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Michael Geist's Blog

The Copyright Pentalogy Book: An Open Access Success Story

Readers of this blog will know that earlier this year the University of Ottawa Press published The Copyright Pentalogy: How the Supreme Court of Canada Shook the Foundations of Canadian Copyright Law, an effort by many of Canada's leading copyright scholars to begin the process of examining the long-term implications of the copyright pentalogy. The book is available for purchase and is also available as a free download under a Creative Commons licence. The book can be downloaded in its entirety or each of the 14 chapters can be downloaded individually. This is the first of a new collection from the UOP on law, technology and society (I am pleased to serve as the collection editor and editor of the pentalogy book) that will be part of the UOP's open access collection.

This week I participated in a panel on open access at the University of Ottawa as part of the global Open Access Week activities and learned that the book has succeeded on both the open access and commercial front. From an open access perspective, the book and articles have proven to be popular downloads. The University of Ottawa Press reports that the webpage for the book is among the most accessed on the site. In less than six months, the book ranks among the top 35 books for page views (some books have appeared on the site for years). Downloads of the book are also popular at the University of Ottawa's uO Research, the University's institutional repository as it is one of the three most accessed items in the entire repository.

While interest in a free book may strike some as unsurprising, it is worth noting that the University of Ottawa Press reports that book has also been the top seller on its website. Visitors are free to download any or all chapters at no cost, yet the book has outsold all other University of Ottawa Press titles on the website since its launch in May. In fact, some have even purchased electronic versions of the book (an ePub version is available), despite the free availability of a PDF version. It is still early days for the book - the launch conference only took place several weeks ago - but the initial results provide yet another illustration of the potential co-existence of open access and commercial sales.
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Canada May Be Nearing the Open Access "Tipping Point"

The power of the Internet to shake up well-established industries has become a common theme in recent years as many businesses struggle to compete with new entrants and technologies. While it has captured limited attention outside of educational circles, the Internet has facilitated the emergence of open access publishing of research, transforming the multi-billion dollar academic publishing industry and making millions of articles freely accessible to a global audience.

My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that "Open Access Week", which is used by supporters to raise awareness of the benefits of open publishing, is being marked at university campuses around the world this week just as a Canadian study confirmed a global open access tipping point and Canada’s major research funding agencies prepare to mandate open access publishing for grant recipients across the country.


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Bell Claims Users Want to Be Monitored, Profiled and Tracked

The reports that Bell is updating its privacy policy to allow for the use of a wide range of personal data collected from Internet and mobile phone usage has generated enormous public concern, an investigation from the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, and claims from Bell that its customers want to be tracked, profiled, and monitored. As I noted in a post on Monday, the company will be tracking everything about millions of users: which websites they visit, what search terms they enter, what television shows they watch, what applications they use, and what phone calls they make. All of that data will be correlated with their location, age, gender, and more.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada told reporters that it will be investigating Bell's practices.  Bell defended its plan, arguing that it is compliant with the law and suggesting that the public is happy with its plan, adding that:

"We view it as a positive, value-add service for our subscribers. And of course for advertisers it’s another step forward in their ability to reach the right people with the right message.”

If the public was truly happy with the plan for expansive monitoring, tracking, and profiling, the company could have easily adopted an opt-in model, allowing customers to choose to be tracked. Instead, its approach forces nearly eight million Canadians to opt-out of the monitoring practices, which the company surely knows will only happen in a tiny fraction of cases due to a lack of awareness and appreciation for the consequences of the profiling. 
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The Great Canadian Personal Data Grab Continues: Bell Expands Its Consumer Monitoring and Profiling

Last week, I wrote about the Great Canadian personal data grab, focusing on the expansive data collection habits of RBC (with its Android app) and Aeroplan (with its collection of all credit card transaction data). Now comes news that Bell is getting into the personal data grab game with an updated privacy policy that takes effect in mid-November. The new Bell "privacy" policy expands the uses of the information the company collects by focusing on ways to use data on network usage.  The current policy makes no reference to network usage data, but the company now wants to use a wide range of personal data collected from Internet and mobile phone usage.

Bell identifies the following data for expanded usage:

  • Web pages visited from your mobile device or your Internet access at home.
 This may include search terms that have been used.
  • Location
  • App and device feature usage
  • TV viewing
  • Calling patterns

Bell will also begin to use account data such as which products you use, device types, payment patterns, language preferences, gender, and age.

The scope of Bell's intended personal data usage is remarkable. Given that many of its customers will have bundled Internet, wireless, and television services, the company will be tracking everything: which websites they visit, what search terms they enter, what television shows they watch, what applications they use, and what phone calls they make. All of that data will be correlated with their location, age, gender, and more.


