Feed aggregator

Why Copyright Term Matters: Publisher Study Highlights Crucial Role of the Public Domain in Ontario Schools

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Thu, 2017/09/14 - 09:58

The Ontario Book Publishers Organization recently published a study funded by the OMDC on the use of Canadian books in English classes in Ontario Public and Catholic schools from Grades 7 to 12. The study surveyed teachers and school boards on which books (including novels, short story collections, creative non-fiction, poetry and plays but not textbooks) are taught in English classes. The goal was to see whether Canadian books were included in class lists. The survey generated hundreds of responses (27 from school board participants and 280 from the Ontario Teachers Federation) resulting references to 695 books by 539 authors.

The OBPO argued that the takeaway from the study is that Canadian books are not well represented in Canadian classrooms since less than a quarter of the mentions referred to a Canadian work and none of the top 10 works were Canadian. While that suggests that there is considerable room to increase the presence of Canadian works in the classroom, the data in the study can be used for other purposes. Working with Sydney Elliott, one of my research assistants, we reviewed the OBPO data to identify the presence of public domain works in Ontario classrooms (ie. the use of works for which the term of copyright has expired).

The results were striking as the data confirms that public domain books are an essential part of the English curriculum. Of the top 20 titles, half are in the public domain today or will enter the public domain within the next few years. William Shakespeare is unsurprisingly responsible for many of these titles, but he is not alone. Other very popular public domain works include books by F. Scott Fitzgerald and George Orwell along with books by John Wyndham and John Steinbeck that will enter the public domain in Canada by the end of the decade.

The importance of the public domain within the classroom extends far beyond the most popular works, however. The survey identified 99 books that received at least four separate mentions from respondents. Of those 99 books, 20 are in the public domain and two more will enter the public domain shortly. This covers a wide range of additional authors including Huxley, Conrad, Shelley, Bronte, and McNamee. These books are widely used as they represent 35% of the total mentions. Expanding even further to the entire list of 695 books, 96 are in the public domain or about to enter it.

Despite efforts by some to dismiss its value, the widespread use of public domain works within Canadian classrooms underscores its continued relevance. It also raises two important policy issues. First, it reinforces how many of the works used in classrooms fall outside of current copyright protection and not are not subject to licence fees or royalties. In fact, as the Ontario government emphasizes the benefits of open electronic textbooks, using public domain works will become even more essential since they can be fully incorporated into open electronic texts without the need for licenses or permissions and can be made more readily accessible in electronic form for blind and sight impaired students.

Second, there is another large category of works currently used in Canadian classrooms beyond the nearly 100 public domain titles. Our review identified another 27 titles that are scheduled to enter the public domain within the next 20-25 years including works from authors and poets such as Agatha Christie, J.R.R. Tolkein, and W.H. Auden. These works – which appear regularly on class lists – would be directly affected should Canada agree to extend the term of copyright as part of the NAFTA negotiations. With the U.S. pushing Canada to extend the term beyond the Berne Convention requirement of life of the author plus 50 years (to life plus 70), no new works would enter the public domain for 20 years (assuming it takes several years to negotiate and implement an extension, the extended term could catch works currently closer to 25 years away from public domain status).

This extension would have a real cost: a New Zealand study on term extension in the TPP estimated the cost at tens of millions of dollars per year. Within Canadian classrooms, dozens of books scheduled to enter the public domain would be shut out for decades. These are books that are used by thousands of students today. The prospect of using those books in new and innovative ways without the need for further licensing or royalties – as well as increasing access in open electronic form – would be lost for a generation.

Recent reports indicate that efforts to revive the TPP may involve the removal of the provisions on copyright term extension from that agreement. As Canada continues the NAFTA talks, it should resist any further term extension by continuing to adhere to the international treaty standard, recognizing that longer terms will have a direct impact on Canadian students, who are sometimes forgotten as among the most active readers of public domain works.

The post Why Copyright Term Matters: Publisher Study Highlights Crucial Role of the Public Domain in Ontario Schools appeared first on Michael Geist.

Why Has the Government Failed to Act on Copyright Notice-and-Notice When Internal Docs Raise Abuse and Fraud Concerns?

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Wed, 2017/09/13 - 09:20

Canada’s copyright notice-and-notice system has been the subject of controversy and misuse since the moment it launched in 2015.  The system was intended to educate the public on copyright and reduce infringing activity through awareness (experience indicated the approach worked), but has been misused by copyright owners who have used it to send millions of settlement demands to unsuspecting Canadians.  The misuse of the system was even the subject a question to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during question period earlier this year.

While fixing the problem should be relatively easy – new regulations could prescribe precisely what may be included in the notice or there could be a prohibition on including settlement offers or demands within the notices – but the government has dragged its feet on the issue. The Conservatives knew there was a problem, but instead chose to prioritize extending the term of copyright for sound recordings after a behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign. The Liberals have similarly not acted on the issue, putting Copyright Board reform ahead in the queue.

