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The Letters of the Law: 2014 in Tech Law and Policy

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Mon, 2014/12/29 - 17:39

Appeared in the Toronto Star on December 27, 2014 as Letters of the Law: The Year in Tech Policy

With revelations about millions of warrantless requests for Internet and telecom subscriber information and heated battles over the potential regulation of Netflix leading the way, law and technology issues garnered headlines all year long. A look back at 2014 from A to Z:

A is for Amanda Todd, the cyber-bullying victim whose name was regularly invoked by the government to support Bill C-13, its lawful access/cyberbullying bill. The bill passed despite Amanda’s mother Carol raising privacy concerns and not receiving an invitation to appear before the Senate committee studying it.

B is for Bell’s targeted advertising program that involves the use of consumer location and browsing habits. The program was the target of multiple complaints to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

C is for CASL, Canada’s anti-spam law, which took effect in July and generated considerable panic among many Canadian businesses.

D is for Digital Canada 150, the long awaited digital strategy released in April by Industry Minister James Moore.

E is for Equustek Solutions, a British Columbia based company that obtained a controversial court order requiring Google to remove a website from its global index.

F is for Fearon, the Supreme Court of Canada decision which affirmed that police can search a cellphone without a warrant during an arrest.

G is for Canadian Heritage Minister Shelley Glover, whose leaked proposal to create a new copyright exception for political advertising sparked heated debate.

H is for the Children’s Hospital Of Eastern Ontario, which filed a lawsuit challenging the validity of patents based on human genes.

I is for in-transit shipments, which were excluded from Bill C-8, Canada’s anti-counterfeiting legislation that received royal assent late in the year.

J is for Judge Alain Breault, a Quebec judge who awarded a woman damages after she claimed that Google was slow to blur a revealing picture of her posted on the Google Street View service.

K is for Ben Klass, a communications policy researcher, whose net neutrality complaint over mobile video services led companies such as Rogers and Videotron to alter their service offerings.

L is for language laws, whose application to the Internet by Quebec authorities led some global e-commerce sites to stop serving the Quebec market.

M is for the Marrakesh Copyright Treaty for the Blind, which Canada surprisingly did not sign after playing a key role during the treaty negotiations.

N is for Netflix, which engaged in a high profile battle with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission over whether it was subject to the regulator’s broadcast jurisdiction.

O is for the revelation that there were at least one point two million annual requests for subscriber information by law enforcement and government departments in 2011.

P is for Pandora, the music streaming service that may now enter the Canadian market after new royalty rates were established by the Copyright Board of Canada.

Q is for Quebec.com, the domain name that the Government of Quebec failed to obtain after filing a complaint.

R is for Rogers, which became the first major Canadian telecom company to release a transparency report on its subscriber information disclosure practices.

S is for the landmark Spencer Supreme Court of Canada decision, which ruled that Internet users have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their subscriber information.

T is for Daniel Therrien, the new Privacy Commissioner of Canada, who surprised observers by immediately criticizing the government’s proposed lawful access legislation.

U is for Uber, the popular app-based car service, which faced regulatory battles in cities across the country.

V is for Voltage Pictures, which won a court order to obtain information on thousands of alleged file sharers.

W is for wireless competition, an ongoing focal point of government policy.

X is for the redacted information that frequently accompanies access to information request records. The liberal use of exemptions was one of the issues in the spotlight as part of debates over an under-funded system on the brink of collapse.

Y is for the Law Society of Yukon, one of dozens of “investigative bodies” to which organizations may voluntarily disclose personal information without a warrant under the current law. The government pointed to the complexity of the investigative bodies system as a justification for expanding warrantless voluntary disclosure in Bill S-4, the Digital Privacy Act.

Z is for Zithromax, the brand name for azithromycin, one of the world’s leading antibiotics. The prospect of increased drug costs was one of the most contentious aspects of the Canada – European Trade Agreement, which concluded this year.

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 The Letters of the Law: 2014 in Tech Law and Policy appeared first on Michael Geist.

Consensus in Bitcoin: One system, many models

Freedom to Tinker - Fri, 2014/12/26 - 13:27
At a technical level, the Bitcoin protocol is a clever solution to the consensus problem in computer science. The idea of consensus is very general — a number of participants together execute a computation to come to agreement about the state of the world, or a subset of it that they’re interested in. Because of […]

On the Sony Pictures Security Breach

Freedom to Tinker - Tue, 2014/12/23 - 11:02
The recent security breach at Sony Pictures is one of the most embarrassing breaches ever, though not the most technically sophisticated. The incident raises lots of interesting questions about the current state of security and public policy. There is an active discussion in the tech community about who is responsible for the attack. The FBI […]

Podcast: Happy Xmas! (guest starring Poesy)

It's that time again! School is out, but I'm still working, so the kid came to the office with me, just in time to record a new podcast. This year, Poesy performs a stirring rendition of Jingle Bells, with dirty words!

