The Obama Effect on Canadian Tech Policy

Last night's remarkable Obama victory promises a fresh start and real change on a host of critically important issues.  Some may speculate about what (if any) effect the change in administration will have for tech policy. CNET examines the question from a U.S. perspective; from a Canadian perspective, I would point to three issues.

The tech effect on politics.  As has been well-documented, Obama's campaign used the Internet, social networks, and new technology to galvanize support, generate millions in donations, and ultimately attract millions of new, younger voters.  As the Canadian political parties look at declining voter turnout numbers, the path to a majority/change in government may lie not in grabbing votes from other parties, but rather in targeting the 41 percent of eligible Canadian voters (many of whom are younger) who did not vote at all with policies that speak to their concerns.

Copyright.  The change in administration is unlikely to dramatically alter U.S. policy on copyright (the DMCA was passed by President Clinton), which suggests that the U.S. pressure on Canada for reform will continue as will support for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.  What the change in administration may do, however, is buy a bit of time.  The need to appoint a new U.S. ambassador, Commerce Secretary, USTR Secretary, etc. means that intellectual property will not be a front burner issue until the spring 2009 at the earliest.

Telecom.   Obama seems likely to accelerate change that is already happening in the United States around issues such as net neutrality, open networks, and broadband access.  The FCC has been shifting in this direction for some time (it approved a white spaces proposal yesterday) and Obama put it at the top of his list of tech policy concerns.  While this will not result in political pressure on Canada, it will point to a Canadian telecom framework that could quickly fall behind the U.S., thereby undermining innovation and competitiveness.  By moving forcefully toward preserving net neutrality in the U.S., Obama may indirectly encourage similar reforms in Canada.


  1. It’s a shame…
    …that we can’t lead on tech issues and always have to look to the USA for such leadership.

    At least with a progressive president, maybe he’ll be of influence on our dinosaur politicians.

  2. Joe Biden = Hollywood
    That is why this election to the south is and was a sham.
    Ya change alright, and now your going to see hollywood start making demands that are , unreasonable and unthinkable, and harper will just hand deliver these laws to us and with liberal support destroy canadian culture and diversity.
    YUP time ot get a passport to norway….
    They have it right over there.
    They nationalized oil for the benefit of all there countrymen. They have better health care and lower tuitions.
    AND where is the USA heading with ten TRILLION in debt, and we want to emulate what?

    Me thinks that we either begin to reverse the copyright trends world wide or you will start seeing even more radical events like the shooting death of that malaysian lawyer.

    1984 here we come.

  3. Optimistic
    I have to disagree with the prediction on the Copyright Policy here. During the Campaign Obama was interviewed by a major newspaper with regards to how he would treat copyright policy once in power and he has been quoted in stating that “The consumer is always right”.

    From that CNet Article on DMCA Obama said only that he’d support it “in concept.”

    Even the architect of the DMCA under Clinton has said it was a mistake. With a promise to the grass roots who was a big chuck of his funding to cut out a lot of lobbyist power in Washington, plus with a strong youth vote, I think his policies on copyright will be more fair to the consumer when all is said and done. I may be wrong, but my gut journalistic instinct from following this election and the copyright debate tells me that the US Government will be looking more closely at the data and coming up with solutions that are based on a fair approach.

    I strongly believe that the RIAA’s rein of legal terror towards consumers ended in a huge way with Obama winning the White House.

  4. That must be why you need to research what Joe Biden has done in his illustrous past including support from the other bunch that sues all the time ( the MPAA )
    remember its the BSA, RIAA, MPAA that are all in bed together, and funny how biden gets support form the riaa and jsut a week before maccain does too.

    What’s that really tell you? IF Obama is indeed his own man, and wants to be elected a second term or any democrat ever again, two things need be done to restore my faith that american govt can work for the people.

    A) Rip up that garbage DMCA act.
    B) Rip up the patriot act.

    Then bring home your troops and create some health care for the needy, that video of a lady dying in a hospital was horrible. They just left here there to die.
    OMG that would never happen here under a conservative gov’t would it.
    Private health care does that Mr Harper, it leaves the people that often need it behind.

  5. Re: chronoss
    You said: “That must be why you need to research what Joe Biden has done in his illustrous past including support from the other bunch that sues all the time ( the MPAA )
    remember its the BSA, RIAA, MPAA that are all in bed together”

    Over the past 8 years the white house has been run by the Vice President due to Bush being as dumb as a door nail. I very much expect the vice presedincy under Obama to be one of advicement not judgement. It’s been very clear to me throughout the US Campain that Obama really doesn’t like how the issue of copyright has been handeled in the past with regards to consumers. I strongly believe that a fair approach that includes the consumer on the policy of copyright is forthcomming. Biden is the Vice President, I would expect him to fill that more traditional role, rather then the role of Chainy in this white house. Obama has brains, Bush doesn’t. The leadership roles will be quite different in the Obama whitehouse, you can bank your money on that.

  6. really where did obama say he didn’t like the direction of hollywood? Where has he said he will lesson copyright lengths? that are INSANE in the usa 95+ years?
    Tell me how that benefits mankind?
    Tell me how the copyright they bring here and anti circumvention will benefit the poor? Tell me how, any of the lawsuits are going ot be stopped. MY god you would need an entire 4 year term to undo this crazy power. It is a fact, of the USA economic system that has led to this, watch the recession come and hollywood to try and keep cash flowing stiffen penalties and raise prices.

    YA that works 17$ pop and popcorn and YOU save a dollar 16$ WOW i feel like…..i have been stolen from.

  7. I would agree with you
    Most probably, you are right. Those kind of changes may not happen.