The issue may have languished, but documents recently obtained under the Access to Information Act confirm that government officials believe that sending settlement demands is inconsistent with the original policy intent. Moreover, the documents reveal that the Ministry of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development has been receiving anxious calls for consumers and that it is aware of industry concerns about fraudulent notices by parties impersonating copyright holders.  The government memo from 2016, written as advice to ISED Minister Navdeep Bains, states:

Soon after the regime entered into force in January 2015, controversy arose over the practice of some copyright owners (or their agents) of including settlement demands within their notices, urging the consumer to avoid threatened legal action. The sending of such notices could lead to abuses, given that consumers may be pressured into making payments even in situations where they have not engaged in any acts that violate copyright laws.

The memo continues:

Officials signalled to stakeholders early on that the sending of such notices to consumers is not consistent with the underlying policy intent, and many of the participants in the regime, including key organizations representing copyright owners, have indicated that they do not support the use of settlement demands. Internet intermediaries complain, however, that the current legislative framework does not expressly prohibit this practice and that they feel compelled to forward on such notices to their subscribers when they receive them from copyright owners.

The memo notes that “consumer anxiety over such notices has been apparent in inquiries received from ISED’s call centre and in media reports.” The department also raises concerns about fraudulent notices:

According to ISPs, this problem is compounded by instances of fraudulent notices being sent to consumers by individuals impersonating actual copyright owners. Such notices are likely being sent to consumers in the hopes of extracting payments under the guise of settling infringement claims.

Given the awareness of the misuse of the system and vulnerability of thousands of Canadians, why has the government done nothing to address the issue? Officials know the system is being misused and that consumers are being victimized by unwarranted and potentially fraudulent settlement demands. Yet the misuse of notice-and-notice has been going on for 2 1/2 years with no action on what amounts to an easy fix. There is no reason to wait another year or two for the copyright review to run its course to address the issue. If the government can prioritize fixing the Copyright Board, it can also ensure that Canadians are no longer unfairly targeted through a system prone to abuse.

The post Why Has the Government Failed to Act on Copyright Notice-and-Notice When Internal Docs Raise Abuse and Fraud Concerns? appeared first on Michael Geist.

the golden age

Fair Duty by Meera Nair - Mon, 2017/09/04 - 13:15

Another Labour Day has arrived and a new school year is underway. It seems befitting to continue exploring the often tension-ridden relationship between creators of educational material and users thereof. As I described last week via Policy Options: “the story of an ongoing disaster for writers and publishers—supposedly due to errant Supreme Court justices and negligent government—has played out in the press, at international gatherings and in literary journals.” Attacks on the post-secondary sector have been increasingly brazen this year;* for those who are becoming fatigued by the degree and volume of misinformation, I would like to share two points of good news.

First, this is not new.

There is a long history behind today’s dispute. Since the inception of copyright as a component of statutory law, copyright holders have sought to make copyright as expansive as possible and lessen any obligations that serve public interest as a whole. The Statute of Anne (titled An Act for the Encouragement of Learning…) provided copyright under conditions; as I have written before: “the privilege of the original exclusive right of reproduction came with the requirement that for each book published, nine copies were to be given to various university libraries, printed on nothing less than the best paper.” That requirement was decried, reneged on, and eventually discarded but not before many decades of familiar rhetoric had been unleashed.

When it became vividly evident that the statutory condition of library deposit (some called it the educational deposit) was being ignored, a professor of law protested vehemently. In A Vindication of the Right of the Universities of Great Britain to a copy of every new publication Edward Christian wrote:

When I hear much pity and commiseration expressed for the rights of poor authors, I wish to respect the rights of poor students, a class of men from whom poor authors themselves must derive their origin, and without whose successful labours nothing valuable in literature is ever likely to have existence. … By every honourable author [the deposit] would be paid with alacrity, as a debt of justice and gratitude, for the benefit which he must or might have derived from these common foundations of science.

Christian was not unaware of the objections raised to the requirement of deposit; he continued:

… It is sometimes observed, that besides the loss of the copy…, the author or proprietor will suffer considerably by the diminution in the sale of the work, when the members of the University have an opportunity of perusing it gratuitously. But that seems to be a fallacious and sophistical argument; for if the University thinks it worth purchasing, then the sale of one copy does precisely the same mischief to the author’s interest as the donation of that copy.

Christian’s words bring to mind those who insist that a librarian practicing fair dealing on behalf of students is unacceptable, despite the fact that the law (see Copyright Act, 30.2(1)) has long since allowed such practice. Moreover, our Supreme Court has repeatedly emphasized that fair dealing is effectively transferable—in 2004, librarians were permitted to act on behalf of their patrons; in 2012, an ISP and teachers could stand in the fair dealing shoes of subscribers and students respectively.

In any event, the early 19th century is an intriguing period of history. Ronan Deazley writes: “When one thinks of notable debates … in nineteenth century Britain one thinks of … the parliamentary wrangles surrounding the Copyright Amendment Act 1842,” but he brings readers’  attention to events related to a proposed 1808 amendment, titled:

Bill for the further encouragement of Learning in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, by securing to the Libraries of the Universities, and other public libraries, copies of all newly-printed books, and books reprinted with additions, and by further securing the copies and copyright of printed Books to the authors of such books, or their assigns, for a time to be limited.