MP3

Notice the Difference? New Canadian Internet Copyright Rules for ISPs Set to Launch

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Mon, 2014/12/22 - 09:45

The longstanding debate over how Internet providers should respond to allegations of copyright infringement by their subscribers was resolved in Canada several years ago with the adoption of a “notice and notice” system. Unlike countries that require content takedowns without court oversight or even contemplate cutting off subscriber Internet access, the Canadian approach, which has operated informally for over a decade but will kick in as the law in 2015, seeks to balance the interests of copyright holders, the privacy rights of Internet users, and the legal obligations of Internet providers.

The result is a system that has proven effective in raising public awareness about copyright, while safeguarding the identities of Internet subscribers, providing legal certainty to Internet providers, and leaving potential legal actions to the courts.

Under the notice-and-notice system, copyright owners are entitled to send infringement notices to Internet providers, who are legally required to forward the notifications to their subscribers. The notices must include details on the sender, the copyright works and the alleged infringement. If the Internet provider fails to forward the notification, it must explain why or face the prospect of damages that run as high as $10,000. Internet providers must also retain information on the subscriber for six months (or 12 months if court proceedings are launched).

For Internet providers, the system creates significant costs for processing and forwarding notices. However, assuming they meet their obligations of forwarding the notice, the law grants them a legal “safe harbour” that removes potential liability for actions of their subscribers.

There are important benefits for Internet users as well. First, unlike the content takedown or access cut-off systems, the Canadian notice approach does not feature any legal penalties. The notices do not create any fines or damages, but rather are designed as educational tools to raise awareness of infringement allegations.

Second, the personal information of subscribers is not disclosed to the copyright owner. When the Internet provider forwards the copyright notice, only they know the identity of the subscriber and that information is not disclosed to any third party.

If the copyright owner is unhappy with only sending a notification and wants to proceed with further legal action, they must go to court to obtain an order requiring the Internet provider to reveal the identity of the subscriber. Canadian courts have established strict rules and limitations around such disclosures.

Moreover, the law now also limits potential liability for Internet users for non-commercial infringement, capping damages at C$5,000 for all infringements. While that is not insignificant, it does mean that threats of tens of thousands of dollars in liability for unauthorized downloading are unfounded.

The Canadian notice-and-notice system takes official effect on January 2nd, but it has been used on an informal basis for many years. Indeed, the evidence has consistently demonstrated that notifications work. For example, Rogers told a House of Commons committee in 2011 that 67 per cent of notice recipients do not repeat infringe after one notice and 89 per cent cease allegedly infringing activity after a second notice.

Those numbers are very similar to 2010 data from the Entertainment Software Association of Canada, which found that 71 per cent of notice recipients did not place an infringing file back on BitTorrent systems. Similarly, the Business Software Association told the CBC in 2006 that the notice-and-notice approach has “been most effective.”

So are there reasons for concern with the new system?

There are fears that Internet providers will be inundated with notices, particularly since the government decided against establishing a fee for forwarding them. That could lead to increased costs for consumers. Moreover, the government also declined to specify the precise content of the notices, leading to concerns that some copyright holders may include threats to sue alongside dubious demands to settle the allegations for thousands of dollars.

Should these concerns materialize, the government will need to revisit some of the notice-and-notice regulations. In the meantime, however, it rightly points to the system as a “made-in-Canada” solution that is likely to be emulated by countries around the world.

The post Notice the Difference? New Canadian Internet Copyright Rules for ISPs Set to Launch appeared first on Michael Geist.

Notice the Difference? New Canadian Internet Copyright Rules Set to Launch

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Mon, 2014/12/22 - 09:42

Appeared in the Toronto Star on December 20, 2014 as New Internet copyright rules to launch

The longstanding debate over how Internet providers should respond to allegations of copyright infringement by their subscribers was resolved in Canada several years ago with the adoption of a “notice and notice” system. Unlike countries that require content takedowns without court oversight or even contemplate cutting off subscriber Internet access, the Canadian approach, which has operated informally for over a decade but will kick in as the law in 2015, seeks to balance the interests of copyright holders, the privacy rights of Internet users, and the legal obligations of Internet providers.

The result is a system that has proven effective in raising public awareness about copyright, while safeguarding the identities of Internet subscribers, providing legal certainty to Internet providers, and leaving potential legal actions to the courts.

