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Michael Geist's Blog

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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Australian Parliamentary TPM Report Accepts User Concerns

Kim Weatherall provides a quick summary of what is an exceptionally important Australian parliamentary report on TPM provision implementation.  The report includes 37 recommendations with a long list of protections.  Kim points to coverage of region coding (specifically excluded as TPM), linking access controls to copyright, and exceptions when the amount of non-copyright material protected under a TPM is substantial (and modestly doesn't reference the committee's citations of her own work). 

There is lots more including exceptions for fair dealing, education, and libraries.  Moreover, the committee made it clear that changes in the law that facilitate greater access (such as format shifting or backup rights) should be matched by a TPM exception.  As Kim concludes:

"Two arms of government have now spoken: the High Court of Australia, and a committee of the Parliament. Both have affirmed that copyright law must be balanced; that anti-circumvention laws should be matched to copyright rights, rather than overly extending them . How will the executive react?"

This report should obviously be required reading in Canada.  In fact, it should be more than just read.  It should be matched by a similar process (just as recently occured in the UK) that ensures that Canadian law similarly preserves the appropriate balance should we enact anti-circumvention provisions. 

The copyright lobby argued that Bill C-60 did not go far enough in protecting TPMs.  It seems to me that this report from independent parliamentarians (no pro-user zealots there) confirms that the opposite is true: the bill did not do enough to provide consumers and the marketplace with adequate protections from TPMs.
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EU Data Protection Working Party on Email Screening

The European Union Data Protection Working Party has released new recommendations on email screening practices including screening for viruses, spam, and certain content. The report expresses concern with the false positive problem on spam filtering, suggesting that email providers ensure that users have control over the degree of filtering.  The report's recommendations on content screening is unequivocal: "email providers are prohibited from engaging in filtering, storage or any other kinds of interception of communications and the related traffic data for the purposes of detecting any predetermined content without the consent of the users of the services."  Interesting report that would be worth contextualizing into the Canadian privacy law framework.
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Consequences of Uncompetitiveness

While the stock markets were focused yesterday on comments to a conference from Google's CFO, Rogers VP Finance was telling another investor conference about Rogers' take on the broadband marketplace.  John Gossling said:

"The good news, I think, on both is that there is actually some pricing power. Unlike the competitive situation (in the U.S.), the prices on Internet and TV have been actually moving up quite nicely (for Rogers). We don't seem to have the competitive pressure to take these decent-margin products and move their prices down, so we're seeing good lift there."

In other words, the Canadian broadband marketplace has little competition, providing companies such as Rogers with the opportunity to raise prices and decrease service (see the current online discussion about Rogers cutting back on BitTorrent access).  This might be music to the ears of investors, but for consumers this does not provide much confidence for the future direction of Internet connectivity in Canada.  Let's hope the CRTC and municipalities were also listening as they consider muni wifi initiatives and legislative protections against a two-tiered Internet.
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The Risk of Lawful Access

Bruce Schneier points to a recent incident in Greece where about 100 politicians and political leaders were subject to mobile phone wiretapping. Schneier points out that the wiretapping was facilitated by new network surveillance requirements, which were then used by the "bad guys" for their own purposes.  A good lesson for Canada as we renew the debate over lawful access and consider the risks associated with a Canadian surveillance network (Thanks Stacy!).
 

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IP Trade Pressure

Jamie Love has an interesting posting on USTR head Bob Portman violating U.S. law by pressuring African countries to increase protections for AIDS medicines that exceed WTO minimums.  Expect those pressures to shift north once a Canadian copyright reform bill makes an appearance.
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Internet Tariffs for Schools Spreads to Australia

It appears that Canada's Access Copyright is not alone in seeking new license fees from schools for use of the Internet.  AC's Australian counterpart, the Copyright Agency, is seeking compensation for teachers instructing students to browse the Internet.  While it may sound like it, this story does not come from the Onion.
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CanLII Launches ScanLII

The Canadian Legal Information Institute has announced the first results from an important new project dubbed ScanLII.  It appears that ScanLII will attempt to the fill the very large gaps in the freely available Supreme Court jurisprudence online.  They've scanned 200 decisions dating back to 1976 with more to come.
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The Credible Threat

If you have been following the debate over Internet governance over the past few years, you know that while ICANN supporters (U.S., Canadian, Australian governments; business lobby) and critics (developing world and occasionally Europe) argue over the optimal approach, particularly with respect to government involvement in the domain name system, the reality has been that possession is all.  The U.S. government retains ultimate control over the system and thus the debate is somewhat academic.  In assessing the outcome at the World Summit on the Information Society last fall, I argued that:

"the U.S. simply had a very strong hand and played it well.  Changes to the governance structure ultimately requires U.S. agreement since possession is even more than the proverbial 9/10th of the law.  The U.S. had loudly indicated that it was not prepared to make concessions.  During the negotiations at the PrepCom it adopted a very hard line - even raising the prospect of pulling back on ccTLD sovereignty or turning over the Internet Governance Forum to a private sector group like ISOC.  Without a credible threat (the threat being the creation of alternate root), the U.S. was able to maintain its position and ultimately force everyone else to deal."

The alternate root has always lurked in the background as a possibility that would force everyone to rethink their positions since it would enable a single country (or group of countries) to effectively pack up their bags and start a new game.  The U.S. control would accordingly prove illusory since a new domain name system situated elsewhere would be subject to its own rules.  While the two could theoretically co-exist by having ISPs simply recognize both roots, the system could "break" if both roots contained identical extensions.  In other words, one root can have dot-com and other other can have dot-corp, but they can't both have dot-com.

It is with that background in mind that people need to think about a press release issued yesterday in China announcing a revamping of its Internet domain name system.  Starting tomorrow, China's Ministry of Information Industry plans to begin offering four country-code domains.  In addition to the dot-cn country code domain, three new Chinese character domains are on the way: dot-China, dot-net, and dot-com.  As the People's Daily Online notes this "means Internet users don't have to surf the Web via the servers under the management of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) of the United States."
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Much Ado About Nothing

While I didn't watch the full hearing, it seems to me that the Rothstein hearing was much ado about nothing.  I don't think that Canadians now have a better sense of Justice Rothstein. To do that, they need to read his judgments and speeches, which are far more revealing than anything he said today (and, btw, how is that Justice Rothstein can speak candidly about past cases such as the Harvard Mouse decision when he visits Oxford but refuses to say anything before a parliamentary committee?).
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