The government’s consultation on copyright and generative AI closed last week. The submissions are not yet public, but I am pleased to post my submission, which focused on an exception for text and data mining, the inclusion of copyrighted works in large language models, and the copyright implications of outputs from generative AI systems. My submission noted that the consultation raises several questions related to generative AI and copyright. I focused on three:
(1) Should Canada proceed with a text and data mining exception as recommended in the 2019 Copyright Act review?
(2) Should Canada introduce legislative reforms to address the use of copyright works in large language models (LLMs) that are central to the development of generative AI technologies?
(3) Should Canada introduce legislative reforms to address copyright-related questions arising from the outputs of generative AI systems?
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Bill S-210 – the Protecting Young Persons from Exposure to Pornography Act – burst onto the public scene late last year as a majority of the House voted for the bill at second reading, sending it to the Public Safety committee for review. The bill, which is the brainchild of Senator Julie Miville-Dechêne, was supported by the Conservatives, Bloc and NDP with a smattering of votes from backbench Liberal MPs (the cabinet voted against, signalling it is not supported by the government). The bill raises significant concerns with the prospect of government-backed censorship, mandated age verification to use search engines or social media, and a framework for court-ordered website blocking (I appeared before the Senate committee that studied by the bill in February 2022, arguing that “by bringing together website blocking, face recognition technologies, and stunning overbreadth that would capture numerous mainstream services, the bill isn’t just a slippery slope, it is an avalanche.”).
In response to the public criticism of the bill, Senator Julie Miville-Dechêne has suggested that concerns about it extending to general purpose social media sites is overstated since the intent is to target adult content sites. Yet that is not what the bill provides as it applies to anyone who makes sexually explicit material available on the Internet for commercial purposes:
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My look back at 2023 concludes with a review of my most popular Substacks of the year. Given the overlap between blog posts and Substacks, there is unsurprisingly overlap between the most popular posts with the piece on Bill S-210 occupying the top spot on both charts. However, there are differences, with posts on the CBC and my appearance before the CRTC that focused on competition and consumer choice making their way into the Substack top ten.
1. The Most Dangerous Canadian Internet Bill You’ve Never Heard Of Is a Step Closer to Becoming Law
2. Caving on Bill C-18: Government Outlines Planned Regulations that Signal Willingness to Cast Aside Core Principles of the Online News Act
3. Bill C-18 and the CBC’s Self-Destructive Approach to Government Digital Policy
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Last week’s Law Bytes podcast features a look at the year in review along with some guesses at what lies ahead. Before wrapping up for the year, the next three posts will highlight the most popular posts, podcast episodes, and Substacks of the past year. Today’s post starts with the top posts, which starts with a recent look at Bill S-210 and potential age verification and site blocking on the Internet. With the exception of an examination of Bill C-27’s AI regulations, the remaining posts all involve online news and Bill C-18.
1. The Most Dangerous Canadian Internet Bill You’ve Never Heard Of Is a Step Closer to Becoming Law, December 14, 2023
2. The Lose-Lose-Lose-Lose Bill C-18 Outcome: Meta Blocking News Links on Facebook and Instagram in Canada, August 2, 2023
3. What the CRTC’s New Registration Requirements Mean for Regulating Everything from Online News Services to Podcast Providers, October 2, 2023
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The government this morning released the final Online News Act regulations, effectively gutting the law in order to convince Google to refrain from blocking news links in Canada and to fix some of the legislative mistakes that have been apparent from the start. While proponents of the law will point to the $100 million contribution from Google as evidence of success, privately most in the industry and government acknowledge the obvious: Bill C-18 was deeply flawed and a massive miscalculation that has created far more harm than good. Canadian Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge seemingly agrees as she was willing to make changes that were derided by the government throughout the legislative process. Indeed, by the time St-Onge took over the file that was a challenging salvage job, Meta’s $20 million in news deals were lost and blocked news links on Facebook and Instagram was a reality. The prospect of the same happening with Google was too much for the industry and the government since the lost deals would have been at least double that amount (many believe in the $40-50 million range) and lost news links in search would have been catastrophic.
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