Archive for February, 2006

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 […]

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February 28, 2006 Comments are Disabled News

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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February 28, 2006 Comments are Disabled News

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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February 28, 2006 5 comments News

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 […]

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February 27, 2006 Comments are Disabled News

Supreme Court Nominee Could Have Big Impact on IP

My weekly Law Bytes column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) examines new Canadian Supreme Court nominee Mr. Justice Marshall Rothstein, whose lengthy record on patent, copyright, and trademark matters suggests that he may very well challenge the status quo at Canada' s highest court. The column uncovers several speeches by Justice Rothstein that reveal a candid judge who is uncomfortable with incorporating policy into the legal decision making process, who is willing to examine intellectual property laws of other jurisdictions, and who recognizes the limits of intellectual property law.

Justice Rothstein, who appears before a House of Commons committee today, has emerged as a prominent jurist on intellectual property cases at the Federal Court of Appeal.  His best-known decision is the Harvard Mouse case, which addressed the question of whether higher life forms, in this case the "oncomouse", could be patented.  Justice Rothstein ruled that it could, concluding that there was nothing in the definition of "invention" under the Patent Act to preclude such patents.

Justice Rothstein has also presided over leading copyright and trademark cases.  He wrote a concurring opinion in Law Society of Upper Canada v. CCH Canadian, a copyright case that focused on the photocopying of legal decisions.  He sided with the majority in a high-profile trademark battle between Lego and Montreal-based Mega Blocks.

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February 26, 2006 2 comments Columns