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Differential Privacy is Vulnerable to Correlated Data — Introducing Dependent Differential Privacy

Freedom to Tinker - Fri, 2016/08/26 - 09:57
[This post is joint work with Princeton graduate student Changchang Liu and IBM researcher Supriyo Chakraborty. See our paper for full details. — Prateek Mittal ] The tussle between data utility and data privacy Information sharing is important for realizing the vision of a data-driven customization of our environment. Data that were earlier locked up […]

Language necessarily contains human biases, and so will machines trained on language corpora

Freedom to Tinker - Wed, 2016/08/24 - 16:32
I have a new draft paper with Aylin Caliskan-Islam and Joanna Bryson titled Semantics derived automatically from language corpora necessarily contain human biases. We show empirically that natural language necessarily contains human biases, and the paradigm of training machine learning on language corpora means that AI will inevitably imbibe these biases as well. Specifically, we look at […]

Security against Election Hacking – Part 2: Cyberoffense is not the best cyberdefense!

Freedom to Tinker - Thu, 2016/08/18 - 09:00
State and county election officials across the country employ thousands of computers in election administration, most of them are connected (from time to time) to the internet (or exchange data cartridges with machines that are connected).  In my previous post I explained how we must audit elections independently of the computers, so we can trust the […]

Security against Election Hacking – Part 1: Software Independence

Freedom to Tinker - Wed, 2016/08/17 - 09:27
There’s been a lot of discussion of whether the November 2016 U.S. election can be hacked.  Should the U.S. Government designate all the states’ and counties’ election computers as “critical cyber infrastructure” and prioritize the “cyberdefense” of these systems?  Will it make any difference to activate those buzzwords with less than 3 months until the […]

Canada’s Innovation Strategy Must Stop Tech Trolls

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Tue, 2016/08/16 - 10:07

Developing a national innovation strategy has been a top priority of Navdeep Bains, Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. Bains has created an expert panel, held meetings across the country, and launched a public consultation in the hope of identifying policies that might enhance Canada’s lacklustre innovation record.

While some have used the consultation to call for expanded intellectual property rules, the reality is that Canada already meets or exceeds international standards. The more pressing innovation issue is to address the abuse of intellectual property rights that may inhibit companies from innovating or discourage Canadians from taking advantage of the digital market.

My technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes the benefits of an anti-IP abuse law could be used to touch on the three main branches on intellectual property: patents, trademarks, and copyright.

Leading technology companies have issued repeated warnings about patent trolling, which refers to instances when companies that had no involvement in the development of a patent seek payments from legitimate companies by relying on dubious patents. Patent trolls have a negative impact on economic growth and innovation with millions spent on unnecessary litigation.

Groups have urged the Canadian government to enact reforms to “limit the ability of non-practicing entities [a euphemism for patent trolls] of exploiting patents to make unreasonable demands of productive companies and prevent crippling damage awards.”

There is no shortage of policy possibilities, including a prohibition against legal demands that are intentionally ambiguous or designed to induce a settlement without considering the merits of the claim. Other reforms could include requiring public disclosure of the demand letters, reforming the Competition Act to give the Competition Bureau the power to target anti-competitive activity by patent trolls, and giving courts the power to issue injunctions to stop patent trolls from forum shopping.

Canadian trademark rules would also benefit from anti-abuse provisions. In 2014, the government quietly overhauled the law by removing longstanding “use” requirements for trademark protection. Legal decisions dating back decades emphasized the importance of use in order to properly register a trademark, since trademark law is primarily designed to protect consumers from marketplace confusion. Without use, there is unlikely to be confusion.

The 2014 reforms dropped the strict requirement for use in a trademark, however, creating considerable concern within the legal community. Canada may see a spike in “trademark trolls”, who could register unused trademarks with plans to pressure legitimate companies to pay up in order to release the trademarks for actual use. Anti-trademark troll rules would block efforts to register unused trademarks for the purposes of re-selling them to businesses seeking to innovate and use them.

