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Why “Taking On” Google and Facebook Isn’t the Cure for the Media Sector’s Ills

Canadian media organizations face difficult challenges in an age of virtually unlimited Internet competition, a dramatic shift toward digital advertising, and an unprecedented global economic and health crisis. That has led media groups to urge the federal government to “take on” Google and Facebook by requiring them to fund local media. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has thus far declined to do so. That may spark criticism in some quarters but claims that government-mandated payments from Internet companies will solve the sector’s ills are unconvincing.

My Financial Post op-ed notes that everyone agrees the media sector is more competitive than ever. News organizations such as the New York Times and Washington Post, digital media companies like The Athletic and The Logic, podcasters competing with mainstream media audio offerings and the CBC’s continued digital expansion all offer compelling and competitive news alternatives. This breadth of choice for Canadian news consumers isn’t the fault of Google or Facebook. It is a reflection of low barriers to market entry and a proliferation of services that often do a better job than many established media companies of serving specialized content.

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May 13, 2020 3 comments Columns
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The LawBytes Podcast, Episode 50: Ariel Katz on the Long-Awaited York University v. Access Copyright Ruling

The Federal Court of Appeal delivered its long-awaited copyright ruling in the York University v. Access Copyright case last month. This latest decision effectively confirms that educational institutions can opt-out of the Access Copyright licence since it is not mandatory and that any claims of infringement will be left to copyright owners to address, not Access Copyright. The decision is a big win for York University and the education community though they were not left completely happy with the outcome given the court’s fair dealing analysis.

The decision also represents a major validation for University of Toronto law professor Ariel Katz, whose research and publications, which made the convincing case that a ‘mandatory tariff’ lacks any basis in law”, was directly acknowledged by the court and played a huge role in its analysis. Professor Katz joins me on the podcast this week to talk about the case, the role of collective licensing in copyright law, and what might come next for a case that may force Access Copyright to rethink the value proposition of its licence.

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May 11, 2020 0 comments Podcasts
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After the Tech-Lash: Digital Policy Priorities in the Post-Pandemic World

In the months before the coronavirus outbreak, numerous governments around the world enthusiastically jumped on the “regulate tech” train. Digital tax proposals, content regulation requirements, national digital spending mandates, as well as new privacy and data governance rules were viewed by many as essential to respond to the increasing power and influence of digital giants such as Google, Facebook, Netflix, and Amazon.

My Globe and Mail op-ed notes the pandemic has not only sparked a massive shift in economic and health policy priorities, but it is also likely to reorient our views of the tech sector. Companies that only months ago were regarded as a threat are now integral to the delivery of medical equipment, critical to the continuing function of workplaces in a work-from-home world, and the platforms for online education for millions of students. Billions of people rely on the sector for entertainment, communication with friends and family, and as the gateway to health information.

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May 6, 2020 4 comments Columns
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The LawBytes Podcast, Episode 49: Lilian Edwards on the Legal, Ethical and Technology Debate over Coronavirus Contact Tracing Apps

As governments grapple with challenging questions about when and how to relax the current Coronavirus restrictions and give the green light to re-opening businesses, schools, and community spaces, there has been increasing emphasis on the potential for technology to assist with critical activities such as contact tracing. Canada has moved more cautiously on this issue, but the introduction of contact tracing apps seem likely. What will the apps look like and what legal framework is needed to safeguard a myriad of privacy and civil liberties concerns?

Lilian Edwards is a law professor at Newcastle University where she is the Professor of Law, Innovation and Society.  She has been leading a fascinating project that seeks to address the legal concerns that might arise from contact tracing apps with a model bill that could be used to establish safeguards and other legal limits. She joined me on the podcast to talk about the latest developments on contact tracing apps, the growing schism between countries, and the legal rules that could address some of the public concerns.

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May 4, 2020 3 comments Podcasts
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The LawBytes Podcast, Episode 48: Sam Trosow and Lisa Macklem on Copyright and Fair Dealing During a Pandemic

Fair dealing – the Canadian version of fair use – has been recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada as a users’ right. The need for a large and liberal interpretation to the right is a cornerstone of Canadian copyright law. With millions of Canadian students at home due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the importance of fair dealing has grown as teachers seek to provide access to teaching materials and ensure they remain compliant with the law. Sam Trosow and Lisa Macklem of Western University recently published a detailed analysis on fair dealing and emergency remote teaching in Canada. They joined me on the podcast to discuss fair dealing, its application during the current pandemic, and recent developments involving reading aloud programs as well as the Federal Court of Appeal decision in York University v. Access Copyright.

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April 27, 2020 2 comments Podcasts