Copyright holders protested; in the decades that followed, the familiar trope of starving authors reappeared. With Romanticism in full bloom, William Wordsworth penned these lines:

… For ‘Books’!” Yes, heartless Ones, or be it proved
That ’tis a fault in Us to have lived and loved
Like others, with like temporal hopes to die
No public harm that Genius from her course
Be turned; and streams of truth dried up, even at their source!

After three hundred years, a change of dialogue would be much appreciated. Which leads me to my second point; such dialogue can exist.

In May of this year, I attended Congress 2017 at Ryerson University, taking the rare opportunity to explore my interest in all things related to books. During one session, a representative from Canadian Publishing made the remark that he did not see himself in the debate about copyright/fair dealing, or authors/readers. That the labour expended by homegrown Canadian presses remains unseen and unaccounted for. As we ran out of official time, he and his colleague stood with me in the hallway so that conversation could continue. To their credit, when I mentioned the millions of dollars that Canadian universities spend on content,** they were surprised, and wishful. If only a fraction of those funds came to them, their situation would be different.

Allied to the challenges of securing income for small presses is the challenge of securing writers. The next day I listened to a publishers’ panel and was struck by one remark in particular: they nurture young talent but when an author “finally writes something with the potential to make money,” that opportunity is given to a larger, weightier press. All publishers present agreed on one thing: that it was essential to sell beyond Canadian borders. The Canadian market is simply not large enough to sustain them. This is, and has always been, the problem.

As I have written before, today’s challenges are as old as Canada itself; 19th century Canadian publishers were shut out of, not only foreign markets, but their own market. Without government support, the publishing sector could not grow. And the support that Canada wished to give, was denied by the political influence of publishers and copyright holders from both the UK and the US.

It was not until the later 20th century, amid the demise of Ryerson Press, that explicit government support emerged for Canadian publishers. (A delightful bonus from Congress 2017 was listening to Clive Powell’s presentation regarding the Ryerson Press archives). That support has continued, but, as noted last year by Kate Edwards (executive director of the Association of Canadian Publishers) in The World Needs More Canada, support had remained static for the prior fifteen years. Even so, in that same article, Dan Wells (publisher of Windsor-based Biblioasis) had this to say: “… this really is the golden age of independent publishing in Canada.”

Wells’ enthusiasm aside, it need not mean we are not to try to focus attention on our homegrown publishers and writers. But it is unwise to take that step via copyright and blanket licensing. Efforts to manufacture a market out of legitimate unauthorized uses of copyrighted materials can only backfire. As I pointed out last week, the dual rise of (i) licensing of content directly between publishers and institutions; and (ii) openly licensed educational resources, points to a future where less proprietary information moves unsanctioned through academic corridors. To the extent that Canadian educators rely on educational publishers, that field is dominated by foreign firms. Just as demands for a uniform stamp of copyright in the 19th century did not serve Canadian publishers well, the call for uniformity through blanket licensing will again disproportionately benefit the competitors of our publishers.

For those who thrive on conflict, continuing to demonize educators and librarians as the enemy of writers and publishers is a desirable state of affairs. But as to whether this approach will benefit the writers and publishers in whose name the conflict is waged, is doubtful for the simple reason that copyright does not care about a Canadian writer, or a Canadian publisher. If we wish to target our own publishing sector and our own writers, we need to find another way.

For instance, provincial governments are taking active interest in developing open educational resources. Could not funds be set aside for grants to educational institutions (whether in the K-12 range or post-secondary) for partnerships with Canadian publishers, writers, artists, archivists, geographers, scientists, botanists and historians to develop Made-In-Canada content? Some educational institutions have their own facilities for printing; others are looking at the viability of establishing print-on-demand. A modest printing fee may well be more lucrative to local creators than the small margins available under a mass-market publishing model. Students and Canadian creators could all benefit.

There can be no easy solution to these problems, but conversation is more productive than acrimony. And so, to those two gentlemen, thank you.



The Walrus recently published this missive, “How Universities Manage to Avoid Paying Writers for Their Work,” by Patrick Warner. He writes: “… why should writers, among the lowest-paid skilled workers in Canada—whose average income is less than 50 percent of the median national wage—be asked to subsidize the education system by making early contributions to the public domain?” Warner makes no mention of the millions spent by post-secondary institutions on content; instead he devotes considerable energy to marking librarians as a source of copyright discontent and enablers of unauthorized use: “… librarians had complained for decades that copyright law prevented them from offering better services to their users: desktop delivery of documents and electronic reserves being two services technology could easily allow.” Left unsaid is the prevalence of licensing of library resources; librarians are often operating under campus wide-licenses from content providers, many of whom allow electronic access and distribution.

** For instance, in 2013, then-President Stephen Toope wrote of the $25 million paid by the University of British Columbia alone for content, including $14 million spent directly on books by faculty and students. Last year, the Canadian Association of Research Libraries indicated that their 31 member libraries had collectively spent $293 million for information resources in 2014-2015. If the expenditures of smaller institutions are included, the number will be even higher.

Universities should educate, not police copyright

Sara Bannerman - Tue, 2017/08/22 - 09:18
My op-ed on why universities should focus on educating faculty and students about copyright rather than online copyright enforcement is available on The Conversation here and in various other publications.