Under the notice-and-notice system, copyright owners are entitled to send infringement notices to Internet providers, who are legally required to forward the notifications to their subscribers. The notices must include details on the sender, the copyright works and the alleged infringement. If the Internet provider fails to forward the notification, it must explain why or face the prospect of damages that run as high as $10,000. Internet providers must also retain information on the subscriber for six months (or 12 months if court proceedings are launched).

For Internet providers, the system creates significant costs for processing and forwarding notices. However, assuming they meet their obligations of forwarding the notice, the law grants them a legal “safe harbour” that removes potential liability for actions of their subscribers.

There are important benefits for Internet users as well. First, unlike the content takedown or access cut-off systems, the Canadian notice approach does not feature any legal penalties. The notices do not create any fines or damages, but rather are designed as educational tools to raise awareness of infringement allegations.

Second, the personal information of subscribers is not disclosed to the copyright owner. When the Internet provider forwards the copyright notice, only they know the identity of the subscriber and that information is not disclosed to any third party.

If the copyright owner is unhappy with only sending a notification and wants to proceed with further legal action, they must go to court to obtain an order requiring the Internet provider to reveal the identity of the subscriber. Canadian courts have established strict rules and limitations around such disclosures.

Moreover, the law now also limits potential liability for Internet users for non-commercial infringement, capping damages at C$5,000 for all infringements. While that is not insignificant, it does mean that threats of tens of thousands of dollars in liability for unauthorized downloading are unfounded.

The Canadian notice-and-notice system takes official effect on January 2nd, but it has been used on an informal basis for many years. Indeed, the evidence has consistently demonstrated that notifications work. For example, Rogers told a House of Commons committee in 2011 that 67 per cent of notice recipients do not repeat infringe after one notice and 89 per cent cease allegedly infringing activity after a second notice.

Those numbers are very similar to 2010 data from the Entertainment Software Association of Canada, which found that 71 per cent of notice recipients did not place an infringing file back on BitTorrent systems. Similarly, the Business Software Association told the CBC in 2006 that the notice-and-notice approach has “been most effective.”

So are there reasons for concern with the new system?

There are fears that Internet providers will be inundated with notices, particularly since the government decided against establishing a fee for forwarding them. That could lead to increased costs for consumers. Moreover, the government also declined to specify the precise content of the notices, leading to concerns that some copyright holders may include threats to sue alongside dubious demands to settle the allegations for thousands of dollars.

Should these concerns materialize, the government will need to revisit some of the notice-and-notice regulations. In the meantime, however, it rightly points to the system as a “made-in-Canada” solution that is likely to be emulated by countries around the world.

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 Notice the Difference? New Canadian Internet Copyright Rules Set to Launch appeared first on Michael Geist.

How cookies can be used for global surveillance

Freedom to Tinker - Fri, 2014/12/19 - 14:26
Today we present an updated version of our paper examining how the ubiquitous use of online tracking cookies can allow an adversary conducting network surveillance to target a user or surveil users en masse. In the initial version of the study, summarized below, we examined the technical feasibility of the attack. Now we’ve made the […]