Copyright law would also benefit from anti-troll safeguards. Canada’s 2012 digital copyright reforms featured an innovative “notice-and-notice” system designed to balance the interests of copyright holders, the legal obligations of Internet service providers (ISPs), and the privacy rights of Internet users. The law allows copyright owners to send infringement notices to ISPs, who must forward the notifications to their subscribers.

Despite the promise of the notice-and-notice system, it has been misused since it took effect with copyright owners exploiting a loophole in the law by sending settlement demands within the notices.

The fix is easy: implement anti-copyright troll regulations that ban the inclusion of settlement demands within the notices and create penalties for those companies that send notices with false or misleading information.

Intellectual property and innovation are often linked in policy discussions, but the abuse of IP rules has garnered less attention. As Bains considers potential policy reforms, a world-leading anti-IP abuse law would send a much-needed message that Canadian law will not support misuse of intellectual property rights.

The post Canada’s Innovation Strategy Must Stop Tech Trolls appeared first on Michael Geist.

Ottawa Needs to Combat Abuse of Intellectual Property Rights

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Tue, 2016/08/16 - 09:58

Appeared in the Toronto Star on August 15, 2016 as Ottawa Needs to Combat Abuse of Intellectual Property Rights

Developing a national innovation strategy has been a top priority of Navdeep Bains, Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. Bains has created an expert panel, held meetings across the country, and launched a public consultation in the hope of identifying policies that might enhance Canada’s lacklustre innovation record.

While some have used the consultation to call for expanded intellectual property rules, the reality is that Canada already meets or exceeds international standards. The more pressing innovation issue is to address the abuse of intellectual property rights that may inhibit companies from innovating or discourage Canadians from taking advantage of the digital market.

The benefits of an anti-IP abuse law could be used to touch on the three main branches on intellectual property: patents, trademarks, and copyright.

Leading technology companies have issued repeated warnings about patent trolling, which refers to instances when companies that had no involvement in the development of a patent seek payments from legitimate companies by relying on dubious patents. Patent trolls have a negative impact on economic growth and innovation with millions spent on unnecessary litigation.

Groups have urged the Canadian government to enact reforms to “limit the ability of non-practicing entities [a euphemism for patent trolls] of exploiting patents to make unreasonable demands of productive companies and prevent crippling damage awards.”

There is no shortage of policy possibilities, including a prohibition against legal demands that are intentionally ambiguous or designed to induce a settlement without considering the merits of the claim. Other reforms could include requiring public disclosure of the demand letters, reforming the Competition Act to give the Competition Bureau the power to target anti-competitive activity by patent trolls, and giving courts the power to issue injunctions to stop patent trolls from forum shopping.

Canadian trademark rules would also benefit from anti-abuse provisions. In 2014, the government quietly overhauled the law by removing longstanding “use” requirements for trademark protection. Legal decisions dating back decades emphasized the importance of use in order to properly register a trademark, since trademark law is primarily designed to protect consumers from marketplace confusion. Without use, there is unlikely to be confusion.

The 2014 reforms dropped the strict requirement for use in a trademark, however, creating considerable concern within the legal community. Canada may see a spike in “trademark trolls”, who could register unused trademarks with plans to pressure legitimate companies to pay up in order to release the trademarks for actual use. Anti-trademark troll rules would block efforts to register unused trademarks for the purposes of re-selling them to businesses seeking to innovate and use them.

Copyright law would also benefit from anti-troll safeguards. Canada’s 2012 digital copyright reforms featured an innovative “notice-and-notice” system designed to balance the interests of copyright holders, the legal obligations of Internet service providers (ISPs), and the privacy rights of Internet users. The law allows copyright owners to send infringement notices to ISPs, who must forward the notifications to their subscribers.

Despite the promise of the notice-and-notice system, it has been misused since it took effect with copyright owners exploiting a loophole in the law by sending settlement demands within the notices.

The fix is easy: implement anti-copyright troll regulations that ban the inclusion of settlement demands within the notices and create penalties for those companies that send notices with false or misleading information.

Intellectual property and innovation are often linked in policy discussions, but the abuse of IP rules has garnered less attention. As Bains considers potential policy reforms, a world-leading anti-IP abuse law would send a much-needed message that Canadian law will not support misuse of intellectual property rights.

