Last week I wrote about a federal court ruling that opened the door to copyright website blocking in Canada without Parliament establishing site blocking rules or the involvement of the CRTC. The decision is 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. I concluded by noting that the case should be appealed and just over a week later, TekSavvy, the independent ISP that stood alone in contesting the blocking order, did just that. Even as the appeal was launched, however, the major Canadian ISPs began blocking access to the specific webpages identified in the court order.
Telecom by yum9me (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/53jSy4
Federal Court Short-Circuits Voltage Pictures’ Canadian File Sharing Class Action Copyright Lawsuit Strategy
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).
Wireless Worsens: Report Finds Canadian Wireless Pricing Now Less Competitive Compared to Other Developed Economies
The cost of wireless services emerged as a political issue during the recent national election, with most parties taking turns promising measures to increase competitiveness and lower consumer costs. The Liberals based their platform on a commitment to reduce costs by 25 per cent over the next two years, a measure that some analysts suggested had already been met. I argued that the 25 per cent reduction target was measuring the wrong thing, noting that “the 25 per cent price decline may sound attractive, but if other countries experience declines of 30 per cent or 40 per cent, it means that Canadians would actually be paying even more relative to consumers elsewhere.”
In the closing months of the last Liberal majority government mandate, I spoke to a government official about the lessons learned from the prior four years. Their response? If we knew then what we know now, we would have moved much faster on policy. The four years moves very quickly and if you don’t manage to lay the groundwork and introduce proposed legislation within the first 12 – 24 months, it becomes very difficult to enact given competing policy priorities, demands on committee time, Senate review, and a myriad of other challenges.
As I think about what comes next for Canadian digital policy under the new Liberal minority government, those words strike me as more relevant than ever. Even if the government runs more like a majority than a minority (which certainly seems likely on digital policy as no one is forcing an election over privacy or wireless pricing), the same ministers return to their portfolios (which may or may not happen) and the same committee structures return largely unchanged (which will not happen since that INDU chair Dan Ruimy was not re-elected), picking up where the government left off in June will not be easy. Further, the Liberal platform provides the roadmap for future reforms, but moving rapidly on these issues – particularly given expectations that a minority government’s mandate may run shorter than a majority – suggests that quick wins will be preferred to extensive legislative reform.
So what are likely next steps on digital policy?
The LawBytes Podcast, Episode 27: Digital Policy and Election 2019 – Laura Tribe of OpenMedia on Where the Parties Stand
Digital issues were expected to garner attention in the 2019 Canadian federal election campaign. Over the course of the past few weeks, all the main political parties have had something to say about the high cost of cellphone prices in Canada and the prospect of implementing new taxes on tech companies. Laura Tribe, the Executive Director of OpenMedia, joined the podcast to talk about election 2019 and digital policies in a conversation that focused on wireless services and Internet taxes as well as privacy, intermediary liability, trade, and copyright.