The MPAA’s Attempt to Revive SOPA Through A State Attorney General

Google Public Policy BLOG - Fri, 2014/12/19 - 13:28
Posted by Kent Walker, SVP and General Counsel
We are deeply concerned about recent reports that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) led a secret, coordinated campaign to revive the failed SOPA legislation through other means, and helped manufacture legal arguments in connection with an investigation by Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood.
Almost three years ago, millions of Americans helped stop a piece of congressional legislation—supported by the MPAA—called the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). If passed, SOPA would have led to censorship across the web. No wonder that 115,000 websites—including Google—participated in a protest, and over the course of a single day, Congress received more than 8 million phone calls and 4 million emails, as well as getting 10 million petition signatures.
Here is what recent press reports have revealed over the past few days about the MPAA’s campaign:
The MPAA conspired to achieve SOPA’s goals through non-legislative meansAccording to The Verge, “at the beginning of this year, the MPAA and six studios … joined together to begin a new campaign” to figure how it could secretly revive SOPA. It “joined together to begin a new campaign” to achieve wholesale site-blocking by “[convincing] state prosecutors to take up the fight against [Google].” The movie studios “budgeted $500,000 a year towards providing legal support”—and the MPAA later sought up to $1.175 million for this campaign.
The MPAA pointed its guns at Google With that money, the MPAA then hired its long-time law firm Jenner & Block to go after Google while also funding an astroturf group—the Digital Citizens Alliance—with the same goal of attacking Google. (Source: The New York Times).
The MPAA did the legal legwork for the Mississippi State Attorney GeneralThe MPAA then pitched Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood, an admitted SOPA supporter, and Attorney General Hood sent Google a letter making numerous accusations about the company. The letter was signed by General Hood but was actually drafted by an attorney at Jenner & Block—the MPAA’s law firm. As the New York Times has reported, the letter was only minimally edited by the state Attorney General before he signed it. Here is what the document showed about its true origin:We've redacted the name of the attorney to protect her privacy
Even though Google takes industry-leading measures in dealing with problematic content on our services, Attorney General Hood proceeded to send Google a sweeping 79-page subpoena, covering a variety of topics over which he lacks jurisdiction. The Verge reported that the MPAA and its members discussed such subpoenas and certainly knew about this subpoena’s existence before it was even sent to Google.
Attorney General Hood told the Huffington Post earlier this week that the MPAA "has no major influence on my decision-making,” and that he “has never asked [the] MPAA a legal question” and “isn't sure which lawyers they employ.” And yet today the Huffington Post and the Verge revealed that Attorney General Hood had numerous conversations with both MPAA staff and Jenner & Block attorneys about this matter.
While we of course have serious legal concerns about all of this, one disappointing part of this story is what this all means for the MPAA itself, an organization founded in part “to promote and defend the First Amendment and artists' right to free expression.” Why, then, is it trying to secretly censor the Internet?
UPDATE - Friday, December 19: Because Attorney General Hood's 79-page subpoena constitutes an unjustified attack that violates well-established U.S. laws governing Internet platforms and online intermediaries, we are today asking a federal court to set that subpoena aside (our brief is here). We are also asking those with a hand in this campaign to preserve all relevant documents.  We regret having to take this matter to court, and we are doing so only after years of efforts to explain both the merits of our position and the extensive steps we've taken on our platforms.

LISTEN: Wil Wheaton reads “Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free”


I've posted the first chapter (MP3) of Wil Wheaton's reading of my book Information Doesn't Want to Be Free (which sports introductions by Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer!), which is available as a $15 DRM-free audiobook, sweetened by samples from Amanda Palmer and Dresden Dolls' "Coin-Operated Boy."

In sharply argued, fast-moving chapters, Cory Doctorow’s Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free takes on the state of copyright and creative success in the digital age. Can small artists still thrive in the Internet era? Can giant record labels avoid alienating their audiences? This is a book about the pitfalls and the opportunities that creative industries (and individuals) are confronting today — about how the old models have failed or found new footing, and about what might soon replace them. An essential read for anyone with a stake in the future of the arts, Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free offers a vivid guide to the ways creativity and the Internet interact today, and to what might be coming next.

DRM-free audiobook

Interview with Radio New Zealand’s This Way Up

Radio New Zealand National's This Way Up recorded this interview with me, which airs tomorrow (Saturday), about my book Information Doesn't Want to Be Free (MP3).

Two Privacy Class Actions: Facebook and Apple

IPBlog (Calgary) - Thu, 2014/12/18 - 15:00
- By Richard Stobbe Two privacy class actions earlier this year have pitted technology giants Facebook Inc. and Apple Inc. against Canadian consumers who allege privacy violations. The two cases resulted in very different outcomes. First, the Facebook decision: In Douez v. Facebook, Inc., 2014 BCSC 953 (CanLII), the court looked at two ...

Powerful new tools in Arabic and English for constitution drafters and citizens

Google Public Policy BLOG - Mon, 2014/12/15 - 12:18
Those who write (and re-write) national constitutions naturally learn and draw from the work of other drafters. Constitute, a website that digitizes and indexes the world’s constitutions which Google Ideas launched in 2013 with the Comparative Constitutions Project, has made this process even easier.
Today marks the launch of Constitute in Arabic, which promises to make the process of constitutional drafting and analysis more accessible across the Arab world. The site now provides Arabic translations of some of the world’s most-cited constitutions, coupled with powerful analytical tools.
We’re also introducing new, powerful features across the English and Arabic versions of the site. A new “compare” functionality lets you view two constitutions side-by-side, inviting an entirely different perspective. Curious how the Japanese Constitution of 1946, drafted under U.S. occupation, compares to that of the U.S.?  View them side-by-side and compare them provision by provision (for example, on the topic of search and seizure rights) in a clean, easy-to-read layout.
Constitute also includes new options for saving and sharing content. You can now pin constitutional excerpts, comparisons and entire searches, and export the results to for easy collaborative drafting, reading or analysis. You can also share to social media, or send links to specific locations in any of the documents—for example, explore which African constitutions have provisions on gender equality. 
Finally, developers and data enthusiasts—and their machine counterparts—will be able to build upon Constitute’s underlying data through an open data portal which includes access to Constitute’s API.
On average, five new constitutions are written every year and even more are amended. Creating a document to serve as the bedrock of one’s society is a huge undertaking, which is why Google Ideas collaborated with the Comparative Constitutions Project to seed Constitute in 2013. We hope today’s additions to Constitute will help equip constitutional drafters and citizens of every country with the remarkable power of knowledge.
Posted by Brett Perlmutter, Special Projects Lead, Google Ideas

