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Growing America’s Businesses Online

Google Public Policy BLOG - Thu, 2014/07/17 - 12:57
Posted by Jim Lecinski, Vice President, Customer Solutions
Over the past few months, we’ve had the chance to talk to businesses all over the country and hear stories of how they’ve become successful. For many, it’s pretty simple: the Internet. The web is helping businesses and communities across the U.S. to grow and succeed. In fact, last year Google’s search and advertising tools helped provide $111 billion of economic activity for more than 1.5 million businesses—advertisers, publishers and nonprofits—across the U.S.
Take Go2marine, a boat supply company located on Bainbridge Island, off the coast of Washington State. Because of their remote location, bringing traffic to their website using Google AdWords plays an important role in their ability to sell their 250,000+ boat supplies to customers in 176 countries. When it’s winter in the U.S., they rely on customers located in other parts of the world where it’s boating season, with the web bringing them business from any place, in any season.
Or meet Don Morton, who taught reading, writing and language in lower-income neighborhoods in my home town of Chicago for nine years. In 2005, he began creating his own materials to supplement what the school system provided. Realizing that his worksheets could be useful for students and teachers everywhere, he created ereadingworksheets.com to provide his worksheets for free. Don started using Google AdSense to offset his costs by placing ads next to his content, and today he’s able to work full-time on his website and make an impact on students around the world.
These are just two examples of enterprising people making the most of Google tools to find new customers, connect with existing ones and grow their businesses; you can find plenty more of them in our Economic Impact Report. Our tools help connect business owners to their customers, whether they’re around the corner or across the world from each other. And when businesses flourish, it’s good news for the rest of us. Recent data shows that businesses that are online are expected to grow 40 percent faster and hire twice as many workers as businesses that aren’t. Every year, it gets clearer that the web helps lead to more successful businesses, stronger economies, more vibrant towns, and more prosperous communities.
Learn more about our economic impact in all 50 U.S. states, and how businesses are finding success through the web. Whether it’s a part for a boat or a grammar worksheet, we’re proud to play a role in giving businesses the tools they need to do more--to grow and thrive and connect with customers and communities all over the world.

the $500 million tip of the TPP iceberg

Fair Duty by Meera Nair - Sun, 2014/07/13 - 23:19

Last week, international negotiators met in Ottawa to further discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. With the usual shroud of secrecy, few details regarding agenda and outcomes were released for public consumption. Nevertheless, based on a leaked copy of the chapter relating to intellectual property, there is sufficient reason for concern with respect to copyright. As reported last week (see Electronic Frontier Foundation here, Michael Geist here, Public Knowledge here, and VICE here) Canada’s copyright regime is likely to be challenged on at least two fronts:

  • the role of internet service providers (will they remain as neutral providers or become key figures in policing the internet?)
  • copyright duration (will Canada’s life-plus-fifty term give way to life-plus-seventy?)

Geist reminds us that the TPP will touch more than copyright; Canada’s privacy and patenting regimes are also implicated. Indeed, the question of Canadian sovereignty with respect to patenting is already at risk, via Eli Lilly’s $500 million challenge to the Canadian government regarding the loss of two secondary-use patents. The means by which Eli Lilly has launched its claim is a consequence of the Investor-State Dispute (ISD) mechanism of NAFTA.

Courtesy of Dennis Lowe and National Geographic

Our made-in-Canada copyright regime has been painstakingly crafted over ten years of deliberative thought; to watch it cast aside will be difficult. But more deleterious will be further entrenchment of the ISD mechanism through the TPP. Yet this issue has received little attention in Canada. Perhaps in part because the topic is not sexy; Investor-State Dispute sounds painfully dull. The phrase cannot be summarily equated to freedom of expression, invasion of privacy, or even the dubious claim that a hit television series could not have been made under the TPP. ISDs are constructed with arcane language that seemingly has little to do with everyday life, but they are potentially lethal as is being demonstrated by Eli Lilly.

Eli Lilly provides the bizarre spectacle of a corporation suing a government because a court decision did not favour the corporation. It has vehemently insisted that the decision of Canadian courts not to uphold two secondary-use patents is a violation of investor safeguards provided through NAFTA; specifically, those relating to minimum standard of treatment, non-discrimination, and expropriation. That the courts rejected the patents because the drugs concerned did not live up to the standard of utility set by Canadian law, was not reasonable according to Eli Lilly. To take action against Canada required contorting the ISD chapter of NAFTA, despite the fact that the chapter in question does not apply to intellectual property. The entire event would read like a lurid novel, if novels were written about intellectual property and national sovereignty.