Michael Geist holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law. He can be reached at mgeist@uottawa.ca or online at www.michaelgeist.ca.

The post Ottawa Needs to Combat Abuse of Intellectual Property Rights appeared first on Michael Geist.

Can Facebook really make ads unblockable?

Freedom to Tinker - Thu, 2016/08/11 - 17:18
[This is a joint post with Grant Storey, a Princeton undergraduate who is working with me on a tool to help users understand Facebook’s targeted advertising.] Facebook announced two days ago that it would make its ads indistinguishable from regular posts, and hence impossible to block. But within hours, the developers of Adblock Plus released an […]

The workshop on Data and Algorithmic Transparency

Freedom to Tinker - Wed, 2016/08/10 - 09:57
From online advertising to Uber to predictive policing, algorithmic systems powered by personal data affect more and more of our lives. As our society begins to grapple with the consequences of this shift, empirical investigation of these systems has proved vital to understand the potential for discrimination, privacy breaches, and vulnerability to manipulation. This emerging […]

A response to the National Association of Secretaries of State

Freedom to Tinker - Tue, 2016/08/09 - 08:11
Election administration in the United States is largely managed state-by-state, with a small amount of Federal involvement. This generally means that each state’s chief election official is that state’s Secretary of State. Their umbrella organization, the National Association of Secretaries of State, consequently has a lot of involvement in voting issues, and recently issued a […]

Government-Backed Study Finds Piracy Fight a Low Priority for Canadian Rights Holders

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Mon, 2016/08/08 - 10:59

The Canadian government plans to review the state of copyright law next year, but a recent government-commissioned study indicates that fighting piracy is a low priority for rights holders. They prefer to focus on their efforts on generating revenues from legitimate websites and services.

My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that piracy is likely to be a major issue in the 2017 review, with some groups sure to demand legislative reforms and increased resources for law enforcement initiatives. Canada enacted several anti-piracy measures in 2012, including creating a new rule that makes it easier for rights holders to sue websites or services that “enable” copyright infringement. The so-called enabler provision – the first of its kind anywhere in the world – has been used to shut down Canadian-based piracy sites.

In recent years, some stakeholders have emphasized the benefits of a “follow-the-money” strategy that focuses on stopping piracy sites by disabling access to payment intermediaries, demoting the sites in search results, and reducing their online advertising revenues. In response, the Department of Canadian Heritage commissioned a major study by Circum Network Inc. last year on the follow-the-money approach and the views of Canadian businesses. The study, which was obtained under the Access to Information Act, has not been publicly released.

Canadian Heritage sent letters to various stakeholders encouraging them to participate in the study, noting that it would help identify practices aimed at reducing or discouraging commercial-scale copyright infringement. While the department advised that the study was not necessarily indicative of future policy directions, the contract with Circum specifically called for recommendations to assist in future work on copyright piracy deterrence.

The final report includes few recommendations. Circum found that follow-the-money strategies have at best a mixed record of success. The problems include difficulty identifying commercial-scale copyright infringement websites (suspect sites often have both infringing and non-infringing content) and the continuing popularity of online advertising among major brands who have prioritized reaching large audiences over stopping piracy websites.

From a Canadian perspective, Circum did not find much enthusiasm among stakeholders for investing in anti-piracy activities. The study states that “Canadian representatives of rights holders consulted as part of this study tended not to give online piracy fighting a high priority. While they condemn unauthorized access to intellectual property and while some rights holders indicated actively reacting, they generally considered that their scarce resources are better invested in other battles and counted on global organizations to pursue the fight.”

Circum also noted diverging interests among rights holders themselves, with composers, authors, performers, actors, producers, publishers, and labels often adopting different approaches. Moreover, the study found that Canadian stakeholders seem far more interested in obtaining revenues from legitimate sources using works or offering legal marketplace alternatives.

There was even disagreement among those rights holders that supported government action. While some wanted law enforcement to escalate the piracy issue, others preferred to focus primarily on education efforts.