Government Documents Reveal Canadian Telcos Envision Surveillance-Ready Networks

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Mon, 2014/12/15 - 10:57

After years of failed bills, public debate, and considerable controversy, lawful access legislation received royal assent last week. Public Safety Minister Peter MacKay’s Bill C-13 lumped together measures designed to combat cyberbullying with a series of new warrants to enhance police investigative powers, generating criticism from the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, civil liberties groups, and some prominent victims rights advocates. They argued that the government should have created cyberbullying safeguards without sacrificing privacy.

While the bill would have benefited from some amendments, it remains a far cry from earlier versions that featured mandatory personal information disclosure without court oversight and required Internet providers to install extensive surveillance and interception capabilities within their networks.

The mandatory disclosure of subscriber information rules, which figured prominently in earlier lawful access bills, were gradually reduced in scope and ultimately eliminated altogether. Moreover, a recent Supreme Court ruling raised doubt about the constitutionality of the provisions.

My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes the surveillance and interception capability issue is more complicated, however. The prospect of a total surveillance infrastructure within Canadian Internet networks generated an enormous outcry when proposed in Vic Toews’ 2012 lawful access bill.  Not only did the bill specify the precise required surveillance and interception capabilities, but it also would have established extensive Internet provider reporting requirements and envisioned partial payments by government to help offset the costs for smaller Internet providers.

Those provisions were dropped from Bill C-13, yet according to documents obtained under the Access to Information Act, both Internet providers and the government have been debating a “Plan B” on how to ensure that there are surveillance and interception capable networks.

Perhaps the most notable revelation is that Internet providers have tried to convince the government that they will voluntarily build surveillance capabilities into their networks. A 2013 memorandum prepared for the public safety minister reveals that Canadian telecom companies advised the government that the leading telecom equipment manufacturers, including Cisco, Juniper, and Huawei, all offer products with interception capabilities at a small additional cost.

In light of the standardization of the interception capabilities, the memo notes that the Canadian providers argue that “the telecommunications market will soon shift to a point where interception capability will simply become a standard component of available equipment, and that technical changes in the way communications actually travel on communications networks will make it even easier to intercept communications.”

In other words, Canadian telecom providers are telling the government there is no need for legally mandated surveillance and interception functionality since they will be building networks that will feature those capabilities by default.

While Canadian network providers claimed that interception and surveillance capabilities would become a standard feature in their networks, government officials were not entirely convinced. Department officials argued that interception is a “complex process” and that legislative requirements were preferred.

In the absence of mandated surveillance and interception capabilities, another internal government memorandum emphasized the value of incorporating the technologies in wireless networks through spectrum licence requirements. The memorandum notes that Public Safety works with Industry Canada in developing those requirements and deals directly with providers to ensure that they meet the necessary standards.

The department’s stated goal is to “ensure that the lawful interception capabilities of public safety agencies are maximized within the existing legal framework.”  In meeting its goal, the memorandum notes that it will work directly with the wireless providers to assess compliance levels and gain “valuable information on the interception capability currently available.”

The latest chapter of lawful access legislation may have come to a close, but the internal government documents suggest that the story is not yet over. With telecom providers suggesting that surveillance-capable networks are inevitable and government officials seeking alternatives to mandatory interception capabilities, the reality is that some of the issues at the heart of lawful access remain very much in play.

The post Government Documents Reveal Canadian Telcos Envision Surveillance-Ready Networks appeared first on Michael Geist.

Government Documents Reveal Canadian Telcos Envision Surveillance-Ready Networks

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Mon, 2014/12/15 - 10:54

Appeared in the Toronto Star on December 13, 2014 as Government Documents Reveal Telecom Providers Envision Surveillance-Ready Networks

After years of failed bills, public debate, and considerable controversy, lawful access legislation received royal assent last week. Public Safety Minister Peter MacKay’s Bill C-13 lumped together measures designed to combat cyberbullying with a series of new warrants to enhance police investigative powers, generating criticism from the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, civil liberties groups, and some prominent victims rights advocates. They argued that the government should have created cyberbullying safeguards without sacrificing privacy.

