Canada’s communications regulator last week reversed decades of policy by recommending that the government implement new regulation and taxation for internet services in order to support the creation of Canadian content. The report on the future of program distribution, which will surely influence the newly established government panel reviewing Canada’s telecommunications and broadcasting laws, envisions new fees attached to virtually anything related to the internet: internet service providers, internet video services, and internet audio services (wherever located) to name a few.
My Globe and Mail op-ed notes with the remarkable popularity of services such as Netflix and YouTube, there is a widely held view that the internet has largely replaced the conventional broadcast system. Industry data suggests the business of broadcasters and broadcast distributors such as cable and satellite companies won’t end anytime soon, but it is undeniable that a growing number of Canadians access broadcast content through the internet.
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Copyright reform has long been viewed as one of the more contentious policy issues on the Canadian agenda, pitting creators, education groups, innovative companies, and a growing number of individuals against one another in processes that run for years and leave no one fully satisfied. Indeed, my Hill Times op-ed notes the copyright review currently underway before the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology promises to run for months with MPs hearing from a broad range of stakeholders presenting perspectives that will be difficult to reconcile.
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Navdeep Bains, Canada’s Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister, unveiled the government’s long-awaited intellectual property strategy Thursday by responding to the need to increase IP awareness, develop new IP tools for businesses, and counter IP misuse that harms both consumers and businesses. The plan to introduce new legislative rules to discourage misuse of intellectual property is particularly noteworthy since the rules should help foster a more progressive, balanced, and innovative legal framework.
My Globe and Mail op-ed notes that with proposed reforms to all of Canada’s main IP statutes, the government is taking the lead in combating the dark side of intellectual property protection. Since abuse of intellectual property rights may inhibit companies from innovating or discourage Canadians from taking advantage of the digital market, crafting rules that address misuse can be as important as providing effective protection.
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As elected officials place Internet giants such as Google and Facebook under an increasingly intense microscope, the pressure mounts on those companies to play more proactive roles in policing content on their networks. In recent weeks, the demands have come from seemingly every direction: privacy commissioners seeking rules on the removal of search results, politicians calling for increased efforts to address fake news on Internet platforms, and Internet users wondering why the companies are slow to takedown allegedly defamatory or harmful postings.
My Globe and Mail op-ed notes Internet companies can undoubtedly do more, but laying the responsibility primarily at their feet poses its own risks as governments and regulators effectively cede responsibility for content moderation and policing to private, for-profit companies. In doing so, there is a real chance that the Internet giants will become even more powerful, limiting future competition and entrenching an uncomfortable reliance on private organizations for activities that are traditionally conducted by courts and regulators.
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