None of this should be taken to mean that Canadian businesses (or Canadians for that matter) support piracy. The 2012 copyright law rightly focused on commercial-scale piracy by enacting new legislative tools that can be used to combat websites and services that profit from the work of others without appropriate permission or authorization. Those reforms garnered widespread support.

However, the Circum study offers further evidence that for many creators, obscurity remains a far bigger threat than piracy. The message for the two ministers responsible for copyright – Canadian Heritage minister Mélanie Joly and Innovation, Science and Economic Development minister Navdeep Bains – is that with so much choice and competition, success is unlikely to come from yet another package of anti-piracy legal reforms. Instead, the study suggests that creators are ready to embrace the digital marketplace and would prefer to focus their energies on developing convenient, well-priced, legal services.

The post Government-Backed Study Finds Piracy Fight a Low Priority for Canadian Rights Holders appeared first on Michael Geist.

Study Finds Piracy Fight a Low Priority for Canadian Rights Holders

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Mon, 2016/08/08 - 10:48

Appeared in the Toronto Star on August 8, 2016 as Piracy on Agenda in Copyright Law Review

The Canadian government plans to review the state of copyright law next year, but a recent government-commissioned study indicates that fighting piracy is a low priority for rights holders. They prefer to focus on their efforts on generating revenues from legitimate websites and services.

Piracy is likely to be a major issue in the 2017 review, with some groups sure to demand legislative reforms and increased resources for law enforcement initiatives. Canada enacted several anti-piracy measures in 2012, including creating a new rule that makes it easier for rights holders to sue websites or services that “enable” copyright infringement. The so-called enabler provision – the first of its kind anywhere in the world – has been used to shut down Canadian-based piracy sites.

In recent years, some stakeholders have emphasized the benefits of a “follow-the-money” strategy that focuses on stopping piracy sites by disabling access to payment intermediaries, demoting the sites in search results, and reducing their online advertising revenues. In response, the Department of Canadian Heritage commissioned a major study by Circum Network Inc. last year on the follow-the-money approach and the views of Canadian businesses. The study, which was obtained under the Access to Information Act has not been publicly released.

Canadian Heritage sent letters to various stakeholders encouraging them to participate in the study, noting that it would help identify practices aimed at reducing or discouraging commercial-scale copyright infringement. While the department advised that the study was not necessarily indicative of future policy directions, the contract with Circum specifically called for recommendations to assist in future work on copyright piracy deterrence.

The final report includes few recommendations. Circum found that follow-the-money strategies have at best a mixed record of success. The problems include difficulty identifying commercial-scale copyright infringement websites (suspect sites often have both infringing and non-infringing content) and the continuing popularity of online advertising among major brands who have prioritized reaching large audiences over stopping piracy websites.

From a Canadian perspective, Circum did not find much enthusiasm among stakeholders for investing in anti-piracy activities. The study states that “Canadian representatives of rights holders consulted as part of this study tended not to give online piracy fighting a high priority. While they condemn unauthorized access to intellectual property and while some rights holders indicated actively reacting, they generally considered that their scarce resources are better invested in other battles and counted on global organizations to pursue the fight.”

Circum also noted diverging interests among rights holders themselves, with composers, authors, performers, actors, producers, publishers, and labels often adopting different approaches. Moreover, the study found that Canadian stakeholders seem far more interested in obtaining revenues from legitimate sources using works or offering legal marketplace alternatives.

There was even disagreement among those rights holders that supported government action. While some wanted law enforcement to escalate the piracy issue, others preferred to focus primarily on education efforts.

None of this should be taken to mean that Canadian businesses (or Canadians for that matter) support piracy. The 2012 copyright law rightly focused on commercial-scale piracy by enacting new legislative tools that can be used to combat websites and services that profit from the work of others without appropriate permission or authorization. Those reforms garnered widespread support.

