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Michael Geist's Blog

Policy Options on Blogs and the 2006 Election

Policy Options features an article on the impact of blogs on the 2006 federal election with a good recap of the Bulte story.
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Vonage Requests CRTC Investigation Into Shaw VoIP Charges

Update: I have now had the chance to read the Vonage filing which is better described as a request for an investigation as opposed to a complaint.  In fact, Vonage concludes its submission by arguing that "Shaw' s QofS Service has the potential to greatly damage nascent competition for local VoIP services across its serving territory.  Vonage Canada is of the view, however, that not enough is known at this point about the Shaw service in order to formulate an appropriate regulatory response."

Original posting:

Vonage Canada has filed a complaint with the CRTC against Shaw over Shaw's VoIP premium surcharge. The cable company charges a $10 "quality of service enhancement" fee for VoIP users, which Vonage is characterizing as a VoIP tax.  Vonage argues that because it "competes directly with the telephone services of the network operators that also provide the high-speed Internet access, the incentives to discriminate against us are clear. This will result in less innovation, less choice and higher prices for Canadian consumers in the long run."

This could become a hugely important case since much of the two-tier Internet is based on similar enhancement fees for either customers or web services. The CRTC mistakenly declined to address the net neutrality last year in its VoIP decision, despite considerable evidence that this was an emerging issue that could have debilitating effect on the Internet.  In the months since that decision, both the telcos and cable cos have openly discussed their plans for a two-tier Internet.  While it appears that Vonage has focused primarily on the need for greater transparency with the Shaw fee, this has opened the door to the CRTC becoming more engaged on network neutrality.
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Major Muni WiFi Initiative Coming To Toronto

Tyler Hamilton at the Toronto Star is reporting that Toronto Hydro is set to announce plans for a city-wide municipal wifi initiative that could launch as soon as this fall.  After months of watching similar developments occur in the U.S., it is great to see this come to Canada.
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Access Copyright's Distribution Fact Finding Study

In addition to the launch of the Public Domain Registry project, Access Copyright has also announced plans to study its distribution system.  The Creators' Copyright Coalition reports:

"Access Copyright' s newly announced fact-finding process is a response to a proposal several creator organizations made to the agency last summer. The creator organizations have argued that Access Copyright' s distribution of royalties need to be made with more attention to collective-licensing principles, more transparency, and more precision in linking payments to exposure to copying. These claims upon the agencies are not new. In recent years Access Copyright' s lack of action on them has been threatening the confidence of creators and their organizations in the work of the collective."
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OAK Law Project

The Queensland University of Technology has launched the Open Access to Knowledge Law Project.  The project sounds like an exciting initiative as it will develop legal protocols for managing copyright issues in an open access environment and investigate provision and implementation of a rights expression language for implementing such protocols at a technical level.
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Music and the Market

In case you missed it, last week CRIA was back in the news claiming that Canadian copyright law is in need of reform, arguing that Canadian digital download sales have not met expectations. The copyright lobby group chose to focus on sales of Gwen Stefani's Hollaback Girl.  In the U.S., the song has become the first to reach one million paid downloads.  By comparison, in Canada it has hit 20,000 paid downloads.  CRIA argues that based on population and broadband penetration rates, the Canadian figure should be 150,000.

I find this argument rather remarkable.  CRIA is obviously hoping to convince Canadian Heritage Minister Bev Oda and Industry Minister Maxime Bernier that the Canadian digital music market has been hurt by the absence of anti-circumvention legislation, yet the notion that music sales are a function of population size and broadband access is certainly subject to challenge.
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Online Gambling Ad Bill Advances to Committee

The Ontario online gambling advertising bill, introduced as a private member's bill, appears to have some life.  The bill has received second reading and is headed to committee.  John Gregory reports that the bill has support from the Woodbine Entertainment Group, which may be looking to protect its horse racing business.
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Access Copyright And Creative Commons Canada Launch Public Domain Registry

Exciting news today from Access Copyright and Creative Commons Canada as the two are joining forces to establish a public domain registry.  The registry should assist in identifying works in the public domain in Canada and will be further supported by the Wikimedia Foundation to allow individuals to contribute to the registry.  Regardless of your views of Access Copyright, I think they should be congratulated for moving forward with this terrific initiative which has the potential to serve as a critical resource for all Canadians and emerge as model for other countries.
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Digitization Plans

The European Commission has announced that at least six million books, documents and other cultural works are to be put online and housed in the European Digital Library by 2010. The European Union's executive arm said it would help fund part of a network of digitization sites and study copyright issues that might arise.  While Library and Archives Canada is working on a strategy, Canada needs political leadership now before we fall further behind on this important access to knowledge initiative.
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Discontent at the Copyright Board?

Howard has the details on some major players who are withdrawing from some Copyright Board proceedings.
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