In a report dated to March 2013, Public Citizen provides a meticulously researched account of Eli Lilly’s actions and the operation of ISDs within trade agreements. At that time, Canada was only facing a $100 million challenge (Eli Lilly has since upped the ante); even so, Public Citizen did not miss the irony at hand:

… while Canada faces an investor-state challenge from Eli Lilly, the country has joined negotiations to establish the TPP, which would expand the investor-state system further. To date, Canada alone has paid more than $155 million to foreign investors after NAFTA investor-state attacks on energy, timber, land use and toxics policies. Underlying Eli Lilly’s claim against Canada is the notion that government patent policies and actions are subject to the investor privileges provisions of the agreement.

Public Citizen observes that Eli Lilly’s actions marks the first occasion of an intellectual property challenge occurring under the auspices of NAFTA’s ISD provisions. Our previous “first”, the first challenge of any kind, does not offer much comfort, resulting as it did in a loss both monetarily and for public health. Briefly, in 1997 a ban on the gasoline additive MMT was repealed by the Canadian government in response to opposition by Ethyl Corporation, the American producer of the additive. At the time, Public Citizen wrote:

The Canadian government settled the NAFTA suit yesterday agreeing to pay Ethyl $13 million in damages and to cover the company’s legal costs. It will also proclaim publicly that MMT is “safe” in direct contradiction of the view of its national environmental protection agency.

With respect to Eli Lilly’s present action, Michael Geist and E. Richard Gold (Professor, Faculty of Law, McGill University) have both indicated that the corporation’s chances of winning are slim. Notably, in a briefing session recently held in Washington DC, Gold indicates that “… no competent tribunal could rule in Eli Lilly’s favor”. We can only hope that both Geist and Gold are correct. But competence might prove a relative term; so far, arbitration tribunals have not distinguished themselves in weighing public interest (as a domestic court of law would) into the decision-making process. (Public Citizen has thoroughly documented past arbitration decisions, with added detail for some of the more egregious outcomes.) Moreover, even if Canada secures a win, that does not necessarily exclude involvement in costs.

The Washington DC briefing session was hosted by the firm of Stern, Kessler, Goldstein and Fox on 5 June 2014, with all the presentations posted online. I am hard pressed to choose a favorite but Simon Lester (Trade Policy Analyst, Cato Institute) raises the issue of Canada’s increasing involvement with ISDs. Despite some indication from the Canadian government that CETA (the impending trade deal with the European Union) will mitigate the ISD risks, Lester notes that Canada is simply trying to “tweak the language” to ensure that court decisions cannot be challenged. “…  what I have seen written is that the only changes are that no claims can be made under expropriation, but there are more avenues [of claim]… the slight tweaks that Canada wants to make are probably not enough.”

If the Canadian government is not decisively protecting sovereignty within a bilateral trade negotiation, it is unlikely that we will do better in the multi-national forum of the TPP.

There is much more that could and should be written about ISDs but, for now, Lester shall have the last word. In his presentation, he asks an important question: “Normally, the Supreme Court gets the final word. But apparently, there’s an international court system above the domestic Supreme Court system.  … Is everybody okay with that?”

 

 

 

 

 


Homeland wins the Prometheus award!


I am delighted and honored to announce that my novel Homeland has won the Prometheus Award for best novel, tying with Ramez Naam's excellent novel Nexus. I am triply honored because this is the third Prometheus I've won -- the other two being for Little Brother and Pirate Cinema. My sincere thanks to the Libertarian Futurist Society; I'll see you at the Worldcon in London this year to accept it!

Searching for the right balance

Google Public Policy BLOG - Fri, 2014/07/11 - 10:30
In May, the Court of Justice of the European Union established a “right to be forgotten." Today, we published an op-ed by David Drummond, senior vice president of corporate development and chief legal officer, in the U.K.'s The Guardian, Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, France's Le Figaro and Spain's El Pais, discussing the ruling and our response. We're republishing the op-ed in full below. -Ed.

When you search online, there’s an unwritten assumption that you’ll get an instant answer, as well as additional information if you need to dig deeper. This is all possible because of two decades worth of investment and innovation by many different companies. Today, however, search engines across Europe face a new challenge—one we’ve had just two months to get our heads around. That challenge is figuring out what information we must deliberately omit from our results, following a new ruling from the European Court of Justice.

In the past we’ve restricted the removals we make from search to a very short list. It includes information deemed illegal by a court, such as defamation, pirated content (once we’re notified by the rights holder), malware, personal information such as bank details, child sexual abuse imagery and other things prohibited by local law (like material that glorifies Nazism in Germany).

