The ongoing financial struggles of Canadian businesses that have traditionally delivered the news – particularly newspapers and local broadcasters – have generated considerable discussion and consternation over the past month. With significant layoffs, newspaper closures, and testimony before Canada’s broadcast regulator that the cost of delivering local news is unsustainable, there have been mounting calls for new funding programs, studies, or other measures to address the issue.
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that much of the commentary emphasizes the critical link between a strong, independent media and holding governments at all levels to account for their actions. While there is little debate over the essential role of journalism, the tougher question is whether emerging digital alternatives can provide an effective substitute.
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Later today, the 12 countries that make up the Trans Pacific Partnership, a massive global trade deal that includes Canada, the United States, and Japan, will gather in New Zealand to formally sign the agreement (the official signing day is February 4th, but with time zone differences, the signing ceremony starts at 5:30 pm ET on the 3rd). Signing the TPP is a major step forward for the controversial treaty, but questions still abound over whether it will be ratified and take effect. The Trouble with the TPP series, which I initially planned to wrap up today having examined issues ranging from copyright term extension to the weak cultural exception, takes a one-day break from substantive concerns to focus on the future. However, given that there are still some important issues to be considered, the series will continue well into this month.
While the Liberal government has been cautious about expressing its support – International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland has been consistent in calling for consultation not conclusions – the decision to sign the TPP was never much in doubt. The agreement contains incentives to be an “original signatory”, since only those countries qualify for the rules related to entry into force of the agreement. To stay on the sidelines at this early stage might have kept Canada out of the TPP for good.
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In today’s communications driven world, no one collects as much information about its customers as telecom companies. As subscribers increasingly rely on the same company for Internet connectivity, wireless access, local phone service, and television packages, the breadth of personal data collection is truly staggering.
Whether it is geo-location data on where we go, information on what we read online, details on what we watch, or lists identifying with whom we communicate, telecom and cable companies have the capability of pulling together remarkably detailed profiles of millions of Canadians.
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that how that information is used and who can gain access to it has emerged as one the most challenging and controversial privacy issues of our time. The companies themselves are tempted by the prospect of “monetizing” the information by using it for marketing purposes, law enforcement wants easy access during criminal investigations, and private litigants frequently demand that the companies hand over the data with minimal oversight.
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Cities across the country have long emphasized the importance to the local economy of creating innovation hubs. There are different roads toward that goal, however, as shown by competing submissions from the mayors of Toronto and Calgary in a high-stakes battle over the future of broadband Internet services. Toronto mayor John Tory and Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson sided with large telecom companies, while Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi emphasized the importance of open networks and more robust competition.
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that the submissions stem from a crucial ruling issued by Canada’s telecom regulator in July. Hoping to foster a more competitive market and having used various “open access” policy measures to give independent Internet providers a chance to compete in the Internet services market, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) decided to extend those rules to fast fibre connection services.
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Technology law and policy continues to command the attention of the public and policy makers. My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that as Canada enters a new year with a new government, 2016 will be all about making tough choices on a wide range of technology law policies, including the following eight issues that are sure to generate headlines.
1. How will Bill C-51 be revamped?
Bill C-51, the Conservative government’s anti-terrorism bill, emerged as a major political issue last year as many expressed concern over the lack of oversight and the implications for privacy and civil liberties. The Liberal government has committed to reforms, but has been generally coy about what those changes will be. New accountability mechanisms will undoubtedly feature prominently in any reform package, but the substantive amendments to the bill remain a mystery.
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