Archive for November, 2012

Why Liability Is Limited: A Primer on New Copyright Damages as File Sharing Lawsuits Head To Canada

Over the past couple of days, there have been multiple reports about the return of file sharing lawsuits to Canada, with fears that thousands of Canadians could be targeted. While it is possible that many will receive demand letters, it is important to note that recent changes to Canadian copyright law limit liability in non-commercial cases to a maximum of $5,000 for all infringement claims. In fact, it is likely that a court would award far less – perhaps as little as $100 – if the case went to court as even the government’s FAQ on the recent copyright reform bill provided assurances that Canadians “will not face disproportionate penalties for minor infringements of copyright by distinguishing between commercial and non-commercial infringement.”

Bill C-11, the recently enacted copyright reform bill, featured several very good provisions including an expansion of fair dealing, a user generated content provision, new consumer protections, and a balanced approach to Internet provider liability. One of the most important changes to the law, however, was the creation of a cap on potential damages for non-commercial infringement. As I highlighted during debates on the bill, Canada is among a minority of countries that have any statutory damages at all for copyright infringement as most developed countries require rights holders to prove actual damages.

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November 28, 2012 94 comments News

UN Internet Meeting About Who Pays, Not Who Rules

Should the Internet be treated like traditional phone services when it comes to regulation and pricing? That is the contentious question as the International Telecommunications Union, a United Nations agency with roots dating back to 1865 and the interconnection of telegraph services, meets in Dubai next week for the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT).  The WCIT is a treaty-writing event that has attracted growing attention given fears that the ITU and countries such as Russia plan to use it to press for greater control over the Internet.

My weekly technology column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that there are certainly legitimate reasons for WCIT suspicion since the ITU lacks transparency and largely excludes public participation. For months, the ITU proposals scheduled for debate (known as International Telecommunications Regulations or ITRs) were shrouded in secrecy and the organization itself offered only limited opportunity for public participation. Moreover, some countries view the WCIT as an opportunity to increase their leverage over the Internet by proposing regulations that would increase governmental controls.

While these issues are cause for concern, proposals aimed at seizing control of Internet governance are unlikely to succeed and the reality is that governments already flex their regulatory muscles within the current U.S.-backed Internet governance framework.

The focus on a UN takeover of the Internet has obscured the real concern with the WCIT, namely efforts by telecom companies to find new sources of revenue by changing the way we pay for the Internet.

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November 27, 2012 10 comments Columns

UN Internet Meeting About Who Pays, Not Who Rules

Appeared in the Toronto Star on November 27, 2012 as UN Internet Meeting About Who Pays, Not Who Rules Should the Internet be treated like traditional phone services when it comes to regulation and pricing? That is the contentious question as the International Telecommunications Union, a United Nations agency with […]

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November 27, 2012 Comments are Disabled Columns Archive

The CETA Leak: Major Outstanding Issues Remain in an Unbalanced Deal

As International Trade Minister Ed Fast returns from negotiations in Europe that failed to secure a deal on the Canada – EU Trade Agreement, newly leaked documents to the CAQ and posted by LaPresse provide a detailed look at the remaining outstanding issues with details on the Canadian and European positions. The documents (1, 2, 3, 4) make it clear that the EU recognizes the deal is unbalanced as there are far more demands for Canadian changes than European ones. The EU retains the hope that Canada will cave on the EU demands since “the EU market to which it gains preferential access is much larger than its own.”

This ranks as perhaps the most important CETA leak to date, since it clearly identifies the key remaining issues, the European demands, and the massive changes that would be required for Canada to comply with the treaty.  Some of the changes demanded by Europe include patent reform that could add billions to Canadian health care costs, the removal of foreign ownership restrictions on telecommunications and book publishing, the opening of public procurement for the energy and public transport sectors, eliminating Investment Canada Act review for European investments, new restrictions on the sale of a myriad of products such as feta and parmesan cheese, changes to agricultural protections (ie. supply management), and the adoption of European standards on passenger cars. This would require dramatic changes across the Canadian economy, all for what even the Europeans acknowledge are limited gains for Canada.

Given what is at stake, there needs to be an open debate and consultation before an agreement is reached (which is no longer a certainty) and Canada should be considering whether a scaled down version of CETA – one that focuses primarily on a reduction of tariffs for trade in goods – is a better model. A closer look at the some of the remaining issues is posted below.

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November 26, 2012 9 comments News

No Deal (Yet) on Canada – EU Trade Agreement

Canada’s International Trade Minister Ed Fast traveled to Brussels this week hoping to secure a deal on the Canada – EU Trade Agreement. It looks like he’ll be coming home empty handed as the EU has issued a release indicating that there are still gaps on key issues. The EU’s […]

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November 23, 2012 1 comment News