We’ve taken this approach because, as article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

But the European Court found that people have the right to ask for information to be removed from search results that include their names if it is “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive.” In deciding what to remove, search engines must also have regard to the public interest. These are, of course, very vague and subjective tests. The court also decided that search engines don’t qualify for a “journalistic exception.” This means that The Guardian could have an article on its website about an individual that’s perfectly legal, but we might not legally be able to show links to it in our results when you search for that person’s name. It’s a bit like saying the book can stay in the library, it just cannot be included in the library’s card catalogue.

It’s for these reasons that we disagree with the ruling. That said, we obviously respect the court’s authority and are doing our very best to comply quickly and responsibly. It’s a huge task as we’ve had over 70,000 take-down requests covering 250,000 webpages since May. So we now have a team of people individually reviewing each application, in most cases with limited information and almost no context.

The examples we’ve seen so far highlight the difficult value judgments search engines and European society now face: former politicians wanting posts removed that criticize their policies in office; serious, violent criminals asking for articles about their crimes to be deleted; bad reviews for professionals like architects and teachers; comments that people have written themselves (and now regret). In each case, someone wants the information hidden, while others might argue it should be out in the open.

When it comes to determining what’s in the the public interest, we’re taking into account a number of factors. These include whether: the information relates to a politician, celebrity, or other public figure; if the material comes from a reputable news source, and how recent it is; whether it involves political speech; questions of professional conduct that might be relevant to consumers; the involvement of criminal convictions that are not yet “spent”; and if the information is being published by a government. But these will always be difficult and debatable judgments.

We’re also doing our best to be transparent about removals: for example, we’re informing websites when one of their pages has been removed. But we cannot be specific about why we have removed the information because that could violate the individual’s privacy rights under the court's decision.

Of course, only two months in, our process is still very much a work in progress. It’s why we incorrectly removed links to some articles last week (they have since been reinstated). But the good news is that the ongoing, active debate that’s happening will inform the development of our principles, policies and practices—in particular about how to balance one person’s right to privacy with another’s right to know.

That’s why we've also set up an advisory council of experts, the final membership of which we're announcing today. These external experts from the worlds of academia, the media, data protection, civil society and the tech sector are serving as independent advisors to Google. The council will be asking for evidence and recommendations from different groups, and will hold public meetings this autumn across Europe to examine these issues more deeply. Its public report will include recommendations for particularly difficult removal requests (like criminal convictions); thoughts on the implications of the court’s decision for European Internet users, news publishers, search engines and others; and procedural steps that could improve accountability and transparency for websites and citizens.

The issues here at stake are important and difficult, but we’re committed to complying with the court’s decision. Indeed it's hard not to empathize with some of the requests we've seen—from the man who asked that we not show a news article saying he had been questioned in connection with a crime (he’s able to demonstrate that he was never charged) to the mother who requested that we remove news articles for her daughter’s name as she had been the victim of abuse. It’s a complex issue, with no easy answers. So a robust debate is both welcome and necessary, as, on this issue at least, no search engine has an instant or perfect answer.

Posted by David Drummond, Senior Vice President, Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer

How to save the CBC, making it a global online participatory leader



In my latest Guardian column, What Canada's national public broadcaster could learn from the BBC, I look at the punishing cuts to the CBC, and how a shelved (but visionary) BBC plan to field a "creative archive" of shareable and remixable content could help the network lead the country into a networked, participatory future.

The CBC, at least, has only limited delusions about the importance of commercialising its archives, especially when that comes at the expense of access to the archives for Canadians. Canada is a young nation, and the CBC has been there with Canadians for about half of the country's short life. The contents of the CBC's archives are even more central to the identity of Canadians that the BBC's is to Britons.

If the CBC is to be cut and remade as a digital-first public service entity, then a Canadian Creative Archive could be one way for it to salvage some joy from its misery. There's nothing more "digital first" than ensuring that the most common online activities – copying, sharing, and remixing – are built into the nation's digital heritage.

What's more, the CBC's situation is by no means unique. In an era of austerity, massive wealth inequality, industrial-scale tax-evasion and totalising market orthodoxy, there's hardly a public broadcaster anywhere in the world that isn't facing brutal cuts that go to the bone and beyond.

All of these broadcasters have something in common: they produced their massive archives at public expense, for the public's benefit, and have made only limited progress in giving the public online access to those treasures.

What Canada's national public broadcaster could learn from the BBC

OECD predicts collapse of capitalism


The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development -- a pro-establishment, rock-ribbed bastion of pro-market thinking -- has released a report predicting a collapse in global economic growth rates, a rise in feudal wealth disparity, collapsing tax revenue and huge, migrating bands of migrant laborers roaming from country to country, seeking crumbs of work. They proscribe "flexible" workforces, austerity, and mass privatization.

