The past year has been an incredibly active one for Canadian digital law and policy with important Supreme Court cases, legislative proposals, committee reports, expert panels, and political promises to reform existing laws and regulation. For this final Lawbytes podcast of 2019, I go solo without a guest to talk about the most significant trends and developments in Canadian digital policy from the past year and think a bit about what may lie ahead next year. I focus on five issues: the “euro-fication” of Canadian digital policy, the debate over the competitiveness of the Canadian wireless market, the many calls for privacy law reform, the future of Canadian copyright reform, and the review of Canadian broadcast and telecom law.
Site blocking has been on the policy and regulatory radar screen for several years in Canada, starting with the Bell-led Fairplay proposal to the CRTC and demands for site blocking as part of the copyright review. With both the CRTC and elected officials rejecting site blocking proposals, rights holders have turned to the courts. Last month, a Federal Court of Canada judge issued a major website blocking decision granting a request from Bell, Rogers, and Groupe TVA to block access to a series of GoldTV streaming websites.
The case is an important one, representing the first extensive website blocking order in Canada. I’ve argued that it is also deeply flawed from both a policy and legal perspective, substituting the views of one judge over Parliament’s judgment and relying on a foreign copyright case that was rendered under markedly different legal rules than those found in Canada. Allen Mendelsohn, a Montreal based Internet lawyer and sessional lecturer at McGill University joins the podcast this week to help sort through the issues.
The dot-org domain extension was established as one of the first top-level domains in 1985 alongside dot-com, dot-net and a handful of others. In 2002, administration over the domain was awarded to the Public Interest Registry (PIR), a non-profit established by the Internet Society (ISOC), to run the extension. PIR recently announced that it was being purchased by Ethos Capital, a private equity firm that includes a former CEO of ICANN among its founders. With a rumoured purchase price of over $1 billion dollars, there is big money for ISOC but the deal has left the non-profit community worried about potential price increases and policy changes to the domain that could impact online speech. Elliot Harmon, Activism Director with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, recently wrote about the issue and has been working on a campaign with NGOs around the world opposed to the deal. He joined on the podcast to discuss the background behind dot-org, the concerns with the sale, and what can be done about it.
Episode 33: “Canadian Patenting is Not Going to Drive Anything” – Aidan Hollis on New Research on Patents and Innovation
One of Canada’s longstanding digital and economic policy concerns has involved innovation, with fears that the Canadian economy is failing to keep pace with other, more innovative economies. Some point to intellectual property as a critical part of policy equation, arguing that stronger IP laws would help incentivize greater innovation. Economists Nancy Gallini and Aidan Hollis recently released an interesting report for the Institute for Research on Public Policy examining the role of patents and patent policy in Canadian innovators’ decisions to sell their IP rather than continue to develop it in Canada, and the incentives driving this decision. Professor Hollis joins the podcast this week to discuss the report, its link to innovation policy, and what the government could consider to address ongoing concerns.
Episode 32: Reflections from the Open Source Member of Parliament – A Conversation with Ex-MP David Graham
David Graham was not your typical Member of Parliament. A Liberal MP from the Quebec riding of Laurentides-Labelle, Graham brought a background in open source issues to Parliament Hill. Over his four years as an MP, Graham was seemingly everywhere when it came to digital policy. Whether in the House of Commons talking net neutrality, the Industry committee copyright review or the Ethics committee work on privacy, Graham emerged as the rare MP equally at home in the technology and policy worlds. Graham’s bid for re-election fell short, but this week he joins the Lawbytes podcast to reflect on his experience in Ottawa with thoughts on copyright, privacy, technology policy, and the use of digital tools for advocacy purposes.