The NAFTA E-commerce Chapter: Ensuring the New Chapter Reflects Canadian Priorities

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Thu, 2017/08/17 - 09:56

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland outlined Canada’s NAFTA negotiating objectives in talk earlier this week, identifying the need to modernize NAFTA so that “all sectors of our economy can reap the full benefits of the digital revolution.” I posted yesterday on how the IP chapter could be used to level the playing field for innovation. This post discusses how the new e-commerce chapter, which will be the most obvious manifestation of a modernized NAFTA, offers the opportunity to address an increasingly important aspect of modern cross-border commercial activity.

The policy behind an e-commerce chapter should be to facilitate modern, electronic commerce. Canada should be wary of provisions that undermine legitimate public policy interest, including privacy and security. This concern is particularly pronounced with respect to restrictions on data localization and data transfers, both identified by the USTR as issues of concern. Further, Canada should seek higher level privacy protections and e-commerce regulations in NAFTA.

The Implications of NAFTA for Privacy and Security

The U.S. has identified restrictions against local data storage – often called data localization – as one of its objectives. The issue originates from Silicon Valley tech company frustration with a growing number of governments that want local data to remain within their jurisdiction. The reason for data localization requirements typically stem from mounting concerns over U.S. surveillance activities and the power granted to U.S. law enforcement under laws such as the USA Patriot Act.

The combined effect of these U.S. laws is that many users fear that once their information is stored in the U.S., it will be accessible to U.S. authorities without suitable privacy protections or oversight. Since U.S. law provides less privacy protection to foreigners, there is indeed limited legal recourse for Canadian data held in the U.S.  Provinces such as British Columbia and Nova Scotia have enacted laws to keep government information (such as health data) within the country.

In response to the mounting public concerns, leading technology companies such as Microsoft, Amazon, and Google have established or committed to establish Canadian-based computer server facilities that can offer localization of information. These moves follow on the federal government’s 2016 cloud computing strategy that prioritizes privacy and security concerns by mandating that certain data be stored in Canada. The Canadian government should resist efforts within NAFTA to limit the ability of federal or provincial governments to establish legitimate privacy and security safeguards through data localization requirements.

Limitations on data transfer restrictions, which mandate the free flow of information on networks across borders, raises similar concerns. Those rules are important to preserve online freedoms in countries that have a history of cracking down on Internet speech, but in the Canadian context, could restrict the ability to establish privacy safeguards. In fact, should the European Union mandate data transfer restrictions as many experts expect, Canada could find itself between a proverbial privacy rock and a hard place, with the EU requiring restrictions and NAFTA prohibiting them. While the U.S. is seeking a ban on data transfer restrictions, Canada should ensure that privacy and security laws will not be superseded by NAFTA restrictions.

Using NAFTA To Safeguard Privacy Protections

Privacy protections are a key aspect of e-commerce, providing consumers with assurances that their personal information will be appropriately safeguarded. A renegotiated NAFTA should include a high level privacy protection requirement. The starting point for privacy protection in most countries is a national privacy law modeled on the OECD privacy principles. Enforcement measures are frequently handled by privacy or data protection commissioners with some form of enforcement powers as well as additional rules on issues such as mandatory disclosure of security breaches. A privacy requirement that extends beyond voluntary undertakings is essential for Canadians to have the necessary assurances that their information is properly protected and to place Canadian companies on a level playing field with their NAFTA counterparts.

NAFTA should also include mandatory anti-spam legislation as a national requirement. The provisions could specify that the law provide for a binding unsubscribe mechanism and an opt-in consent requirement, consistent with the Canadian anti-spam law. Other e-commerce laws, including consumer protection requirements and electronic contracting provisions, would be suitable for inclusion in an e-commerce chapter.

The post The NAFTA E-commerce Chapter: Ensuring the New Chapter Reflects Canadian Priorities appeared first on Michael Geist.

How Canada Can Use NAFTA’s IP Chapter to Level the Innovation Playing Field

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Wed, 2017/08/16 - 09:44

The NAFTA renegotiation gets underway today, days after Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland outlined Canada’s NAFTA negotiating objectives. As her first core objective, Freeland identified modernizing NAFTA so that “all sectors of our economy can reap the full benefits of the digital revolution.” Those comments suggest that the IP chapter and a new e-commerce chapter will be top negotiating priorities. I’ll post on the e-commerce chapter tomorrow, but this post highlights my recent CIGI essay on how Canada can use the NAFTA intellectual property chapter to help level the innovation playing field.

While Canada is accustomed to “playing defence” to U.S. IP demands, this round of renegotiation offers the chance to pro-actively ensure that Canadian IP priorities and policies are reflected in the agreement. To place the IP issue in context, over the past five years, Canada has added anti-circumvention laws similar to those found in the U.S., added stronger enforcement measures (including the “enabler” provision for websites that facilitate infringement), enacted anti-counterfeiting laws, extended the term of protection for sound recordings, and engaged in patent and trademark reforms. When added to earlier reforms such as anti-camcording rules and recent court decisions that addressed U.S. concerns about Canadian patent rules, Canada has acquiesced to many IP policy demands from the U.S.

As Canada embarks on a new round of NAFTA talks, it should be recognized that Canada already meets its international IP obligations and has largely addressed previous U.S. demands regarding further reforms. At a broad level, the Canadian negotiating goal should be to retain an appropriate IP balance that fosters creativity and access, while ensuring that there is room for Canadian-specific policies that sit within the flexibilities of the international IP framework.