However, the Circum study offers further evidence that for many creators, obscurity remains a far bigger threat than piracy. The message for the two ministers responsible for copyright – Canadian Heritage minister Mélanie Joly and Innovation, Science and Economic Development minister Navdeep Bains – is that with so much choice and competition, success is unlikely to come from yet another package of anti-piracy legal reforms. Instead, the study suggests that creators are ready to embrace the digital marketplace and would prefer to focus their energies on developing convenient, well-priced, legal services.

Michael Geist holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law. He can be reached at mgeist@uottawa.ca or online at www.michaelgeist.ca.

The post Study Finds Piracy Fight a Low Priority for Canadian Rights Holders appeared first on Michael Geist.

Supplement for Revealing Algorithmic Rankers (Table 1)

Freedom to Tinker - Fri, 2016/08/05 - 05:35
Table 1: A ranking of Computer Science departments per csrankings.org, with additional attributes from the NRC assessment dataset. Here, the average count computes the geometric mean of the adjusted number of publications in each area by institution, faculty is the number of faculty in the department, pubs is the average number of publications per faculty […]

Revealing Algorithmic Rankers

Freedom to Tinker - Fri, 2016/08/05 - 05:35
By Julia Stoyanovich (Assistant Professor of Computer Science, Drexel University) and Ellen P. Goodman (Professor, Rutgers Law School) ProPublica’s story on “machine bias” in an algorithm used for sentencing defendants amplified calls to make algorithms more transparent and accountable. It has never been more clear that algorithms are political (Gillespie) and embody contested choices (Crawford), […]

Election security as a national security issue

Freedom to Tinker - Wed, 2016/08/03 - 13:11
We recently learned that Russian state actors may have been responsible for the DNC emails recently leaked to Wikileaks. Earlier this spring, once they became aware of the hack, the DNC hired Crowdstrike, an incident response firm. The New York Times reports: Preliminary conclusions were discussed last week at a weekly cyberintelligence meeting for senior officials. […]

Do You Consent? Four Ways to Strengthen Digital Privacy

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Tue, 2016/08/02 - 10:28

Privacy laws around the world may differ on certain issues, but all share a key principle: the collection, use and disclosure of personal information requires user consent. The challenge in a digital world where data is continuously collected and can be used in a myriad of previously unimaginable ways is how to ensure that the consent model still achieves the objective of giving the public effective control over their personal information.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada released a discussion paper earlier this year that opened the door to rethinking how Canadian law addresses consent. The paper suggests several solutions that could enhance consent (greater transparency in privacy policies, technology-specific protections), but also raises the possibility of de-emphasizing consent in favour of removing personally identifiable information or establishing “no-go” zones that would regulate certain uses of information without relying on consent.

My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that the deadline for submitting comments concludes this week and it is expected that many businesses will call for significant reforms to the current consent model, arguing that it is too onerous and that it does not serve the needs of users or businesses. Instead, they may call for a shift toward codes of practice that reflect specific industry standards alongside basic privacy rules that create limited restrictions on uses of personal information.

Suggestions from Canadian business that stronger consent rules are too difficult or costly is nothing new. During the heated debate over anti-spam legislation, the business community claimed that an “opt-in” model of consent that would require a more explicit, informed agreement from users would be expensive to implement and would create great harm to electronic commerce. Yet the reality is that the opt-in model is used in many other countries to provide better privacy protection and improve the effectiveness of electronic marketing.

Rather than weakening or abandoning consent models, Canadian law needs to upgrade its approach by making consent more effective in the digital environment. There is little doubt that the current model is still too reliant on opt-out policies in which business are entitled to presume that they can use their customers’ personal information unless they inform them otherwise. Moreover, cryptic privacy policies that leave the public confused about how their information may be collected or disclosed creates a notion of consent that is often based on fiction, not fact.

How to solve the shortcomings of the consent-based model?

First, Canada should implement opt-in consent as the default approach. At the moment, opt-in is only used where strictly required by law or for highly sensitive information such as health or financial data. The current system means that the majority of information is collected, used, and disclosed without informed consent.

Second, since informed consent depends upon the public understanding how their information will be collected, used, and disclosed, the rules associated with transparency must be improved. Confusing negative-option check boxes that leave the public unsure about how to exercise their privacy rights should be rejected as an appropriate form of consent.

