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Michael Geist's Blog

Oda on Copyright Reform

The Globe has an article today on new Canadian Heritage Minister Bev Oda's plans for culture and copyright policy.  The copyright comments:

"As a veteran educator - Oda spent six years teaching theatre arts and art to children in Mississauga, Ont. - she also has some caveats about the last government's proposed copyright legislation. 'Last session, our party stood up and said we'd like to look at digital access for learning materials. So we're still looking at copyright legislation overall.' Those who had hoped for the new government to automatically push through the Liberals' bill should not hold their breath."

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It's Baaack: Day Calls National ID Card Inevitable

Stockwell Day, Canada's new minister of public security, has raised the prospect of creating a national ID card.  Again.  This issue was a pet project of former Liberal Minister Denis Coderre, who pushed for a national ID card that would be expensive, provide little additional security, create new privacy risks, and would remove rights to remain anonymous. 
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Internet Gambling Advertising Bill Introduced in Ontario

Thanks to John Gregory for pointing out that a private member's bill was introduced yesterday into the Ontario legislature that seeks to prohibit advertising of unregulated Internet gambling.  If enacted, the Bill C-60 would amend the Consumer Protection Act by adding the following provision:

"No person shall print, publish, distribute, broadcast or telecast an advertisement or representation that includes an Internet gaming business website address unless the person believes in good faith that the Internet gaming business has been licensed or otherwise granted permission to operate in Ontario or Canada by the appropriate authority and is operated in accordance with the applicable laws of Ontario and Canada."
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Supreme Court Denies Leave in Bangoura Case

The Bangoura case, the much-discussed Canadian Internet jurisdiction case, has come to a close as the Supreme Court of Canada today denied Bangoura's request for leave to appeal the Ontario Court of Appeal decision.  Still working its way through the courts is the appeal of the Burke v. NewYork Post case, however, so Internet jurisdiction issues remain alive and well in Canada.
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The Sony Rootkit Effect

While the blogosphere is understandably focused on the revelation that the RIAA now says that "creating a back-up copy of a music CD is not a non-infringing use" (after telling the U.S. Supreme Court in the Grokster hearing that "it's perfectly lawful to take a CD that you've purchased, upload it onto your computer, put it onto your iPod."), I think two other stories out today merit attention. 
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The Slippery Slope of Two-Tier Email

My weekly Law Bytes column (Toronto Star version, BBC Version, webpage version) examines America Online and Yahoo!' s recent announcement of a new fee-based system for commercial email. I argue that certified email will do little to address spam and may not attract a large client base.  Rather, its more significant impact lies in the fact that it is yet another step toward the two-tiered Internet that will ultimately shift new costs to consumers.


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CCTA To Shut Down

The Canadian Cable Telecommunications Association, Canada's leading cable association, announced today that it plans to shut down after 50 years of operations.  The CCTA had been hit by several major defections in recent years (Shaw and Videotron being the most prominent) as the key industry players seemingly agreed on less and less.  The CCTA actually switched its name a couple of years ago from Television to Telecommunications to reflect a broader mandate, but with more issues comes more sources of disagreement.  Given the power of companies such as Rogers and Shaw, they are clearly content (and quite able) to fend for themselves on law and regulatory matters. 

The long-term impact is difficult to gauge.  On copyright related matters, I think it is troubling that the major ISPs in Canada do not speak with a strong single voice as the CCTA is gone and the Canadian Association of Internet Providers is not a particularly strong association. The fight over notice and takedown will return and there should be no doubt that the copyright lobby will seize this development to argue for a shift away from Bill C-60's notice and notice approach.  Similarly, on issues such as spam and lawful access, ISPs are generally aligned with user interests and the lack of a strong, single voice may hurt.  That said, there are other issues - network neutrality come to mind - where a divided industry isn't all bad, since there is the potential for contrary voices that will reject a two-tiered Internet as a competitive advantage.
 

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The CBC as a Role Model

I've been critical of the CBC over the past few months, emphasizing the need for Canada's public broadcaster to do more to embrace the potential of new technologies and the Internet.  To that end, there are signs that the CBC is moving in the right direction.  In addition to a Globe and Mail report that indicates that the CBC is talking with Apple and Google about providing video downloads (possibly free), check out the Fifth Estate's website devoted to this evening's documentary on former PM Brian Mulroney and the Airbus affair.  The site does exactly what a companion website to a television program should do by offering additional video and audio clips, original documents, and additional background information that was not included in the one-hour program.  It is clear that considerable resources went into the site and I think that it provides a model for others to follow.
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The Digital Road Leads Out of Rome

My weekly Law Bytes column (BBC version, homepage version) focuses on last week's OECD meeting on the future of the digital economy.  The column notes that the discussion pointed to two competing approaches for the distribution of content in the Internet era, one based on DRM and the other on user generated content.  I conclude that the conference ultimately sent a mixed message about the future of the digital economy.  The Internet has sparked a remarkable outpouring of new creativity and provided conventional content owners with exciting new marketplace opportunities, yet legislators may be forced to intervene to ensure that consumers are protected from onerous DRM restrictions and that ISPs are precluded from using their positions as Internet gatekeepers to harm innovation. 
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French Court Dismisses P2P Case

Last week I noted that following the international standard on copyright is complicated, since there are many countries that are moving ahead or already have reforms that better serve the interests of users.  Things just got a bit more interesting as a French court has dismissed a lawsuit against an alleged file sharer for both downloading and uploading.  Much like the federal court in Canada, the French court relied on the private copying system in reaching its conclusion that the alleged file sharing was not unlawful (arguments raised by a consumer group).  While CRIA has argued that Canada is in danger of becoming an "analogue island," it would appear that the island just got a bit more crowded.
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