The full CIGI piece identifies five opportunities: inclusion of balance as an IP objective, a fair use provision, anti-circumvention legislation exceptions, rules on IP abuse and misuse, and rejection of U.S. efforts to extend the term of copyright.

The post How Canada Can Use NAFTA’s IP Chapter to Level the Innovation Playing Field appeared first on Michael Geist.

Good Politics, Bad Policy: Melanie Joly Sends TV Licensing Cancon Decision Back to the CRTC

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Tue, 2017/08/15 - 09:56

Canadian Heritage Minister Melanie Joly announced via Twitter yesterday that the government has asked the CRTC to reconsider its TV licensing decision from earlier this year that established a uniform broadcaster spending requirement of 5 percent on programs of national interest (PNI, which includes dramas, documentaries, some children’s programming, and some award shows). The decision, which would lead to a reduction of mandated spending for some broadcasters, sparked a strong lobbying campaign from various cultural groups who claimed the decision would result in hundreds of millions in reduced spending on Canadian content. While the government’s decision should not come as a surprise – siding with the creator groups against the CRTC makes political sense – no one should confuse it with good policy. Indeed, the reality is that the CRTC’s belief that the digital market would create the right incentives for investment is increasingly borne out by recent developments that suggest Canadian broadcasters have few alternatives other than to develop their own original programming.

Reports of the decision have emphasized that CRTC broadcast rulings are rarely sent back by the government for reconsideration, but this particular case was a political no-brainer. The creator groups mobilized effectively and faced practically no opposition. The public had little reason to engage on an insider issue, the broadcasters offered only a tepid response months after the momentum for a reconsideration had been established (Bell, Canada’s largest broadcaster, presumably preferred to use its political capital on the Super Bowl simsub issue), and the CRTC changed chairs weeks after the decision was released making it unlikely the Commission would publicly or privately defend the ruling as the campaign against it unfolded.

Moreover, Joly needed a policy win for the cultural groups. Her digital Cancon policy is set to be unveiled next month and many of the groups applauding this ruling (Joly’s twitter feed is filled with dozens of such tweets) may be left disappointed. Joly launched the digital Cancon consultation in 2016 with talk of an export-led, digitally-relevant policy.  That was the right vision, but she quickly found that many established creator groups were more interested in Netflix taxes, ISP taxes, and digital sales taxes. The government has largely taken those proposals off-the-table (a digital sales tax remains a possibility but revenues would go to Finance, not Heritage), meaning the strategy will likely emphasize promotion, cultural exports, administrative improvements, and long-term legislative reform of communications and copyright. That’s a reasonable formula (short term copyright reform will focus on the Copyright Board, which helps ensure that creators get paid), but it isn’t quite what some groups have in mind.

While the decision to refer the ruling back to the CRTC might make for good politics, it does little to address the issue of the creation and competitiveness of Canadian content in a digital world. As I noted earlier this year, industry data confirms that private broadcasters are relatively minor players when it comes to the financing of Canadian drama. The most recent CMPA report states:

With fiction productions, the largest share of financing came from provincial and federal tax credits; the fiction genre also attracted the most foreign financing among all genres. Children’s and youth productions also derived the largest share of their financing from tax credits, followed by broadcaster licence fees. Distributors also accounted for an important part of the financing picture for the fiction, and children’s and youth genres. In the VAPA and lifestyle and human interest genres, most financing came from broadcaster licence fees.

Indeed, private broadcasters contribute only 9 percent of the financing for fictional programs, less than federal and provincial tax credits, Canadian distributors, foreign financing, and the CMF.  Private broadcasters allocate much of their money toward variety and performing arts as well as “lifestyle and human interest” programming, which including magazine style shows. In other words, financing and the success or failure of Canadian programming such as dramas do not depend upon private broadcaster spending, regardless of where the CRTC sets the mandated percentage.

Moreover, recent events highlight why this is a fight over yesterday’s broadcasting world. The upcoming entry of new streaming services from U.S. giants such as CBS and Disney will continue to reshape the Canadian broadcasting landscape as U.S. content increasingly streams directly to Canadian viewers. Canadian broadcasters may still license those programs since they need to fill their schedules, but the programming will be available on a non-exclusive basis, giving consumers the real choice they have long been denied. The changes are not limited to dramatic programming as the sports world is also undergoing a massive transformation. For example, the exclusive rights to NFL Sunday Ticket now rests with DAZN, which is only available via Internet streaming. The Canadian cable and satellite companies will lose millions in revenue, while consumers can purchase the service for less than half of what they previously paid.

Fighting over mandated Cancon spending does little to address the emerging broadcast world in which consumers have far more choice and are no longer locked into the regulated broadcast system. The CRTC decision was developed with this future in mind as the changes were primarily designed to level the playing field for Canadian broadcasters in a market where success is determined by controlling original content. The CRTC ruling hoped to make it easier for Canadian broadcasters to compete with Netflix and the many other streaming services that operate without mandated content requirements.

