The Liberal Tech Law Record: 2004-05

My weekly Law Bytes column (Toronto Star version, freely available version) examines the Liberal minority government' s record on technology law issues.  I suggest that much like the underlying policies themselves, the record is a mixed bag.  It falls into three groups of developments: (i) completed policies; (ii) policies that stalled when the government fell late last month; and (iii) policies that never quite got off the ground.

The completed policies include the creation of a do-not-call list, upholding the satellite radio decision, and recommitting to a national broadband initiative.

Given the relatively short lifespan of a minority government, it is not surprising that the list of bills that died on the order paper is far longer than those enacted into law.  Leading the way is Bill C-60, the government' s much-discussed copyright reform package. Weeks before the government fell, it introduced two additional bills of note.  Bill C-74, the Modernization of Investigative Techniques Act, better known as "lawful access", mandated the implementation of new Internet surveillance technologies and granted law enforcement the power to compel disclosure of Internet subscriber information without a warrant.  Bill C-83 was introduced with little fanfare and addressed the contentious Internet pharmacy issue by granting the Minister of Health the right to ban pharmaceutical exports.

Joining policies in limbo are the issues that never made it beyond an initial introduction or a public consultation.  These include responses to the National Spam Task Force and to the LaForest report that slams the door on a potential merger of the Privacy and Information Commissioner offices.  Add in the telecommunications policy review and the long-promised copyright consultations on educational uses of the Internet and private copying, and there are no shortage of policies that never got off the ground.

Of course, it is the many issues that remain unaddressed that ultimately comprise the largest group of policy questions – from potential consultations to the scheduled PIPEDA review to the need for protection against invasive copy-controls such as those secretly used by Sony BMG.  The ongoing election campaign will undoubtedly focus on that future, as will my column, which next week turns to the technology law questions that need answers during this winter campaign.

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