The report, Policy Challenges for the Next 50 Years , makes a number of assumptions about the impact of automation on skilled jobs in the workforce, the end the recent growth in the developing world (especially the BRIC nations), and a series of worsening environmental catastrophes.

As Paul Mason points out in The Guardian, the OECD does not countenance the possibility of rupture -- states opting out of market capitalism, say, or non-state actors refusing to accept claims on property. It seems unlikely that the changes the OECD envisions will not be attended by more changes in the way people think about the legitimacy of the economic and political system that produced them.

The OECD has a clear messagefor the world: for the rich countries, the best of capitalism is over. For the poor ones – now experiencing the glitter and haze of industrialisation – it will be over by 2060. If you want higher growth, says the OECD, you must accept higher inequality. And vice versa. Even to achieve a meagre average global growth rate of 3% we have to make labour "more flexible", the economy more globalised. Those migrants scrambling over the fences at the Spanish city of Melilla, next to Morocco, we have to welcome, en masse, to the tune of maybe two or three million a year into the developed world, for the next 50 years. And we have to achieve this without the global order fragmenting.

Oh and there's the tax problem. The report points out that, with the polarisation between high and low incomes, we will have to move – as Thomas Piketty suggests – to taxes on wealth. The problem here, the OECD points out, is that assets – whether they be a star racehorse, a secret bank account or the copyright on a brand's logo – tend to be intangible and therefore held in jurisdictions dedicated to avoiding wealth taxes.

The OECD's prescription – more globalisation, more privatisation, more austerity, more migration and a wealth tax if you can pull it off – will carry weight. But not with everybody. The ultimate lesson from the report is that, sooner or later, an alternative programme to "more of the same" will emerge. Because populations armed with smartphones, and an increased sense of their human rights, will not accept a future of high inequality and low growth.

The best of capitalism is over for rich countries – and for the poor ones it will be over by 2060 [Paul Mason/The Guardian]

(Thanks, Alice!)

A “Right to be Forgotten” in Canada?

IPBlog (Calgary) - Mon, 2014/07/07 - 13:00
By Richard Stobbe A recent EU decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has generated a lot of press since it involves a high profile company - Google - and a tantalizing concept of a "right to be forgotten". The story stems from the efforts by a ...

Industrial Design as a Competitive Tool

IPBlog (Calgary) - Wed, 2014/07/02 - 18:00
By Richard Stobbe Industrial design law in Canada protects the visual features of shape, configuration, pattern or ornamentation which are applied to a product. Functional elements are not protected. Think of the unique shape of a bottle. The functional elements - such as a handle, a cap or lid - those elements could ...

Coming to SLC and PDX


I'm heading to Salt Lake City this week for Westercon, followed by an appearance at the SLC Library on Monday. Next week, I'll be in PDX for three library gigs: Beaverton, Tigard, and Hillsboro. See you there!

Keep Calm and Get Consent: Canada's Anti-Spam Law Takes Effect This Week

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Mon, 2014/06/30 - 02:48
Canada's anti-spam legislation takes effect this week, sparking panic among many businesses, who fear that sending commercial electronic messages may grind to a halt on July 1st. The reality is far less troubling. The new law creates some technical requirements for commercial email marketing alongside tough penalties for violations, but left unsaid is that Canadian law has featured rules requiring appropriate consents for over a decade.

My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version)The concern over the new anti-spam law, which mirrors similar worries from 2004 when private sector privacy legislation arrived, suggests that many may not have complied with their existing obligations. As Canadians receive a flood of requests for consent from long-forgotten organizations they never realized had collected and used their personal information in the first place, the controversy over the rollout of the new anti-spam law says more about poor compliance rates with current privacy laws than it does about the new regulations.


PIPEDA already requires organizations to obtain user consent, allow users to withdraw their consent, and provide the necessary contact information to do so. Compliance with the new anti-spam law (CASL) involves much the same obligations since the three primary requirements involving obtaining user consent, providing an unsubscribe mechanism, and maintaining accessible contact information. 

So why has the new anti-spam law caused such an uproar?  Three reasons: a shift in approach on consents, the confusion that comes from trying fit into the myriad of exceptions contained in the law, and fear of tough new penalties.

The biggest substantive change in the law comes from the requirement for express consent. Express consent requires disclosing the purposes for why consent is being requested and identifying who is seeking consent. This represents a significant change from current practice, where businesses have frequently relied upon "implied" consent for their use of personal information.

The reality is that users were often unaware that their information was being collected, used, and even disclosed for commercial purposes. The terms were often buried in legal agreements that few bothered to read or presented alongside confusing negative option check boxes that left many bewildered as to whether they needed to check or uncheck the box in order to avoid more email marketing.

