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
What is on Television Tonight by Trey Ratcliff (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/t1pU6

The Internet as Cable: The Risk of Treating Telecommunications as Cultural Policy

Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly travels to California this week with an agenda that includes meetings with Internet giants such as Google and Facebook. Given the recent announcement in the budget that the government plans to “review and modernize” the Broadcasting Act and Telecommunications Act, the discussions may help shape an issue that could have a profound impact on the Internet in Canada as there are concerns the government may attempt to shoehorn Canadian cultural policies into telecommunications law.

My Globe and Mail column notes that Ms. Joly’s consultation last year on Cancon in a digital world revealed there is a strong appetite within the traditional Canadian culture lobby for bringing policies such as cultural taxes and mandated Cancon requirements to the Internet. The groups claim the Internet is rapidly replacing the conventional broadcast system as a means of distributing cultural content and that the longstanding analog rules should be shifted into the digital environment.

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April 19, 2017 5 comments Columns
Data Security Breach by Blogtrepreneur (CC BY 2.0) blogtrepreneur.com/tech

Why Warrantless Access to Internet Subscriber Information is Back on the Legislative Agenda

The federal government has yet to release its response to last year’s national security consultation, but at least one thing is increasingly apparent. Lawful access, the regulations that govern police access to Internet and telecom subscriber information, will be back on Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale’s legislative agenda. My Globe and Mail column notes that the details of the complex new rules that would grant warrantless access to some telecom and Internet information system are still a work-in-progress, but the final outcome is sure to raise concerns with the privacy advocates as well as telecom and Internet providers.

A cybercrime working group comprised of senior officials from federal, provincial and territorial governments have spent months developing the new lawful access framework.  It recently held two invitation-only consultations on the issue with Canadian telecom and Internet companies as well as civil society groups and academic experts. I participated in the latter event, which was held under Chatham House rules that allow for disclosure of the content of the meeting without attribution to specific commentators.

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April 4, 2017 5 comments Columns
Man on Sidewalk in Nikes (Buenos Aires, Argentina 2002) by Woody Wood (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/s1xotg

What Would a Digital Economy-Era NAFTA Mean for Canada?

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is expected to file a notice of renegotiation of the North American free trade agreement within weeks, paving the way for talks that could reshape the Canadian economy. It became clear last week that the renegotiation will involve much more than just a few “tweaks”, as a U.S. congressional hearing saw officials trot out the usual laundry list of demands including changes to agricultural supply management, softwood lumber exports, and anti-counterfeiting measures.

Those issues will undoubtedly prove contentious, yet my Globe and Mail article notes that more interesting were comments from Mr. Ross about the need for new NAFTA chapters to reflect the digital economy. The emphasis on digital policies foreshadows a new battleground that will have enormous implications for Canadian privacy laws and digital policies.

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March 24, 2017 4 comments Columns