The shift away from mandated spending is not a shift away from investment in Cancon, however. Netflix spends millions on production in Canada not because it faces a regulatory requirement (it doesn’t), but rather because the entire package – innovative creators, tax credits, good partners – offers a compelling reason for doing so. Indeed, the data shows that the Canadian industry has thrived in recent years for reasons that have little to do with pre-digital regulations with a huge shift in Canadian television production from domestic funding to foreign investment.

For Canadian broadcasters, the battle over mandated spending is premised on the notion that they will only invest in domestic programming if required to do so. Licensing cheaper foreign programming is understandably attractive, yet as that programming becomes available from multiple sources, the benefits of relying heavily on licensed U.S. content will diminish (and older regulatory rules such as simultaneous substitution will become less and less relevant). That means the long-term success of Canadian broadcasters will depend upon controlling original content that can be delivered through multiple channels and markets. Policy fights over mandated spending therefore miss the point. The market now encourages investment in original programming and it is up to Canadian creators and broadcasters to compete in a global market that offers new opportunities without the security blanket of outdated regulations that once typified the Canadian system.

The post Good Politics, Bad Policy: Melanie Joly Sends TV Licensing Cancon Decision Back to the CRTC appeared first on Michael Geist.

Canadian Government Puts Copyright Board Overhaul on Fast Track With Consultation Launching Tomorrow

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Tue, 2017/08/08 - 14:25

The Canadian government is planning the most significant changes to the Copyright Board of Canada in decades with a consultation set to officially launch tomorrow. Given the longstanding concerns with the Board from creators and users alike, the government has decided to place board reform on a fast track that is separate from the broader copyright review scheduled to commence later this year. The consultation, which will outline potential reforms to address delays and case backlogs, will run until late September. Navdeep Bains, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, working with Canadian Heritage, hopes to introduce a Copyright Board reform legislative and regulatory package in early 2018.

I spoke earlier today to Bains, who explained that the government believes there needs to be quicker decisions, greater transparency, and an effort to address the current backlog given concerns about ensuring creators are paid and in bringing new innovative service to the Canadian market. The consultation, being held jointly by ISED, Canadian Heritage and the Board, will identify several potential measures to address the board delays including case management processes, establishing new case deadlines, streamlining cases before the board, as well as giving the board more power to advance proceedings, award costs, and limit the ability for parties to delay proceedings.

Bains also believes that increasing the speed of the process could be helped by reducing the number of matters the board hears. One of the most controversial proposals will likely be the possibility of enabling all collectives to enter into voluntary licensing agreements with users. The emphasis on voluntary private agreements would represent a significant shift that could impact the public interest role of the board and might require new oversight from both the board and the Commissioner of Competition as well as mandated public disclosure of private agreements. Moreover, the government is considering extending the timelines of tariffs to reduce the frequency of tariff renewals as well as measures to reduce the uncertainty that comes from retroactive application of tariffs. That might require collectives to file tariffs longer in advance thereby giving the board more time to make a determination before the effective date of the tariff.

The consultation will also raise the prospect of requiring collectives to provide more information about proposed tariffs. This could include:

  • the reasons for filing the proposed tariffs at the particular times they are filed
  • the practical uses or activities that are targeted
  • the types of users known to the collective society that are targeted
  • the proposed royalty rate and its related terms and conditions specific to each use or activity targeted
  • the grounds on which the proposed royalty rates, terms and conditions and effective periods have been determined
  • how the proposed tariffs substantially differ from any previously certified tariffs that the proposed tariffs are sought to renew
  • how the proposed tariffs relate to other certified tariffs, if any
  • how information reported by users pursuant to the proposed tariffs will be used.

Objectors could also be asked to provide additional information about their reasons for objection.

In addition to technical reforms to the board, the government wants to address ongoing transparency concerns. This could include codifying board procedures, making public the criteria considered by the board, and establishing a clear board mandate. The government is also open to new measures to increase public participation in board proceedings to restore confidence and may consider harmonizing the tariff-setting regimes in the Copyright Act. Funding issues or the size of the board are not addressed. Further, changes to the governance of collecting societies is being treated as beyond the scope of the consultation.

The decision to place Copyright Board reform on the fast track raises obvious questions about how it fits within the broader copyright review and innovation agenda. Bains confirmed that the government wants to move more quickly on the board issue than the broader review that will formally begin later this year. He noted that the government wants a “thoughtful, engaged and informed” copyright review that will likely take far longer than the Copyright Board process with a very different timeline. The government is open to addressing other copyright issues, including the ongoing abuses with the notice-and-notice system for Internet providers, in a more timely manner. Bains also acknowledged that there are definite linkages “between the changes and reforms in the Copyright Act, even including the Copyright Board process, which dovetails with the work [the government] is doing on innovation and skills development.”

Given that the issue has been simmering for years, the willingness to reform the board should enjoy general stakeholder support. The broader review of the Copyright Act will likely be far more contentious and wide ranging, with timelines that will require months of hearings to ensure that all stakeholders are given an opportunity to share their views. For now, the government is sending the signal that it recognizes the importance of copyright administration as it embarks on a long-overdue overhaul of the process and transparency of the Copyright Board of Canada.

The post Canadian Government Puts Copyright Board Overhaul on Fast Track With Consultation Launching Tomorrow appeared first on Michael Geist.