Yet business relied upon these approaches to claim they had obtained the necessary implied consent. The shift to express consent represents an important change that has forced many businesses to directly request consent from their users for the first time (if a business already has express consent there is no need to ask again). Those arguing that the new law will have little impact on spam miss the point: the law is shifting privacy expectations in how our information is collected and used.

Given the fears associated with seeking express consent, many businesses are seeking to rely upon exceptions contained in the law. There are many exceptions in CASL with everything from most business-to-business emails to Twitter direct messages excluded. Yet reliance on exceptions creates an assortment of complications that many businesses are finding difficult and has become another source of concern. The exceptions require a close reading and some interpretations, but it is should be remembered that businesses can always seek express consent and avoid the issue altogether.

The third major concern involves the consequences for failing to comply with the law. Failure to comply with the current privacy law results in little more than a non-binding finding from the Privacy Commissioner of Canada with practically no likelihood of financial penalties. On the other hand, CASL's penalties are significant with the maximum penalty set at $1 million per violation for an individual and $10 million per violation for a business (despite fears of massive penalties for a single slip-up, warnings are far more likely than penalties).

The law also includes a three-year transition period that ensures that as long as an organization already has implied consent, it has until 2017 to upgrade to an express consent. Email marketing will not stop on Canada Day, but the arrival of the anti-spam law after a decade of debate does mean that Canadians are being meaningfully asked for the first time if they give consent to the collection, use and disclosure of their personal information, a change in approach that seems well worth celebrating.

A step toward government transparency

Google Public Policy BLOG - Fri, 2014/06/27 - 13:01
Posted by Richard Salgado, Director Law Enforcement and Information Security

Last year, President Obama directed the Intelligence Community to be more transparent about government surveillance programs, which led to a promise by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to release a transparency report concerning national security orders it issues on an annual basis. Today, the U.S. government released its first transparency report containing statistics around national security orders for user data to Internet and telecom companies. This is a step in the right direction of increasing trust in both government and Internet services, and it demonstrates again that governments can embrace transparency while protecting national security. We applaud this first step, and strongly encourage other countries to follow suit, though there is still more to be done.

First, the government reports in a manner that makes it impossible to compare its report with the report of companies, such as the Google Transparency Report. Specifically, the government has chosen to disclose an estimated number of “targets” that it has surveilled, rather than the number of “accounts” at issue. This means that where the “target” is an organization composed of many people, and the government uses FISA to require disclosure of information from many different providers about the many accounts used by those people, covering a broad array of services, it may only report that there was one target. By contrast, in our methodology, and that used by other companies, we each would count the number of accounts impacted by a particular surveillance request. The government could provide more meaningful transparency by specifying the number of accounts too.

Second, we would like to see the federal government report on its national security demands with more information about the targets than it does today. Companies like Google can only provide a limited snapshot of how national security authorities are used. The Department of Justice, however, can provide a complete picture. To that end, we support legislation proposed by Senator Franken in August of 2013 that would mandate that the U.S. government release statistics around the number of both citizens and non-citizens whose information is collected and the scale and scope of the search and review of that data.

Finally, we gave early support for USA Freedom Act provisions which would allow companies to provide greater detail about the volume, scope, and type of national security demands that we ourselves receive for user data. Last month, the House version of the USA Freedom Act made improvements on the terms set out by the Department of Justice, and we hope that the Senate paves the way for companies to share more details about the national security demands that we receive.

I’m excited to see how far this debate has come; a year ago almost no one would have imagined that the federal government would release data about its national security demands to companies. These steps show that national security and transparency for the public are not in competition. We also hope that governments around the world will follow the lead of the U.S. government and be more open about the national security demands they serve on service providers and put out comparable transparency reports. Congress, and other governments around the world, should build on these steps.

Should Canadian Courts Decide What the World Gets to See Online?

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Fri, 2014/06/27 - 10:13
The challenge of jurisdiction and the Internet has long been one of the most contentious online legal issues. Given that the Internet has little regard for conventional borders, the question of whose law applies, which court gets to apply it, and how it can be enforced is seemingly always a challenge.  

Striking the right balance can be exceptionally difficult: if courts are unable to assert jurisdiction, the Internet becomes a proverbial “wild west” with no applicable law. Conversely, if every court asserts jurisdiction, the Internet becomes over-regulated with a myriad of potentially conflicting laws vying to govern online activities.

My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that in recent years, courts in many countries have adopted a reasonable balance where they are willing to assert jurisdiction over online activities or companies where there is a “real and substantial” connection, but they limit the scope of enforcing their rulings to their own jurisdiction.  In other words, companies cannot disregard local laws where they operate there, but courts similarly should not disregard the prospect of conflicting rules between different countries.


