The CBC recently released its submission to the CRTC as part of the examination of the future of broadcast in Canada. The submission interestingly raises network neutrality concerns, though it does not use that specific term. Rather, as part of a discussion on Internet video at page 19, the CBC says:
The business case analysis for Internet video is complicated by the fact that suppliers of broadband connections may also have incentives to control the bandwidth available for Internet video. Canadian cable companies engage in "bandwidth shaping" which allocates different levels of transmission capacity to different services according to the operational preferences of the cable company. This type of bandwidth shaping can ensure efficient use of transmission capacity. It can also ensure that Internet video by third parties does not become a threat to the business of the cable company, whether it be the delivery of traditional television programming to cable subscribers, VOD or the distribution of cable company-owned Internet video services. In light of this complex mix of issues, it remains unclear whether Internet video will become a primary means of distributing video content on a commercial basis.
This is network neutrality in action.
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Copyright reform is frequently characterized as "modernizing outdated copyright laws" (e.g. see yesterday's excellent Ottawa Citizen's masthead editorial). Leaving aside the fact that Canadian copyright law has undergone two major revisions in less than 20 years (along with several smaller changes), the reality is that the modernization is almost entirely focused on the interests' of a select few industries. Consider the issue of backup copies. Yesterday's post addressed a right of circumvention for backup copies of software, reflecting the need to preserve provisions in the Copyright Act that are nearly 20 years old. Those provisions rightly recognize that software programs are an intangible product that is susceptible to loss. Creating a backup copy right is a simple way to allow consumers to protect their investment.
If the government is serious about modernizing the Copyright Act, it could do worse than to start by modernizing the backup copy provision.
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The Citizen's lead editorial today concludes with the following: Canada's copyright regime is likely to be reviewed this fall with a view to dragging it into the 21st century. Making sure we maximize the usefulness of new technologies like Google Books should be the Harper government's highest priority; promoting the […]
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As part of a major set of copyright reforms in 1988, Canadian copyright law was amended to allow for the making of backup copies of computer programs. Section 30.6(b), the backup copy provision, is quite narrow, permitting the making of a single backup copy of a computer program "for a person who owns a copy of the computer program," provided that the copy is for backup purposes only and that it is destroyed "immediately when the person ceases to be the owner of the copy of the computer program."
This provision, which has not been tested in the courts, raises the interesting question of whether owning a copy of the computer program refers to owning the copyright in the computer program or owning the physical copy of the computer program. Many commentators believe that it refers to copyright ownership, in which case the provision is relatively meaningless given that most consumer software is licensed and not owned (although the enforceability of licenses that prohibit backup copies would make for an interesting test case).
The provision would be far more useful (and make much more sense) with the latter interpretation, however.
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As thousands of children across the province return to school tomorrow, nearly everyone will be asking "what did you do this summer?" If the question were posed to Education Minister Sandra Pupatello, her candid reply might be that she was working with her fellow Provincial Ministers of Education on reforms that will have damaging consequences on Internet use in Canada.
So begins this week's Law Bytes column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) which focuses on the disasterous push from the CMEC to establish a specific educational exception for the use of publicly-available Internet materials. While the CMEC proposal is at least better than Access Copyright's proposed extended license for Internet content (the column reveals that AC has approached Canadian Heritage for funding to support becoming the Canadian collective for the International Standard Text Code – a new standard for "textual works" that can be applied to everything from books to blogs and thus form the basis for a future license), there are potentially several negative long-term effects.
I point to five issues in particular.
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