The Diminishing Value of Simsub: CBS Streaming Service Coming to Canada Next Year

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Tue, 2017/08/08 - 09:28

CBS, one of the major U.S. networks, announced yesterday that it plans to take its All Access video streaming service global starting with the Canadian market next year.  The move will increase consumer choice and once Hulu follows suit (which it eventually will), all the major U.S. broadcasters will be streaming directly to Canadians. Assuming broadcasters such as CBS begin to retain the video streaming rights to their own shows, this means that the Canadian broadcast licensing model that relies heavily on exclusive rights to U.S. programming and simultaneous substitution will rapidly come to an end. While the industry has been focused on the fighting the recent CRTC decision banning simsub from the Super Bowl, U.S. broadcasters are independently eroding the value of simsub, ultimately leaving Canadian broadcasters to bid on less attractive, “non-exclusive” rights.

Bell has long-term licensing arrangements with CBS, but as new shows emerge they may be available to Canadians directly from CBS via its online video service. As more Canadians cut the cord and rely on the Internet for their video content, the value of the simsubbed broadcast will continue to decline with lost exclusivity and shrinking audiences.

None of this should come as a surprise. In 2011, I wrote the following in a piece that noted the growing importance of U.S. direct streaming:

While the use of the Internet to by-pass Canadian broadcasters is still relatively rare – most U.S. programs bundle the broadcast and Internet rights together – the decision to stream the games directly into the Canadian market could soon become the norm. The key determinant will obviously be money. Once U.S. rights holders conclude that it is more profitable to retain the Internet rights so that they can stream their programs online to a global audience and capture the advertising or subscription revenues that come with it, Canadian broadcasters may find that they can only license broadcast rights with the U.S. rights holders competing directly with them via the Internet.

The piece continued by arguing that this would be good news for Canadian content creators:

Canadian broadcasting has therefore involved a trade-off that allows private broadcasters to benefit from cheap, profitable U.S. programming in return for meeting their Canadian content obligations. The Internet is on the verge of disrupting this model by rendering the U.S. programs far less profitable for Canadian broadcasters, since acquiring broadcast-only rights means missing out on the fastest growing piece of advertising pie.

While this sounds like bad news for the creation of Canadian content, it might actually be its savior. Creator groups will likely focus on pressuring the foreign based video streamers to contribute to the creation of Canadian content, but Canadian broadcasters may become the bigger champions as they gradually recognize that owning the full suite of broadcast and Internet rights are essential to commercial success. If those rights cannot be obtained through conventional licensing models from U.S. rights holders, the broadcasters may begin to create their own Canadian content in earnest.

Creator groups have indeed been focused on contribution regimes (most notably with demands for a Netflix tax), but the real benefits will come from market pressures on Canadian broadcasters to create their own content for global licensing alongside streaming services that voluntarily invest in Canadian productions. If that sounds familiar, it is because that is precisely the model supported by former CRTC Chair Jean-Pierre Blais and Canadian Heritage Minister Melanie Joly.

The post The Diminishing Value of Simsub: CBS Streaming Service Coming to Canada Next Year appeared first on Michael Geist.

Canadian Telcos Take Aim At Kodi Addon Site With Shocking Search: True Purpose to “Destroy Livelihood of the Defendant”

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Fri, 2017/08/04 - 09:10

Canadian telecom giants Bell, Rogers, and Videotron have escalated their copyright fight against the sale and distribution of Android set-top boxes and websites that facilitate distribution of addons for Kodi software. Kodi boxes – Android set-top boxes pre-loaded with the open source Kodi media player software – have become increasingly popular in recent years. The set-top boxes turn standard televisions into “smart TVs”, enabling users to access their own content and a wide range of video content found online. By all accounts, this includes authorized content such as YouTube, Netflix or other online video providers, as well as unauthorized streaming services that offer access to unlicensed content. The set-top box providers do not make the content available themselves, but rather sell a device preloaded with software that can be used to access both infringing and non-infringing content. In the case of “addon” sites, the sites point to addons or plugins that can be added to the Kodi media player software to make it easier to access online content.

Bell, Videotron, and Rogers became increasingly concerned with the technology last year, claiming that the pre-loaded software on set-top boxes makes it easy to access infringing streaming content. Although the same could be said of most personal computers, they argued that the set-top boxes increase the likelihood of consumers cancelling their cable or satellite service and infringing their copyrights. Given their concerns, the companies asked the federal court to issue an injunction banning several companies from distributing any set-top boxes with pre-loaded software, characterizing the technology as an “existential” threat to their business models. The federal court issued the injunction, ruling that the companies met the legal standard of demonstrating “irreparable harm.”

More recently, the companies used the same strategy to target TVAddons, a Canadian-controlled website. The site contains information on Kodi software as well as addons that can be added to the media player. The case has attracted mounting attention due both to the manner in which the telcos used a civil search warrant (known as an Anton Pillar order) to access the home of Adam Lackman, a Montreal man who owns the site, as well as the copyright issues in the case. Their actions are documented by TorrentFreak, the CBC, and the National Post, which chronicle abusive conduct that included hours of interrogations without the ability to consult a lawyer along with efforts to obtain new evidence (as opposed to preserving existing evidence).