For example, the recent European Court of Justice decision on the “right to be forgotten”, which requires Google to remove links to certain content, is based on European privacy law and is limited in application to the European Union.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of British Columbia confronted a similar issue – whether it could assert jurisdiction over Google and how far to extend its order to remove links from the search giant’s index – but adopted a far more aggressive approach. Rather than ordering Google to remove certain links from the search results available through Google.ca, the order intentionally targets the entire database, requiring the company to ensure that no one, anywhere in the world, can see the search results.

The case involves a Canadian company that claims that another company used its trade secrets to create a competing product along with "bait and switch" tactics to trick users into purchasing their product. The defendant company had been the target of several court orders demanding that it stop selling the copied product on their website. Google voluntarily removed search results for the site from Google.ca search results, but was unwilling to block the sites from its worldwide index.

The court was concerned that a Canada-only order would be ineffective since Canadians could still access links to the site if they switched from Google.ca to a different country site such as Google.com. Yet even with a global court order, Canadians could still use competing search engines to find the same information. Moreover, that same order blocks content in countries where there was presumably no awareness of the competing site and no commercial impact.

More troubling are the broader implications of the ruling, since if a Canadian court has the power to limit access to information for the globe, presumably other courts do as well. While the court does not grapple with this possibility, what happens if a Russian court orders Google to remove gay and lesbian sites from its database? Or if a Saudi Arabian court orders it remove Israeli sites from the index? The possibilities are endless since local rules of freedom of expression often differ from country to country.

The ruling provides the sense that the court felt that its reach needed to match Google's global footprint. While there is much to be said for asserting jurisdiction over Google - if it does business in Canada, then Canadian law should apply - attempts to extend blocking orders to a global audience could lead to a run on court orders that target the company's global search results.

That would leave two possible problematic outcomes: Google would selectively decide which court orders it wishes to follow or local courts would begin deciding what the rest of the world can access online. Either way, the overreach of the B.C. court could lead to legal conflicts online and potential suppression of freedom of speech on the Internet.

Update on Anti-Patent-Troll Laws

IPBlog (Calgary) - Thu, 2014/06/26 - 16:00
By Richard Stobbe Yesterday draft "anti-patent-troll" legislation was put forward in Washington. This is part of a ground swell of opposition to illegitimate patent demand letters from so-called patent assertion entities (PAEs), or "patent trolls". This draft legislation, according to the sponsor of the proposed bill, "increases transparency and accountability to ...

The Canadian Anti-Spam Law Panic: Same As It Ever Was

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Thu, 2014/06/26 - 07:35
As the Canadian media reports on the panic associated with the new anti-spam law set to take effect next week, consider the following from Macleans titled "Few Companies Prepared for New Privacy Law":

The new law..says organizations can only collect personal information for a stated reason - and can use it only for that purpose. Among others things, that means a company that supplies a service can't sell its list of subscribers to another company's marketing department. Individuals must be informed, and give their consent, before personal information is collected, used or disclosed..But most firms are unaware of the new law."

The article continues by noting that "there's confusion over which organizations might be exempt" and that "there is no grandfather clause - all existing customer information needs to be compliant." The message is similar in a Globe and Mail article titled "Many small firms not ready for privacy rules", which also notes the possibility of a constitutional challenge. An IT World Canada reiterates that concern in its coverage:

most Canadian organizations are not aware of the [law]. And very few are prepared to comply.

What makes these articles noteworthy is that none involve CASL. Instead, they all date from 2004, when the current private sector privacy law (PIPEDA) was about to take effect. Then, as now, there was ominous warnings about how ill-prepared Canadian business was to address their privacy law obligations. Yet as I noted in my post on complying with the new anti-spam law:

For any organization that already sends commercial electronic messages, they presumably comply with PIPEDA, the private sector privacy law, that requires organizations to obtain user consent, allow users to withdraw their consent, and provide the necessary contact information to do so.  Compliance with the new anti-spam law (CASL) involves much the same obligations. While there are certainly some additional technical requirements and complications (along with tough penalties for failure to comply), the basics of the law involve consent, withdrawal of consent (ie. unsubscribe), and accessible contact information.

While CASL does create some new obligations, what is not new is the claims that business is unaware and unprepared to address their privacy law obligations.

Re: Why Canada’s anti-spam legislation is creating so much spam

Russell McOrmond on Disqus - Wed, 2014/06/25 - 05:02

Interesting the Entertainment Software Association of Canada is mentioned in this one as well. The anti-SPAM law also had anti-malware provisions, and these bad actors continue to ask for the legally protected "right" to install software on our computers without our informed consent. Nasty stuff, and glad the government is finally outlawing this extremely harmful practise. As we use our computers in more and more aspects of our lives, ensuring that they are under the control of their owners and not unauthorized third parties becomes even more critical.