While the bill would have benefited from some amendments, it remains a far cry from earlier versions that featured mandatory personal information disclosure without court oversight and required Internet providers to install extensive surveillance and interception capabilities within their networks.

The mandatory disclosure of subscriber information rules, which figured prominently in earlier lawful access bills, were gradually reduced in scope and ultimately eliminated altogether. Moreover, a recent Supreme Court ruling raised doubt about the constitutionality of the provisions.

The surveillance and interception capability issue is more complicated, however. The prospect of a total surveillance infrastructure within Canadian Internet networks generated an enormous outcry when proposed in Vic Toews’ 2012 lawful access bill.  Not only did the bill specify the precise required surveillance and interception capabilities, but it also would have established extensive Internet provider reporting requirements and envisioned partial payments by government to help offset the costs for smaller Internet providers.

Those provisions were dropped from Bill C-13, yet according to documents obtained under the Access to Information Act, both Internet providers and the government have been debating a “Plan B” on how to ensure that there are surveillance and interception capable networks.

Perhaps the most notable revelation is that Internet providers have tried to convince the government that they will voluntarily build surveillance capabilities into their networks. A 2013 memorandum prepared for the public safety minister reveals that Canadian telecom companies advised the government that the leading telecom equipment manufacturers, including Cisco, Juniper, and Huawei, all offer products with interception capabilities at a small additional cost.

In light of the standardization of the interception capabilities, the memo notes that the Canadian providers argue that “the telecommunications market will soon shift to a point where interception capability will simply become a standard component of available equipment, and that technical changes in the way communications actually travel on communications networks will make it even easier to intercept communications.”

In other words, Canadian telecom providers are telling the government there is no need for legally mandated surveillance and interception functionality since they will be building networks that will feature those capabilities by default.

While Canadian network providers claimed that interception and surveillance capabilities would become a standard feature in their networks, government officials were not entirely convinced. Department officials argued that interception is a “complex process” and that legislative requirements were preferred.

In the absence of mandated surveillance and interception capabilities, another internal government memorandum emphasized the value of incorporating the technologies in wireless networks through spectrum licence requirements. The memorandum notes that Public Safety works with Industry Canada in developing those requirements and deals directly with providers to ensure that they meet the necessary standards.

The department’s stated goal is to “ensure that the lawful interception capabilities of public safety agencies are maximized within the existing legal framework.”  In meeting its goal, the memorandum notes that it will work directly with the wireless providers to assess compliance levels and gain “valuable information on the interception capability currently available.”

The latest chapter of lawful access legislation may have come to a close, but the internal government documents suggest that the story is not yet over. With telecom providers suggesting that surveillance-capable networks are inevitable and government officials seeking alternatives to mandatory interception capabilities, the reality is that some of the issues at the heart of lawful access remain very much in play.

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 Government Documents Reveal Canadian Telcos Envision Surveillance-Ready Networks appeared first on Michael Geist.

Interview with The Command Line podcast

I just appeared on the Command Line podcast (MP3) to talk about Information Doesn't Want to Be Free -- Thomas and I really had a wide-ranging and excellent conversation:

In this episode, I interview Cory Doctorow about his latest book, “Information Doesn’t Want to be Free: Laws for the Internet Age.” If you are interested in learning more about the topics we discuss and that that book covers, you can also check out books by the scholars we mention: Lawrence Lessig, James Boyle and William Patry. I compared Cory’s book to “The Indie Band Survival Guide” the authors of which are friends of the show whom I have also interviewed.

The audiobook version of the book is already available. Check Cory’s site, the free download and electronic editions should be available soon.

Why ASICs may be good for Bitcoin

Freedom to Tinker - Fri, 2014/12/12 - 09:13
Bitcoin mining is now almost exclusively performed by Bitcoin-specific ASICs (application-specific integrated circuits). These chips are made by a few startup manufacturers and cannot be used for anything else besides mining Bitcoin or closely related cryptocurrencies [1]. Because they are somewhere between a thousand and a million times more efficient at mining Bitcoin than a […]

Striking a balance between advertising and ad blocking

Freedom to Tinker - Thu, 2014/12/11 - 12:27
In the news, we have a consortium of French publishers, which somehow includes several major U.S. corporations (Google, Microsoft), attempting to sue AdBlock Plus developer Eyeo, a German firm with developers around the world. I have no idea of the legal basis for their case, but it’s all about the money. AdBlock Plus and the closely […]

Supreme Court’s Privacy Streak Comes To End: Split Court Affirms Legality of Warrantless Phone Searches Incident to Arrest

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Thu, 2014/12/11 - 11:45

The Supreme Court of Canada issued its decision in R. v. Fearon today, a case involving the legality of a warrantless cellphone search by police during an arrest. Given the court’s strong endorsement of privacy in recent cases such as Spencer, Vu, and Telus, this seemed like a slam dunk. Moreover, the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2014 decision in Riley, which addressed similar issues and ruled that a warrant is needed to search a phone, further suggested that the court would continue its streak of pro-privacy decisions.