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EU Assures that CETA Does Not Contain ACTA Copyright Rules

While the Canadian government provided few details on the copyright rules in the Canada - EU Trade Agreement (largely emphasizing that CETA is consistent with recent copyright reforms), the European Commission posted an updated fact sheet on the issue. The European document focuses on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, providing assurances that CETA does not contain ACTA provisions with respect to Internet providers or criminal copyright provisions. The document, which appears to be a re-release of a year-old document, states:


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CETA Reached "In Principle", Part Four: Pharma Gets Patent Extension Despite Declining R&D in Canada

As noted in another post on the CETA intellectual property provisions, one of the key elements in the deal from a European perspective was patent term restoration, which effectively allows the large pharmaceutical companies to extend the term of their patents (additional posts on the need to release the draft text and the telecom and e-commerce provisions). The change will delay the entry of generic alternatives and, as acknowledged by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, will raise health care costs across the country (estimates run into the billions). In fact, the Ontario government has already indicated that it may seek compensation (or "mitigate the impact") for the additional costs.

Ironically, the CETA deal comes just as the government's Patented Medicines Prices Review Board issued its annual report that shows that the major pharmaceutical companies spending to sales ratio continues a decade-long decline, hitting its lowest level since the last time the Canadian government caved to pressure for patent reforms. According to the PMPRB released data (which is gathered from the companies themselves), the  R&D-to-sales ratio for members of Rx&D (the lead pharma lobby) was 6.6% in 2012, down from 6.7% in 2012. The Rx&D ratio has now been less than 10% for the past ten consecutive years and is approaching its lowest level since tracking began in 1988.  From a global perspective, Canada fares very poorly, ranking ahead of only Italy with countries such as France, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, the U.K., and U.S. all seeing greater expenditures.


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CETA Reached "In Principle", Part Three: Meaningless Claims on Telecom & E-commerce

Without the CETA text, it is very difficult to assess many of the purported benefits of the draft agreement (additional posts on the need to release the text, the IP provisions, and the big win for pharmaceutical companies despite declining Canadian investment in research and development).  Consider the benefits for telecommunications and electronic commerce discussed in the government's summary document.  On electronic commerce, the government states:

Businesses engaged in electronic commerce will benefit from greater certainty, confidence and
protection.
Twenty years ago, electronic commerce was in its infancy. Today, electronic commerce is a part of our daily lives. Canadians shop and plan holidays online, and buy and download software and entertainment content, including movies, television and music. Advertisers are making increased use of “smart advertising” on the Web to track our shopping habits and promote specific deals likely to interest us.


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Canada - EU Trade Agreement Reached "In Principle", Part Two: The Intellectual Property Provisions

Intellectual property was one of the most contentious aspects of the CETA negotiations, with copyright, patents, and geographic indications all sources of concern. A summary of the impact of CETA on each is posted below (additional posts on the need to release the text and the telecom and e-commerce provisions).

Copyright

Early CETA drafts included extensive copyright provisions that would have rendered Canadian copyright law virtually unrecognizable from its current state.  The EU position on copyright changed after two developments in 2012. First, Canada passed long-awaited copyright reform that addressed several concerns, most notably legal protection for digital locks and ISP liability. Second, the EU abandoned many of the remaining demands after the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in July 2012 to reject Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, striking a major blow to the hopes of supporters who envisioned a landmark agreement that would set a new standard for intellectual property rights enforcement. 


The resulting copyright provisions appear benign, as the government is claiming that CETA is consistent with current Canadian law:


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Canada - EU Trade Agreement Reached "In Principle", Part One: Now Release the Text

Canada and the European Union this morning formally announced that it they have reached an agreement in principle on the Canada - EU Trade Agreement (CETA) (additional posts on the IP provisions, telecom and e-commerce provisions, and the big win for pharmaceutical companies despite declining Canadian investment in research and development). Unfortunately, there was no release of the text and one is apparently not forthcoming for some time as the government argues that there is still some drafting and legal analysis needed (and presumably translation into several languages). However, without the actual text, the public is forced to rely on summary documents that merely provide an overview of the agreement. A transparent process mandates that all Canadians have access to the full text.  While the approval process will take a couple of years, Canada and the EU should release the draft text now.
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Canadian Government Unveils Its Celebrations-First Agenda

The government's Speech from the Throne was billed in advance as a "consumers-first" agenda with Industry Minister James Moore talking up initiatives such as tackling wireless roaming fees and the unbundling of cable television packages over the weekend. Yet it turns out the consumers-first agenda is pretty thin: the roaming fee issue may be limited to domestic roaming (an issue that is invisible to many wireless customers), the unbundling will be useful for some though not all television subscribers, and promising enhanced broadband in rural communities is a far cry from committing to universal broadband access for all Canadians by 2015 (other issues such as the anti-digital economy measure of banning extra fees for paper bills is hardly worth mentioning and an airline passenger bill of rights wasn't mentioned).

Perhaps the real intended focus is a celebration-first agenda as the speech emphasizes that "Canada's Confederation is worth celebrating." The government therefore commits to marking the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown and Quebec conferences, to celebrating the 200th birthdays of Sir George-Étienne Cartier and Sir John A. Macdonald, the centennial of the first world war, and the 75th anniversary of the second world war.


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