Given the economic and other costs of SPAM to our communications systems, I believe the minimal transitional training hardship for businesses (for-profit or non-profit) to conform to what should have been common courtesy are well worth it. Just because you are non-profit doesn't give you some right to abuse our common communications systems, and just because you use volunteers doesn't mean those volunteers shouldn't be trained. There are many things that volunteers need training on in order to not cause harm to themselves and others, and it is about time that training against the abuse of communications systems becomes added to the common courtesy understanding by everyone who uses email.

API Copyright Update: Oracle wins this round

IPBlog (Calgary) - Mon, 2014/06/23 - 14:00
By Richard Stobbe The basic question "are APIs eligible for copyright protection?" has consumed much analysis (and legal fees) during the lawsuit between Oracle and Google, which started in 2010. (For more reading on our long-running coverage of the long-running Oracle vs. Google patent and copyright litigation, see below.) The basic premise ...

Podcast: How Amazon is holding Hachette hostage

Here's a reading (MP3) of my latest Guardian column, How Amazon is holding Hachette hostage, which examines how Hachette's insistence on DRM for their ebooks has taken away all their negotiating leverage with Amazon, resulting in Amazon pulling Hachette's books from its catalog in the course of a dispute over discounting:

Under US law (the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act) and its global counterparts (such as the EUCD), only the company that put the DRM on a copyrighted work can remove it. Although you can learn how to remove Amazon's DRM with literally a single, three-word search, it is nevertheless illegal to do so, unless you're Amazon. So while it's technical child's play to release a Hachette app that converts your Kindle library to work with Apple's Ibooks or Google's Play Store, such a move is illegal.

It is an own-goal masterstroke. It is precisely because Hachette has been so successful in selling its ebooks through Amazon that it can't afford to walk away from the retailer. By allowing Amazon to put a lock on its products whose key only Amazon possessed, Hachette has allowed Amazon to utterly usurp its relationship with its customers. The law of DRM means that neither the writer who created a book, nor the publisher who invested in it, gets to control its digital destiny: the lion's share of copyright control goes to the ebook retailer whose sole contribution to the book was running it through a formatting script that locked it up with Amazon's DRM.

The more books Hachette sold with Amazon DRM, the more its customers would have to give up to follow it to a competing store.

MP3

after Marrakesh

Fair Duty by Meera Nair - Mon, 2014/06/23 - 10:59

June 28 marks the one year anniversary of the completion of a diplomatic conference to facilitate access to published works for blind, visually impaired and print disabled people. Known as the Marrakesh Treaty, its purpose is to address the book famine that currently exists with respect to anyone of limited reading capability, by: (i) facilitating creation of appropriately formatted materials with the use of exceptions to copyright; and (ii) allowing countries to share materials, thereby reducing costs all round. Hailed as the Miracle in Marrakesh, it is the first multilateral treaty on limitations and exceptions to copyright, and gives credence to the view that negotiation among stakeholders is possible.

But no one had any expectation that the treaty would move forward smoothly. (Some of my earlier coverage is here and here). Prior to last year’s conference, Tatiana Sinodinou posted a detailed assessment of the situation; reminding us that these negotiations began more than thirty years earlier, when UNESCO and WIPO jointly created a working group to examine the possibilities for enhancing access to copyrighted material for those handicapped by visual or auditory limitations.

Sinodinou eloquently captured the tension of what lay ahead: “… The road to Marrakesh is open but is not paved with roses and the outcome of the negotiations is awaited with both hope and reservations.” Given that history, the cooperation found a year ago was worthy of attribution to the miraculous. But tangible benefit is yet to be had; the miracle may give way to mirage if concerted action is not taken.

With the treaty language adopted on 27 June 2013, delegates were invited to sign the treaty on 28 June 2013 and agree to:

… to introduce a standard set of limitations and exceptions to copyright rules in order to permit reproduction, distribution and making available of published works in formats designed to be accessible to [blind, visually impaired and print disabled persons] and to permit exchange of these works across borders by organizations that serve those beneficiaries …

Fifty-one countries immediately obliged. Over the past year, sixteen others signed. And this morning came the welcome news that Australia, Finland, Ireland and Norway have also signed.

PHOTO: Australia, Finland, Ireland & Norway sign “books for blind” Marrakesh Treaty – http://t.co/ZRjpR5EBoq pic.twitter.com/cPVTduhFIu

— WIPO (@WIPO) June 23, 2014

Canada’s absence of support is glaring, particularly given the role Canada purportedly played in negotiating the treaty; see Sara Bannerman’s remarks here and Michael Geist’s remarks here.