To the surprise of many, a divided court upheld the ability of police to search cellphones without a warrant incident to an arrest. The majority established some conditions, but ultimately ruled that it could navigate the privacy balance by establishing some safeguards with the practice. A strongly worded dissent disagreed, noting the privacy implications of access to cellphones and the need for judicial pre-authorization as the best method of addressing the privacy implications.

The majority, written by Justice Cromwell (joined by McLachlin, Moldaver, and Wagner),  explicitly recognizes that cellphones are the functional equivalent of computers and that a search may constitute a significant intrusion of privacy. Yet the majority cautions that not every search is a significant intrusion. It ultimately concludes that there is the potential for a cellphone search to be intrusive, it does not believe that that will be the case in every instance.

Given that conclusion, it is prepared to permit cellphone searches that are incident to arrest provided that the law is modified with some additional protections against invasion of privacy. It proceeds to effectively write the law by creating four conditions: a lawful arrest, the search is incidental to the arrest with a valid law enforcement purpose, the search is tailored or limited to the purpose (ie. limited to recent information), and police take detailed notes on what they have examined and how the phone was searched.

One saving grace in the majority’s decision is that rejects the notion that password-protected phones legally enjoy greater privacy protection than non-protected ones.  The majority states:

I pause here for a moment to note that some courts have suggested that the protection s. 8 affords to individuals in the context of cell phone searches varies depending on whether an individual’s phone is password-protected. I would not give this factor very much weight in assessing either an individual’s subjective expectation of privacy or whether that expectation is reasonable. An individual’s decision not to password protect his or her cell phone does not indicate any sort of abandonment of the significant privacy interests one generally will have in the contents of the phone. Cell phones – locked or unlocked – engage significant privacy interests.

The dissent – written by Karakatsanis and joined by LeBel and Abella – unsurprisingly agrees on the issue of password protection but also offers a much stronger defence of privacy. It explicitly recognizes the connection between digital devices and privacy:

the cell phone acts like a key or portal which can allow the user to access the full treasure trove of records and files that the owner has generated or used on any number of devices.  It is not just the device itself and the information it has generated, but the gamut of (often intensely) personal data accessible via the device that gives rise to the significant and unique privacy interests in digital devices.  The fact that a suspect may be carrying their house key at the time they are arrested does not justify the police using that key to enter the suspect’s home.  In the same way, seizing the key to the user’s digital life should not justify a wholesale intrusion into that realm.  Indeed, personal digital devices are becoming as ubiquitous as the house key.  Increasingly large numbers of people carry such devices with them everywhere they go (be they cell phones, mobile computers, smart watches, smart glasses, or tablets).

The dissent proceeds to adopt the position that complicated conditions are no substitute for effective privacy. It therefore concludes that warrants provide the right balance:

The intensely personal and uniquely pervasive sphere of privacy in our personal computers requires protection that is clear, practical and effective.  An overly complicated template, such as the one proposed by the majority, does not ensure sufficient protection.  Only judicial pre-authorization can provide the effective and impartial balancing of the state’s law enforcement objectives with the privacy interests in our personal computers.  Thus, I conclude that the police must obtain a warrant before they can search an arrested person’s phone or other personal digital communications device.  Our common law already provides flexibility where there are exigent circumstances – when the safety of the officer or the public is at stake, or when a search is necessary to prevent the destruction of evidence.

While the case does provide some helpful language on the importance of privacy, the recognition that cellphones and computers are now functionally equivalent, and that password protection should not be a pre-requisite for privacy protection, the decision is a setback for privacy in Canada. With the court having just concluded in Spencer that a warrant is needed to access subscriber information, it should have maintained that approach by similarly requiring one for cellphone searches during an arrest. In trying to establish the legality of some warrantless cellphone searches, it has replaced the important safeguard of a judicial authorization with conditions that do little to protect privacy while complicating the obligations of law enforcement.

The post Supreme Court’s Privacy Streak Comes To End: Split Court Affirms Legality of Warrantless Phone Searches Incident to Arrest appeared first on Michael Geist.

poems out of other poems

Fair Duty by Meera Nair - Wed, 2014/12/10 - 22:50

December 11 marks the death of John Gillespie Magee, Jr. (1922-1941). Born to an American father and a British mother, Magee opted to join the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1940 to serve with the Allied Forces during WWII (the United States had not yet entered the war). Killed in flight during a training exercise, Magee’s name continues to circulate via his poem High Flight; he may be forever known as the pilot poet.

