.” [a video of my recent talk on this issue can be found here].
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