Moreover, given the uncertainty associated with big data and cross-border transfers of information, new forms of transparency in privacy policies are needed. For example, algorithmic transparency would require search engines and social media companies to disclose how information is used to determine the content displayed to each user. Data transfer transparency would require companies to disclose where personal information is stored and when it may be transferred outside Canada.

Third, effective consent means giving users the ability to exercise their privacy choices. Most policies are offered on a “take it or leave it” basis with little room to customize how information is collected, used and disclosed. Real consent should also mean real choice.

Fourth, stronger enforcement powers are needed to address privacy violations. The rush to comply with the Canadian anti-spam law was driven by the inclusion of significant penalties for violation of the rules. The general Canadian privacy law is still premised on moral suasion or fears of public shaming, not tough enforcement backed by penalties. If privacy rules are to be taken seriously, there must be serious consequences when companies run afoul of the rules.

The post Do You Consent? Four Ways to Strengthen Digital Privacy appeared first on Michael Geist.

Creating Meaningful Privacy Consent for the Digital World

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Tue, 2016/08/02 - 10:26

Appeared in the Toronto Star on August 1, 2016 as Canada Needs Beefed Up Privacy Consent Laws

Privacy laws around the world may differ on certain issues, but all share a key principle: the collection, use and disclosure of personal information requires user consent. The challenge in a digital world where data is continuously collected and can be used in a myriad of previously unimaginable ways is how to ensure that the consent model still achieves the objective of giving the public effective control over their personal information.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada released a discussion paper earlier this year that opened the door to rethinking how Canadian law addresses consent. The paper suggests several solutions that could enhance consent (greater transparency in privacy policies, technology-specific protections), but also raises the possibility of de-emphasizing consent in favour of removing personally identifiable information or establishing “no-go” zones that would regulate certain uses of information without relying on consent.

The deadline for submitting comments concludes this week and it is expected that many businesses will call for significant reforms to the current consent model, arguing that it is too onerous and that it does not serve the needs of users or businesses. Instead, they may call for a shift toward codes of practice that reflect specific industry standards alongside basic privacy rules that create limited restrictions on uses of personal information.

Suggestions from Canadian business that stronger consent rules are too difficult or costly is nothing new. During the heated debate over anti-spam legislation, the business community claimed that an “opt-in” model of consent that would require a more explicit, informed agreement from users would be expensive to implement and would create great harm to electronic commerce. Yet the reality is that the opt-in model is used in many other countries to provide better privacy protection and improve the effectiveness of electronic marketing.

Rather than weakening or abandoning consent models, Canadian law needs to upgrade its approach by making consent more effective in the digital environment. There is little doubt that the current model is still too reliant on opt-out policies in which business are entitled to presume that they can use their customers’ personal information unless they inform them otherwise. Moreover, cryptic privacy policies that leave the public confused about how their information may be collected or disclosed creates a notion of consent that is often based on fiction, not fact.

How to solve the shortcomings of the consent-based model?

First, Canada should implement opt-in consent as the default approach. At the moment, opt-in is only used where strictly required by law or for highly sensitive information such as health or financial data. The current system means that the majority of information is collected, used, and disclosed without informed consent.

Second, since informed consent depends upon the public understanding how their information will be collected, used, and disclosed, the rules associated with transparency must be improved. Confusing negative-option check boxes that leave the public unsure about how to exercise their privacy rights should be rejected as an appropriate form of consent.

Moreover, given the uncertainty associated with big data and cross-border transfers of information, new forms of transparency in privacy policies are needed. For example, algorithmic transparency would require search engines and social media companies to disclose how information is used to determine the content displayed to each user. Data transfer transparency would require companies to disclose where personal information is stored and when it may be transferred outside Canada.

Third, effective consent means giving users the ability to exercise their privacy choices. Most policies are offered on a “take it or leave it” basis with little room to customize how information is collected, used and disclosed. Real consent should also mean real choice.

