The Canadian government released its COVID Alert, its COVID-19 exposure notification app, earlier this month starting first with a roll-out in Ontario. I’ve written how I’ve made the decision to install it, noting that the voluntary app does not collect personal information nor provide the government (or anyone else) with location information. The app underwent two privacy reviews, engaging both the federal privacy commissioner and the Ontario information and privacy commissioner.
Patricia Kosseim, the newly appointed Ontario privacy commissioner, had only been on the job for a few hours before she was dealing with the app that was bound to attract public attention. Commissioner Kosseim joins me on the podcast to discuss the app, her review, the interaction between different governments and commissioners, and why she installed the app the day it was released.
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The Creative Commons Global Summit was held in Toronto over the weekend, bringing hundreds of people together from around the world to discuss issues ranging from copyright reform to enhancing collaboration and sharing. As part of the opening of the event, David Lametti, the Parliamentary Secretary for the Innovation, Science and Economic Development, and Deb Matthews, the Ontario Minister for Advanced Education and Skills Development as well as the Minister for Digital Government, both provided words of welcome. Their presence demonstrated how far openness, access, and balanced copyright have come in recent years. Lametti, a leading voice on copyright as McGill law professor, emphasized the important role of balance and flexibility in the copyright system, while Matthews provided a unequivocal endorsement of openness and access.
Matthews provided more than just encouraging words, however. She used her opening remarks to promote the creation of a new Open Textbook Library for Ontario that will feature hundreds of openly licensed, professionally created textbooks providing students with access to free digital texts in dozens of university and college courses.
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The prospect of a “Netflix tax” will be back in the spotlight this week as Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission chair Jean-Pierre Blais unveils the CRTC’s latest round of rulings stemming from its review of broadcast policy. While it is unlikely that the commission will impose a new fee on Netflix subscribers to support the creation of Canadian content, it will not be for lack of lobbying on the issue.
Despite the fact that a Netflix tax would yield less than one per cent of the annual expenditures on Canadian television financing (about $15 million dollars in support for a sector that spent $2.3 billion last year), most content groups called for mandatory Canadian content contribution funding from online video providers during the CRTC’s TalkTV hearings. My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that amidst the clamour for new funding, there was one voice that attracted the most attention – the Government of Ontario.
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As CRTC Chair Jean-Pierre Blais anticipated, the Government of Ontario’s call for regulation of online video services attracted considerable attention, including comments from Canadian Heritage Minister Shelly Glover roundly dismissing the possibility. Glover stated:
“We will not allow any moves to impose new regulations and taxes on internet video that would create a Netflix and Youtube Tax.”
Last night, I received an email from a spokesperson for Ontario Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport Michael Coteau that tried to soften the call for online video regulation. The spokesperson stated:
“The presentation today provided important elements for CRTC consideration as it undertakes its review. The government is not advocating for any CanCon changes, or that any specific regulations be imposed on new media TV, until more evidence is available.”
I asked for clarification on what “more evidence” means. The spokesperson responded that there will be over 100 presentations at the CRTC hearing and that all need to be heard from before moving forward.
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The Government of Ontario’s Ministry of Education has issued a policy memorandum to all provincial elementary and secondary schools regarding the use of copyright-protected works for education. The government’s approach, which takes effect immediately, represents a strong endorsement of users’ rights, citing not only fair dealing but over a dozen additional educational exceptions that are now part of Canadian copyright law.
The government adopts fair dealing guidelines developed by the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, which largely covers the same copying permitted under an Access Copyright licence. The guidelines, which permit copying of up to 10 percent of a work, a single article, or a chapter from a book, state:
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