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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Does asking a friend for a copy of a newspaper article from a subscription website constitute copyright infringement? According to an Ottawa small claims court, it does.
The court recently issued a deeply flawed copyright ruling, providing a timely warning about the dangers of Canada’s restrictive digital lock rules that were enacted by the Conservatives over the strong objection of many copyright watchers.
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that the case involved the president of the Canadian Vintners Association (CVA), who received an email from Blacklock’s Reporter, an Ottawa-based political publication, advising that he was quoted in an article discussing a recent appearance before a House of Commons committee. The man did not subscribe to the publication, which places its content behind a paywall, so he contacted a member of the association who was a subscriber and asked if he could see a copy of the article. When Blacklock’s Reporter learned that he had received a copy from the subscriber, it demanded that he pay for a full subscription or face a copyright infringement lawsuit.
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Canada’s cultural industries greeted the election of a new Liberal government with considerable excitement, hoping to the turn the page on a decade of Conservative policies that were widely viewed as prioritizing consumers over creators. The Liberal platform was silent on major regulatory changes, but it did promise to reverse cuts to the CBC and to increase allocations to the Canada Council for the Arts, Telefilm, and the National Film Board.
The cultural sector will undoubtedly welcome the infusion of millions more in taxpayer support, but the bigger fight will be over legal reforms to treat telecom and Internet companies as cultural businesses and require them to make Canadian content contributions similar to those paid by conventional broadcasters.
My weekly technology law column (homepage version) notes that the prospect of telecom and Internet provider payments has been part of a long-standing campaign from cultural groups who fear that a shrinking broadcast sector will ultimately mean smaller handouts for Canadian content creation. The campaign has thus far failed to bear much fruit: the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 2012 that Internet providers were not subject to the Broadcasting Act and last year the Conservatives led the charge against a “Netflix tax” that would have required the popular online video service to make Canadian content contributions.
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Digital policies may not have played a significant role in the just-concluded national election, but the arrival of a majority Liberal government will leave many expecting “real change” on the digital front in the years ahead. My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau is likely to focus on key economic promises from his platform once Parliament resumes. However, there will be several digital issues that should command attention during his first 12 months in office.
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As Canadians head to the polls, Internet and digital issues are unlikely to be top-of-mind for many voters. Each party has sprinkled its election platform with digital policies – the NDP emphasizes privacy, net neutrality and its opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership, the Liberals focus on open government, and the Conservatives tout cyber-security – yet Internet and digital issues have played at best a minor role in the campaign. The early references to a Netflix tax or the debate over Bill C-51 have been largely lost in an election whose central issue seems primarily to be a referendum on ten years of Stephen Harper and the Conservative government.
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that a review of digital and Internet law in the 2015 election campaign involves a similar assessment on the past decade of privacy, copyright and telecom policy. The Conservatives once placed a heavy emphasis on Internet-friendly approach, crafting rules that were designed to attract popular support by encouraging telecom competition, greater flexibility for copyright, and consumer privacy protection. Yet toward the end of its mandate, the government shifted priorities and in the process seemed to forget about the Internet.
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