Bell Media president Mary Ann Turcke sparked an uproar last week when she told a telecom conference that Canadians who use virtual private networks (VPNs) to access the U.S. version of Netflix are stealing. Turcke is not the first Canadian broadcast executive to raise the issue – her predecessor Kevin Crull and Rogers executive David Purdy expressed similar frustration with VPN use earlier this year – but her characterization of paying customers as thieves was bound to garner attention.
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) argues that Turcke’s comments provide evidence of the mounting frustration among Canadian broadcasters over Netflix’s remarkable popularity in Canada. Netflix launched in Canada less than five years ago, yet reports indicate that it now counts 40 per cent of English-speaking Canadians as subscribers. By contrast, Bell started its Mobile TV service within weeks of the Netflix launch, but today has less than half the number of subscribers.
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Appeared in the Toronto Star on June 6, 2015 as Sorry Bell, Accessing U.S. Netflix Is Not Theft Bell Media president Mary Ann Turcke sparked an uproar last week when she told a telecom conference that Canadians who use virtual private networks (VPNs) to access the U.S. version of Netflix […]
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The government’s decision to extend the term of copyright for sound recordings to 70 years appears set to pass through the Standing Committee on Finance with practically no debate or analysis. The committee will conduct its clause-by-clause review later today and there is no reason to believe that any changes will be made to the copyright provisions. The committee has conducted extremely limited hearings with only one witness invited to discuss the copyright extension: Graham Henderson, the President of Music Canada (formerly the Canadian Recording Industry Association).
Given the previously released personal letter from Prime Minister Stephen Harper to Henderson on the day of the budget confirming the copyright extension, along with the extensive lobbying on the issue by his organization, it comes as little surprise to find that Henderson was the sole witness invited to appear on the issue as the entire policy change has been driven by record industry lobbying. Yet as Henderson invoked Paul Anka – an accomplished songwriter who undoubtedly generates more revenue from his works that will remain under copyright for many more decades than from sound recordings – the committee heard only press release style comments on the benefits of the change with background documents that cited no specific studies nor hard data about the impact of the reforms.
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Today is “Cellphone Freedom Day”, the day that most Canadian consumers can say goodbye to three year cellphone contracts. With the Federal Court of Appeal recently rejecting an attempt by the major carriers to stop the retroactive applicability of wireless code as of June 3rd (the two year anniversary of the code), consumers with cellphones that have run for more than 24 months can now cancel their contracts without penalty. That includes consumers with three years contracts that still have time left on their contract. As the CCTS notes:
three-year contracts which have run for more than 24 months can be cancelled without payment of cancellation fees, as the Code requires such fees to be reduced to zero within 24 months. Cancellation of three-year contracts in which the customer received a device subsidy but which have not yet run for 24 months (those entered into between June 3 and December 2, 2013) may still require payment of a cancellation fee.
Since the wireless companies switched to two-year contracts soon after the CRTC’s wireless code decision, there will be relatively few consumers with three year contracts that have not run for 24 months and those will hit the two-year mark within the next few weeks or months.
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Canada’s business community has mobilized in recent weeks to call on the government to adopt a more aggressive, engaged approach with respect to the biggest trade negotiations on the planet – the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement. The TPP involves 12 countries including the United States, Australia, Mexico, Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand, Vietnam, Brunei, Japan, Peru, and Chile.
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that negotiators insist that progress is being made, but some in the business community are concerned that Canada may be left out of the deal unless it makes significant concessions on market access (including the dismantling of supply management in several agricultural sectors), restrictive intellectual property protections, and investor-state dispute settlement rules that allow companies to sue governments and potentially trump national courts.
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