Several weeks after the search, a federal court judge vacated an earlier injunction and ordered the materials seized during the search returned (that order was later stayed by an appellate court). The judge’s findings indicate that the telcos went far beyond acceptable conduct in their efforts to shut down the site:

“It is important to note that the Defendant was not permitted to refuse to answer questions under fear of contempt proceedings, and his counsel was not permitted to clarify the answers to questions. I conclude unhesitatingly that the Defendant was subjected to an examination for discovery without any of the protections normally afforded to litigants in such circumstances.”


“I find the most egregious part of the questioning to be in the independent solicitor’s affidavit, wherein he deposes that counsel for the Plaintiffs ‘provided Defendant Lackman with some names’ of other people who might be operating similar websites. It appears the Defendant was required to associate that list of 30 names with names, addresses and other data about individuals that might have some knowledge or relationship to those names. The list and the responses of the Defendant are found on three complete pages in the exhibits of the independent solicitor’s affidavit. I conclude that those questions, posed by Plaintiff’s counsel, were solely in furtherance of their investigation and constituted a hunt for further evidence, as opposed to the preservation of then existing evidence.”

The judge then concludes that the Anton Pillar order was purposely designed by counsel:

“to completely shut down the Defendant’s operation. To the Plaintiffs, it mattered not that, by their own estimate, just over 1% of the Add-ons developed by the Defendant were allegedly used to infringe copyright. I therefore conclude that the purpose of the Anton Pillar Order under review was only partly designed to preserve evidence that might be destroyed or that could disappear. I am of the view that its true purpose was to destroy the livelihood of the Defendant, deny him the financial resources to finance a defence to the claim made against him, and to provide an opportunity for discovery of the Defendant in circumstances where none of the procedural safeguards of our civil justice system could be engaged. [emphasis added]”

The federal court findings are incredibly damning, suggesting abusive conduct by representatives for Bell, Rogers, and Videotron.

The copyright questions in the case are still to be determined, but as the federal court judge acknowledged, there are legal arguments on both sides. Canada has some of the world’s toughest anti-piracy legislation, including an “enabler” provision established in 2012 that makes it easier to target sites whose primary purpose is to enable infringement. The provision states:

It is an infringement of copyright for a person, by means of the Internet or another digital network, to provide a service primarily for the purpose of enabling acts of copyright infringement if an actual infringement of copyright occurs by means of the Internet or another digital network as a result of the use of that service.

The factors to be considered include:

(a) whether the person expressly or implicitly marketed or promoted the service as one that could be used to enable acts of copyright infringement;
(b) whether the person had knowledge that the service was used to enable a significant number of acts of copyright infringement;

(c) whether the service has significant uses other than to enable acts of copyright infringement;

(d) the person’s ability, as part of providing the service, to limit acts of copyright infringement, and any action taken by the person to do so;

(e) any benefits the person received as a result of enabling the acts of copyright infringement; and

(f) the economic viability of the provision of the service if it were not used to enable acts of copyright infringement.

In the TVAddons case, evidence will be needed to determine whether the enabler provision applies. The federal court judge already took note that the vast majority of the addons on the site are unrelated to infringing content. In fact, of the 1,500 addons, only 22 – or roughly 1% – were identified as infringing addons. Lackman’s lawyers argue that the site is akin to a search engine, functioning as intermediary to assist in locating content, but not playing a role in communicating it in violation of the Copyright Act.

Rights holders have powerful tools to stop infringing activity in Canada but courts should be cautious about shutting down disruptive technologies that have substantial non-infringing uses. These battles have gone on for decades, dating back to the Sony Betamax and Diamond Rio MP3 player, with established companies seeking to stop new technologies from gaining consumer acceptance. Android boxes, Kodi software and the thousands of addons can be used in many legitimate ways to provide consumers with alternatives to restrictive set-top boxes provided by cable and satellite companies.

In this case, there are challenging legal questions that deserve a full hearing with evidence at trial (Lackman is currently crowdsourcing support for his defence). What seems clear from the federal court judge, however, is that Bell, Rogers, and Videotron hoped to circumvent a trial altogether, obtaining an order designed to shut down the site without the opportunity to apply any of the legal safeguards to which everyone is entitled.

The post Canadian Telcos Take Aim At Kodi Addon Site With Shocking Search: True Purpose to “Destroy Livelihood of the Defendant” appeared first on Michael Geist.

Routing Detours: Can We Avoid Nation-State Surveillance?

Freedom to Tinker - Tue, 2016/08/30 - 18:44
Since 2013, Brazil has taken significant steps to build out their networking infrastructure to thwart nation-state mass surveillance.  For example, the country is deploying a 3,500-mile fiber cable from Fortaleza, Brazil to Portugal; they’ve switched their government email system from Microsoft Outlook to a state-built system called Expresso; and they now have the largest IXP […]

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

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

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

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

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

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

Security against Election Hacking – Part 1: Software Independence

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

Can Facebook really make ads unblockable?

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

The workshop on Data and Algorithmic Transparency

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

A response to the National Association of Secretaries of State

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

Supplement for Revealing Algorithmic Rankers (Table 1)

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

Revealing Algorithmic Rankers

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