Fourth, stronger enforcement powers are needed to address privacy violations. The rush to comply with the Canadian anti-spam law was driven by the inclusion of significant penalties for violation of the rules. The general Canadian privacy law is still premised on moral suasion or fears of public shaming, not tough enforcement backed by penalties. If privacy rules are to be taken seriously, there must be serious consequences when companies run afoul of the rules.

Michael Geist holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law. He can be reached at mgeist@uottawa.ca or online at www.michaelgeist.ca.

The post Creating Meaningful Privacy Consent for the Digital World appeared first on Michael Geist.

The Trouble with the TPP’s Copyright Rules

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Fri, 2016/07/29 - 09:00

For the past two months, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has been publishing an exceptionally important series on the problems with Trans Pacific Partnership. I was pleased to participate in this initiative and yesterday the CCPA posted my contribution. The Trouble with the TPP’s Copyright Rules draws on my earlier Trouble with the TPP series to highlight several of the copyright concerns associated with the agreement, including copyright term extension, the limited applicability of Canada’s notice-and-notice rules, and the expanded criminalization of copyright law.

The post The Trouble with the TPP’s Copyright Rules appeared first on Michael Geist.

Canada’s National Digitization Plan Leaves Virtual Shelves Empty

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Tue, 2016/07/26 - 10:03

Imagine going to your local library in search of Canadian books. You wander through the stacks but are surprised to find most shelves barren with the exception of books that are over a hundred years old. This sounds more like an abandoned library than one serving the needs of its patrons, yet it is roughly what a recently released Canadian National Heritage Digitization Strategy envisions.

Led by Library and Archives Canada and endorsed by Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly, the strategy acknowledges that digital technologies make it possible “for memory institutions to provide immediate access to their holdings to an almost limitless audience.”

Yet it stops strangely short of trying to do just that.

My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that rather than establishing a bold objective as has been the hallmark of recent Liberal government policy initiatives, the strategy sets as its 10-year goal the digitization of 90 per cent of all published heritage dating from before 1917 along with 50 per cent of all monographs published before 1940. It also hopes to cover all scientific journals published by Canadian universities before 2000, selected sound recordings, and all historical maps.

The strategy points to similar initiatives in other countries, but the Canadian targets pale by comparison. For example, the Netherlands plans to digitize 90 per cent of all books published in that country by 2018 along with many newspapers and magazines that pre-date 1940.

Canada’s inability to adopt a cohesive national digitization strategy has been an ongoing source of frustration and the subject of multiple studies which concluded that the country is falling behind. While there have been no shortage of pilot projects and useful initiatives from university libraries, Canada has thus far failed to articulate an ambitious, national digitization vision.

Financial and legal constraints are typically identified as two of the biggest barriers to ensuring universal digital access to Canadian heritage. Major digitization initiatives are certainly costly, but experience elsewhere shows that a government-led initiative that brings together public and private resources is possible with the right champion.

Digitization initiatives in other countries also demonstrate that the legal challenges are frequently overstated. For example, U.S. courts have ruled that massive digitization programs such as those undertaken by Google qualify as fair use. This means that millions of books can be freely digitized without fear of copyright infringement, though full access is limited to public domain works (where the copyright has expired) and licensed materials where the copyright owner has granted permission. Partial access may be granted consistent with fair use.

Canadian law features fair dealing rather than fair use, but a similar approach could be adopted. While the new Canadian strategy is largely limited to public domain works that can be digitized and made available without the need for permission or licences, the Supreme Court of Canada’s interpretation of the law lends itself to a more ambitious digitization program in which all Canadian works are converted into digital format for research, study and education purposes.

All public domain works – which could reasonably be estimated to include anything published before 1940 – could be made immediately accessible in full text. Moreover, the government could launch a crowdsourcing initiative where Canadians identify additional public domain works of authors who died more than 50 years ago. This would include many books published in the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s.

For the remaining works, fair dealing would permit a portion of the work be made available without the need for further permission. For full text, authors could be given the opportunity to specify how, if at all, their works should be accessible.

