Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault seems set to table another bill that would establish Internet content regulations, including requirements for Internet platforms to proactively remove many different forms of content, some illegal and others harmful or possibly even “hurtful.” Few would argue with the proposition that some regulation is needed, but venturing into government regulated takedown requirements of otherwise legal content raises complex questions about how to strike the balance between safeguarding Canadians from online harms and protecting freedom of expression.
Vivek Krishnamurthy, is a colleague at the University of Ottawa, where he is the Samuelson-Gluschko Professor of Law and serves as the director of CIPPIC, the Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic. He joins the Law Bytes podcast to talk about the complexities of Internet content regulation and the risks that overbroad rules could stifle expression online and provide a dangerous model for countries less concerned with online civil liberties.
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Facial recognition technologies seem likely to become an increasingly commonplace part of travel with scans for boarding passes, security clearance, customs review, and baggage pickup just some of the spots where your face could become the source of screening. Tamir Israel, staff lawyer at CIPPIC, the Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the University of Ottawa, recently completed a major study on the use of facial recognition technologies at the border. He joins me on the LawBytes podcast to discuss the current use of the technologies, how they are likely to become even more ubiquitous in the future, and the state of Canadian law to ensure appropriate safeguards and privacy protections.
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The Federal Court of Canada has strongly rejected an attempt by Voltage Pictures, one of Canada’s most litigious copyright companies, to use a reverse class action lawsuit approach to sue potentially thousands of Canadians. The court ruled that Voltage met none of the requirements for class action certification and in the process confirmed doubts that merely pointing to an IP address is sufficient grounds for a copyright infringement claim. The Voltage strategy was launched in 2016 as it sought certification of the class, a declaration that each member of the class had infringed its copyright, an injunction stopping further infringement, damages, and costs of the legal proceedings (the issues were discussed in this Lawbytes podcast episode with James Plotkin).
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The Supreme Court of Canada heard arguments yesterday in the copyright case of CBC v. SODRAC. While the case was ultimately about whether CBC should be required to pay royalties for incidental copies necessary to use new broadcast technologies, at stake was something far bigger: the future of technological neutrality under Canadian copyright law.
CBC argued that technological neutrality means that it should not pay for incidental copies since it already pays for the use of music in broadcasts. The incidental copies – copies which are made to create the final broadcast version of a program (including copies from the master to a content management system or other internal copies to facilitate the broadcast) – do not generate revenue and are simply made to facilitate use of the music that is paid for through a licence. SODRAC, a Quebec-based copyright collective, countered that CBC had always paid for these copies and that the CBC argument was the reverse of technological neutrality, since it wanted to avoid payment in the digital world for copies that were being paid for with earlier, analog technologies.
The case emerged as an important one when the question of the meaning of technological neutrality took centre stage. That elicited interveners such as Music Canada, which argued for a narrow interpretation of the principle, claiming that it was just an “interpretative metaphor” (similar arguments about users’ rights being no more than a metaphor were rejected by the Supreme Court in 2012). The danger in the case from a technological neutrality perspective is that the Supreme Court could roll back its finding that technological neutrality is a foundational principle within the law. Moreover, if the court were to rule that all copies – no matter how incidental – are copies for the purposes of the Copyright Act, there would be the very real possibility of payment demands for the myriad of copies that occur through modern technologies.
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Last week, I posted
on the significance of the Supreme Court of Canada’s five copyright decisions with an emphasis on the shift from fair dealing to fair use. This week, I have several additional posts planned including one on the implications for Access Copyright as well as a broader examination of how the court has elevated users’ rights within Canadian copyright law. This post focuses on the second major development in the cases: the articulation of technological neutrality as a foundational principle of Canadian copyright. The technological neutrality principle could have an enormous long-term impact on Canadian copyright, posing a threat to some copyright collective tariff proposals and to the newly enacted digital lock rules.
The technological neutrality principle is discussed in several cases, but gets its most important airing in the Entertainment Software Association of Canada v. SOCAN decision. The majority of the court states:
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