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Michael Geist's Blog

Toronto and UWO Confirm the Obvious: Access Copyright Licence Provides Little Value for Education

The University of Toronto and the University of Western Ontario, the two Ontario universities that were quick to sign a copyright collective licence with Access Copyright before the conclusion of Bill C-11 and the Supreme Court of Canada's fair dealing decisions, have announced that starting next year they will no longer operate under a licence from the copyright collective. The moves come after many other prominent Canadian universities operated without an Access Copyright licence, relying instead the millions of dollars being spent on site licences, open access materials, fair dealing, and transactional licensing for specific works that are otherwise unavailable or whose use would not constitute fair dealing.

The fair dealing aspect of the strategy has attracted considerable criticism from Access Copyright and its allies, who implausibly argue that despite multiple Supreme Court of Canada decisions and an expansion of fair dealing by the Canadian government, that there is still much uncertainty about its application. The reality is that a fair dealing consensus has emerged in Canada within the education community that is relatively conservative in scope. For example, the Canadian guidelines speak to the use of 10 percent of a work as fair dealing. By comparison, a recent settlement in Israel between universities and a major publisher identifies 20 percent of a work as fair.

While Access Copyright argued immediately after its release that the 2012 Supreme Court decision left "copyright licensing in the education sector alive and well", it was obvious that this was just not the case. In fact, Access Copyright warned the Supreme Court that:

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The Privacy Threats in Bill C-13, Part Two: The Low Threshold for Metadata

My first post on the privacy threats in Bill C-13 focused on the voluntary disclosure of personal information and the complete civil and criminal immunity granted to intermediaries such as ISPs and telecom companies that provide such disclosures. This post focuses on the low threshold the bill establishes for a new "transmission data" warrant and explains why this represents a serious privacy risk.

The bill defines transmission data as data that:

(a) relates to the telecommunication functions of dialling, routing, addressing or signalling;
(b) is transmitted to identify, activate or configure a device, including a computer program as defined in subsection 342.1(2), in order to establish or maintain access to a telecommunication service for the purpose of enabling a communication, or is generated during the creation, transmission or reception of a communication and identifies or purports 
to identify the type, direction, date, time, duration, size, origin, destination or termination of the communication; 
(c) does not reveal the substance, meaning or purpose of the communication.

The bill creates a new warrant that allows a judge to order the disclosure of transmission data where there are reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence has been or will be committed, the identification of a device or person involved in the transmission will assist in an investigation, or will help identify a person. The government relies on the fact that this is a warrant with court oversight to support the claim that Canadians should not be concerned by this provision. Yet the reality is that there is reason for concern as the implications of treating metadata as having a low privacy value is enormously troubling.

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