With the latest phase of Canadian copyright reform now complete, the government may soon turn to the question of what comes next. Given last year’s major legislative overhaul and the landmark series of copyright decisions from the Supreme Court of Canada, significant substantive changes are unlikely to be on the agenda for the foreseeable future.
Instead, my weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) argues that it is time for the government to set its sights on the Copyright Board of Canada, a relatively obscure regulatory body that sets the fees to be paid for the use of copyright works. The Board is largely unknown in public circles, but it has played a pivotal role in establishing the costs associated with private copying (including a one-time iPod levy), educational copying, and the use of music by Canadian broadcasters.
The litany of complaints about the Board has mounted in recent years: the public rarely participates in its activities due to high costs, it moves painfully slowly by only issuing a handful of decisions each year, and its rules encourage copyright collectives and users to establish extreme positions that make market-driven settlements more difficult.
Moreover, over the past ten months, the Supreme Court has ruled that its approach to fair dealing was unreasonable, the Board itself admitted to palpable error in a decision that resulted in a hugely inflated tariff, and it has ignored the will of Parliament in reshaping Canadian copyright law. The Board may keep a steady stream of lawyers and economists busy, but it is time to acknowledge that it is broken.
Read more ›
Appeared in the Toronto Star on May 18, 2013 as It’s Time to Admit the Copyright Board is Broken With the latest phase of Canadian copyright reform now complete, the government may soon turn to the question of what comes next. Given last year’s major legislative overhaul and the landmark […]
Read more ›
The examination of the proposed Bell acquisition of Astral Communications took place last week in Montreal with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission hearing from a wide range of supporters and opponents of a deal that only last year was rejected as contrary to the public interest.
As Bell and Astral sought to defend their plan, a familiar enemy emerged – Netflix. What does a U.S.-based Internet video service with roughly two million Canadian subscribers have to do with a mega-merger of Bell and Astral?
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that for the past few years, it has become standard operating procedure at CRTC hearings to ominously point to the Netflix threat. When Internet providers tried to defend usage based billing practices that led to expensive bills and some of the world’s most restrictive data caps, they pointed to the bandwidth threat posed by Netflix. When cultural groups sought to overturn years of CRTC policy that takes a hands-off approach to Internet regulation, they argued that Netflix was a threat that needed to be addressed. So when Bell and Astral seek to merge, they naturally raise the need to respond to Netflix.
Read more ›
Appeared in the Toronto Star on May 11, 2013 as Bell and Astral Merger: Netflix Isn’t the Enemy The examination of the proposed Bell acquisition of Astral Communications took place last week in Montreal with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission hearing from a wide range of supporters and opponents […]
Read more ›
Last month, the University of Ottawa Press published The Copyright Pentalogy: How the Supreme Court of Canada Shook the Foundations of Canadian Copyright Law, an effort by many of Canada’s leading copyright scholars to begin the process of examining the long-term implications of the copyright pentalogy. As I’ve noted in previous posts, the book is available for purchase and is also available as a free download under a Creative Commons licence. The book can be downloaded in its entirety or each of the 14 chapters can be downloaded individually.
The book includes two articles on technological neutrality, whose inclusion as a foundational principle of Canadian copyright was a landmark aspect of the copyright pentalogy. The message from the Court is clear: copyright law should not stand in the way of technological progress and potentially impede the opportunities for greater access afforded by the Internet through the imposition of additional fees or restrictive rules that create extra user costs. Viewed in this light, technological neutrality as a principle within Canadian copyright may have the same dramatic effects on the law as the articulation of users’ rights did in 2004.
Read more ›