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Michael Geist's Blog

Spam Task Force Delivers Report to Government

Canada's national spam task force today delivered its report to Industry Minister David Emerson. I was a member of the task force and served as the co-chair of the law and regulatory working group.

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The Wrong Analogy, More on the CRTC VoIP Decision

My regular Law Bytes column (freely available linked version, Toronto Star version, homepage version) focuses on the CRTC's VoIP decision. I begin by noting that when the Internet burst onto the public stage in the mid 1990s, legal scholars initially relied on analogies to identify an appropriate legal framework. Likening the Internet to the "Law of the Sea" or the "Law of Outer Space, their hope was that an existing body of law would provide a ready made solution to the Internet's inevitable legal challenges. The approach failed, however, as the complexity of the Internet, as well as the genuinely novel issues it raised, rendered each successive proposal unsatisfactory.

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CRTC Adopts Strong Regulatory Approach in VoIP Decision

The CRTC issued its much anticipated VoIP decision earlier today. Much to the chagrin of the major telcos, the Commission has adopted a strong regulatory approach. While it exempts P2P VoIP providers such as Skype, the traditional providers face a VoIP framework that looks a lot like the current local regulatory framework.

The Commission reasons that for consumers, local VoIP service looks a lot like (and is marketed like) traditional local phone service. Accordingly, the Commission has set a regulatory framework that addresses everything from reseller registration to phone directory listings to privacy protection.

Up to this point, I'd argue that Commission is on solid ground. Robust competition requires a level playing field and ensuring that all providers can offer equivalent services that consumers rely upon may require regulatory intervention of this kind.


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IP Bullied List Needed To Counter U.S. Trade and IP Linkage

My weekly Law Bytes column (freely available hyperlinked version, Toronto Star version, homepage version) focuses on the recent USTR Special 301 report and its specific criticisms of Canada's copyright plans. The column highlights the gradual escalation of U.S. linkage of trade and intellectual property protection and calls for the creation of new IP Bullied List that would include at least a dozen countries bullied into agreeing to stronger IP laws, along with a Bullied Watch List that would include dozens of countries currently negotiating similar trade agreements.

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Five Months

The Privacy Commissioner of Canada yesterday released the summary of her finding in my spam case launched against the Ottawa Renegades. My case is now Finding #297 and, true to form, the Renegades are now just an unnamed sports organization.

While I am pleased with the outcome of the case and I know that the Commissioner's office worked hard to review the case as quickly as possible given their limited resources, I have to say that the time lag between the first reports of the case last December and the official release of the summary just over five months later is unacceptable. There was no particular harm in this instance since I posted the full finding online for all to see. However, there are surely many other cases where findings are communicated to the parties, perhaps quietly distributed among those "in the know" and the public only reads about them months later. That information assymetry is unfair and should be addressed immediately (and certainly in less time than it took to summarize my case).
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Face to Face With the Great Firewall of China

My regular Law Bytes column (free hyperlinked version; Toronto Star version, homepage version) reflects on a recent trip to China and the frustrations I encountered dealing with censorship of the Internet. Despite similar appearances with broadband access in my Beijing hotel, I found sites blocked, email downloads short-circuited, and Google searches cut off.

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E-commerce and the Law

I've been quoted in several news articles this week that highlight interesting e-commerce legal issues

The Wall Street Journal assessed typo pricing on e-commerce sites and the extent to which sites are bound by the errors. I noted that many sites now include provisions that seek to protect them against obvious pricing errors.

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U.S. Government Objects to Canadian Copyright Reform Plan

The U.S. Trade Representative has issued its annual report on global intellectual property protection, known as the Special 301 Report. Once again, Canada finds itself in good company on the list (a more interesting list would consist of countries who meet the U.S. standard for IP protection).

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Response to the Net's Sour Note

The Globe and Mail ran an editorial yesterday in which it expressed strong support for CRIA s file sharing lawsuit appeal.  This morning the paper published my letter to the editor. The letter states:

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Intellectual Property's Digital Divide

My weekly Law Bytes column (freely available hyperlinked version, Toronto Star version, homepage version) assesses the recent WIPO Development Agenda meeting, pointing to the need to bridge the divide between the United States and the Friends of Development coalition.

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