With Canada set to celebrate its 150th birthday next year, now is the ideal time to give ourselves a birthday gift that will keep giving for years to come. A national digitization strategy is long overdue and starts with a government committed to a bold vision of making Canada’s heritage digitally accessible to all.

The post Canada’s National Digitization Plan Leaves Virtual Shelves Empty appeared first on Michael Geist.

Why Canada’s National Digitization Plan Falls Short

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Tue, 2016/07/26 - 10:01

Appeared in the Toronto Star on July 25, 2016 as Ottawa Should Commit to Digitizing Canadian Heritage

Imagine going to your local library in search of Canadian books. You wander through the stacks but are surprised to find most shelves barren with the exception of books that are over a hundred years old. This sounds more like an abandoned library than one serving the needs of its patrons, yet it is roughly what a recently released Canadian National Heritage Digitization Strategy envisions.

Led by Library and Archives Canada and endorsed by Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly, the strategy acknowledges that digital technologies make it possible “for memory institutions to provide immediate access to their holdings to an almost limitless audience.”

Yet it stops strangely short of trying to do just that.

Rather than establishing a bold objective as has been the hallmark of recent Liberal government policy initiatives, the strategy sets as its 10-year goal the digitization of 90 per cent of all published heritage dating from before 1917 along with 50 per cent of all monographs published before 1940. It also hopes to cover all scientific journals published by Canadian universities before 2000, selected sound recordings, and all historical maps.

The strategy points to similar initiatives in other countries, but the Canadian targets pale by comparison. For example, the Netherlands plans to digitize 90 per cent of all books published in that country by 2018 along with many newspapers and magazines that pre-date 1940.

Canada’s inability to adopt a cohesive national digitization strategy has been an ongoing source of frustration and the subject of multiple studies which concluded that the country is falling behind. While there have been no shortage of pilot projects and useful initiatives from university libraries, Canada has thus far failed to articulate an ambitious, national digitization vision.

Financial and legal constraints are typically identified as two of the biggest barriers to ensuring universal digital access to Canadian heritage. Major digitization initiatives are certainly costly, but experience elsewhere shows that a government-led initiative that brings together public and private resources is possible with the right champion.

Digitization initiatives in other countries also demonstrate that the legal challenges are frequently overstated. For example, U.S. courts have ruled that massive digitization programs such as those undertaken by Google qualify as fair use. This means that millions of books can be freely digitized without fear of copyright infringement, though full access is limited to public domain works (where the copyright has expired) and licensed materials where the copyright owner has granted permission. Partial access may be granted consistent with fair use.

Canadian law features fair dealing rather than fair use, but a similar approach could be adopted. While the new Canadian strategy is largely limited to public domain works that can be digitized and made available without the need for permission or licences, the Supreme Court of Canada’s interpretation of the law lends itself to a more ambitious digitization program in which all Canadian works are converted into digital format for research, study and education purposes.

All public domain works – which could reasonably be estimated to include anything published before 1940 – could be made immediately accessible in full text. Moreover, the government could launch a crowdsourcing initiative where Canadians identify additional public domain works of authors who died more than 50 years ago. This would include many books published in the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s.

For the remaining works, fair dealing would permit a portion of the work be made available without the need for further permission. For full text, authors could be given the opportunity to specify how, if at all, their works should be accessible.

With Canada set to celebrate its 150th birthday next year, now is the ideal time to give ourselves a birthday gift that will keep giving for years to come. A national digitization strategy is long overdue and starts with a government committed to a bold vision of making Canada’s heritage digitally accessible to all.

Michael Geist holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law. He can be reached at mgeist@uottawa.ca or online at www.michaelgeist.ca.

The post Why Canada’s National Digitization Plan Falls Short appeared first on Michael Geist.

Brexit Exposes Old and Deepening Data Divide between EU and UK

Freedom to Tinker - Mon, 2016/07/25 - 10:45
After the Brexit vote, politicians, businesses and citizens are all wondering what’s next. In general, legal uncertainty permeates Brexit, but in the world of bits and bytes, Brussels and London have in fact been on a collision course at least since the 90s. The new British prime minister, Theresa May, has been personally responsible for […]
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