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air…

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Each sentence surpasses the previous; and the last line lingers inexorably: “Put out my hand and touched the face of God.” The denizens of Wikipedia have traced the phrase “touched the face of God” to an earlier work by Cuthbert Hicks, a poem titled The Blind Man Flies. Some other phrases of Magee’s are also found in other poems. It is a reminder of Northrop Frye’s edict: “Poetry can only be made out of other poems; novels out of other novels. … All this was much clearer before the assimilation of literature to private enterprise concealed so many of the facts of criticism.”

That creativity is an effort in recycling has gained heightened attention in the digital age. Where we once might have talked about chapbooks and scrapbooks, we now speak of user-generated content (UGC). To be sure, digital technology has enhanced both the tools for creative effort as well as the means to distribute the outcome of such effort. But the fact remains that creativity has always relied on inclusion of prior work. In our pre-digital world, amateur recycling of copyrighted materials would either have escaped notice, or been tolerated; today, copyright holders are more likely to resent such behavior and claim infringement.

Aware of the risk to our creative instincts by overt copyright consciousness, as part of the 2012 amendments to the Copyright Act, the Canadian government brought in an exception to protect UGC activities. Found in Section 29.21, the exception is titled as Non-commercial User Generated Content and begins with, “It is not an infringement of copyright for an individual to use an existing work or other subject-matter or copy of one, which has been published or otherwise made available to the public, in the creation of a new work … .”

As all such amendments to copyright have been, S29.21 was controversial from the outset. It pleased few. The exception addresses solely non-commercial creations, thereby offering little assistance to professional artists, and comes with conditions that appear too onerous for amateurs to follow. But closer inspection suggests that S29.21 is not far removed from the analysis that must accompany fair dealing in Canada (fairness and attribution are key to both).

Notably, Canada is the only country that has taken such a progressive step. Peter Yu, an internationally acclaimed intellectual property scholar, argues passionately that a similar exception be included in proposed modifications to the Copyright Ordinance of Hong Kong. Yu also expertly discredits naysayers who profess that Canada’s amendment violates international obligations.

From its infancy on, S29.21 was dubbed the YouTube clause; a title perhaps more fitting in spirit than jurisdiction. The moniker notwithstanding, the scope of 29.21 is vast. Any form of copyrighted work is eligible for consideration, not merely music or video. Teresa Scassa, also a highly acclaimed scholar in the world of intellectual property, writes:

From one perspective it is a licence to build on the works of others; from another it is a potentially sharp curtailment of the scope of a copyright holder’s ability to control the use of their work. In the end, the scope and importance of the UGC exception may come down to how its limiting provisions are interpreted: and in this regard, the direction already charted by the [Supreme Court of Canada] in its recent copyright decisions will likely have great bearing.

Scassa goes on to remind us that the Supreme Court of Canada has taken a strong stance on the issue of balance between rights of control and rights of access. Their directive should feature prominently if lower courts must assess a copyright claim against the limits of the UGC exception.

So, in celebration of Magee’s life and work, and the creative process in general, readers might enjoy this UGC creation by SongOfTheOpenRoad. High Flight’s words are elegantly scripted and interspersed with beautiful imagery. Set upon the musical score of Return/Reunion by Basil Poledouris, the result is much more than the sum of its parts.

 


Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free: the audiobook, read by Wil Wheaton (if you were to share this, I’d consider it a personal favor!)


I've independently produced an audiobook edition of my nonfiction book Information Doesn't Want to Be Free: Laws for the Internet Age, paying Wil Wheaton to narrate it (he did such a great job on the Homeland audiobook, with a mixdown by the wonderful John Taylor Williams, and bed-music from Amanda Palmer and Dresden Dolls.

Both Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman contributed forewords to this one, and Wil reads them, too (of course). I could not be happier with how it came out. My sincere thanks to Wil, the Skyboat Media people (Cassandra and Gabrielle de Cuir and Stefan Rudnicki), John Taylor Williams, and to Amanda for the music.

The book is $15, is DRM free, and has no EULA -- you don't need to give up any of your rights to buy it. It should be available in Downpour and other DRM-free outlets soon, but, of course, it won't be in Itunes or Audible, because both companies insist that you use DRM with your works, and I don't use DRM (for reasons that this book goes to some length to explain).


Information Doesn't Want to Be Free, read by Wil Wheaton,
with introductions by Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer

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