Geist points out that Canadian law will only need minor modification and that the Federal Government could make such changes during the upcoming scheduled review of Canadian copyright law in 2017. But, he also writes:

The biggest change would likely come from the need to establish an entity that would facilitate, promote, and disseminate accessible format copies of work and exchange information with other countries about accessible works. In other words, the treaty would require Canada to invest in improving access for the blind.

Fortunately, CELA might serve that need. Officially launched on 1 April 2014, with a formal debut at the Canadian Library Association’s National Conference on 29 May 2014, the Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA) is a non-profit organization that serves Canadians with print disabilities. Supported by the Canadian Urban Libraries Council and the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, CELA already has 600 member libraries across Canada. Among the services provided by CELA are:

- A broad choice of formats including audio, braille, e-text and described video
– Access to a growing collection of over 230,000 alternate format items including books, magazines, newspapers and described videos
– A broad selection of genres: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, children’s, young adult, business, self-help, poetry and more
– A choice of delivery options: Direct download to computer, handheld devices and DAISY player; CD and braille mailed to home
– Training and expertise on accessibility

Of course, this only makes it more perplexing that our government is holding back on signing the treaty.

On a brighter note; Israel, which is not yet among the list of signatories, nevertheless amended its copyright law expressly to comply with the treaty requirements. At Israel Technology Law, Eli Greenbaum writes that the Israeli implementation exceeds the minimum standards required. (Hopefully, ratification is forthcoming quickly.) And it appears that India had planned to ratify the treaty by now; in his coverage last month for SpicyIP, Swaraj Paul Barooah writes: “G.R. Raghavender, Registrar of Copyrights, has stated that the ratification is expected by the end of May, 2014.” (Perhaps the election delayed the plans, but the new Indian government intends to act quickly?)

Until twenty countries ratify the treaty, and none have done so yet, the treaty cannot have force. In a lecture given at the Berkman Center on 23 April 2014, Justin Hughes, (chief negotiator for the United States for the Marrakesh Treaty) was unequivocal that much more needs to be done:

The real policy goal, the real thing we should care about is getting educational/cultural/informational materials into the hands of persons with print disabilities. And when you sign the treaty, you haven’t succeeded.

This journey is far from over; the road did not stop at Marrakesh.

 

More reading:

Explanatory notes, courtesy of World Blind Union.
User Guide to The Marrakesh Treaty, prepared by Jonathan Band.
The 1982 WIPO/UNESCO report is available at Knowledge Ecology International.

 

Update July 1  India becomes the first country to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty (dated to June 30, 2014)

 

 

 


My talk at the Edinburgh Publishing Conference

Here's my talk at last week's Edinburgh Publishing Conference, called "Information Doesn't Want to Be Free."

How Hachette made the rope that Amazon is hanging it with


In my latest Guardian column, "How Amazon is holding Hachette hostage," I discuss the petard that the French publishing giant Hachette is being hoisted upon by Amazon. Hachette insisted that Amazon sell its books with "Digital Rights Management" that only Amazon is allowed to remove, and now Hachette can't afford to pull its books from Amazon, because its customers can only read their books with Amazon's technology. So now, Hachette has reduced itself to a commodity supplier to Amazon, and has frittered away all its market power. The other four major publishers are headed into the same place with Amazon, and unless they dump DRM quick, they're going to suffer the same fate.

Under US law (the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act) and its global counterparts (such as the EUCD), only the company that put the DRM on a copyrighted work can remove it. Although you can learn how to remove Amazon's DRM with literally a single, three-word search, it is nevertheless illegal to do so, unless you're Amazon. So while it's technical child's play to release a Hachette app that converts your Kindle library to work with Apple's Ibooks or Google's Play Store, such a move is illegal.

It is an own-goal masterstroke. It is precisely because Hachette has been so successful in selling its ebooks through Amazon that it can't afford to walk away from the retailer. By allowing Amazon to put a lock on its products whose key only Amazon possessed, Hachette has allowed Amazon to utterly usurp its relationship with its customers. The law of DRM means that neither the writer who created a book, nor the publisher who invested in it, gets to control its digital destiny: the lion's share of copyright control goes to the ebook retailer whose sole contribution to the book was running it through a formatting script that locked it up with Amazon's DRM.

The more books Hachette sold with Amazon DRM, the more its customers would have to give up to follow it to a competing store.

How Amazon is holding Hachette hostage

(Image: Noose, Old Austin County Jail, Bellville, Texas 0130101348BW, Patrick Feller, CC-BY)

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