Columns

Ms. Hedy Fry (MP, Canada) speaks October 4, 2014 (photo courtesy of the Swiss Parliament/Fabio Chironi) by OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (CC BY-SA 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/peTUuL

Why the Government Was Right to Swiftly Ditch the Ill-Advised Internet Tax

Politicians are sometimes said to struggle with “developing policy at Internet speed,” but Thursday the government gave new meaning to the words. My Globe and Mail op-ed notes that as Liberal MPs were presenting the much-anticipated Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage report on media that included a recommendation for a 5-per-cent tax on broadband access, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly were assuring Canadians that the government had no intention of accepting the committee’s proposal.

Ms. Joly left the door open to an Internet tax last year through her national consultation on Canadian content in a digital world, steadfastly refusing to take a firm position on the issue. The committee report effectively ended the debate as the immediate criticism of the ill-advised policy measure means that an Internet tax has about as much future as a dial-up modem.

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June 16, 2017 3 comments Columns
Copyright by Dennis Skley (CC BY-ND 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/pZ2G1V

The Upcoming 2017 Copyright Act Review: What Next for Canadian Copyright

This week Policy Options launched a new series on copyright reform with plans to provide perspectives from across the spectrum. I was delighted to write the first published piece, which starts by making the case that the Conservative government got far more right than wrong in 2012. Canadian copyright law is widely regarded as one of the most innovative in the world with unique, forward-looking provisions (non-commercial user generated content, notice-and-notice) and flexible fair dealing. The last five years have largely achieved what the government had in mind as the days of labelling Canada a “piracy haven” are over, the cultural industries such as movies and music are enjoying record earnings, and new digital services have found great success in Canada.

So, as Parliament prepares for a review of the law later this year, what’s next for Canadian copyright?

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June 13, 2017 3 comments Columns
Locky ransomware: payment by Christiaan Colen (CC BY-SA 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/SNGSzc

Now More Than Ever, Canada Needs a Strong Anti-Spam Law

Canada’s anti-spam legislation has long been the law that Corporate Canada loves to hate. Months before it was slated to take effect in 2014, there were ominous warnings about how regulation would bring commercial e-mail to a screeching halt, banning everything from large-scale business marketing efforts to emails promoting a neighbourhood lemonade stand.

My regular Globe and Mail technology op-ed notes that nearly three years later, e-mail marketing is alive and well in Canada as many have adjusted to the tougher privacy standards that require informed consent prior to sending commercial electronic messages. Moreover, in a world where malware and ransomware have become serious cybersecurity threats touching millions of Internet users, the inclusion of antimalware provisions has proven prescient since they give authorities the legal tools to participate in global enforcement efforts.

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May 30, 2017 6 comments Columns
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
Obama in the Backseat: Rally to Save the Internet by Stacie Isabella Turk/Ribbonhead (CC BY-SA 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/osRvjr

Why Canada’s Net Neutrality Commitment Places Consumers in Control

Canada seemed lost when it came to Internet policy a little over a decade ago. The government showed scant interest in the technicalities of Internet services and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission stood idly by as leading Internet providers engaged in traffic shaping to limit speeds of some applications and mused openly about new fees for the right to transmit content to subscribers. Internally, government policy makers were seemingly untroubled that telecom companies were gearing up to be gatekeepers of Internet content.

My regular Globe and Mail column notes those early Internet policies are unrecognizable today as Canada has emerged as a world leader in supporting net neutrality, the principle that all content and applications should be treated equally and that choices made by Internet users should be free from ISP or telecom interference. The policies do not guarantee Internet success – no law does – but it signals a clear commitment to placing consumers and creators in the Internet driver’s seat.

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May 2, 2017 2 comments Columns