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Another Update: Combating Counterfeit Products Act

IPBlog (Calgary) - Tue, 2014/01/28 - 18:00
As an update to my previous post in August (click here), this bill (Bill C-8) has been re-introduced in Canadian Parliament, and is currently in second reading. Bill C-8 amends the Copyright Act and the Trade-marks Act to add new civil and criminal remedies and new border measures designed to ...

The CRTC's Simultaneous Substitution Problem

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Tue, 2014/01/28 - 00:18
The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications has spent the past year-and-a-half trying to reinvent itself a pro-consumer regulator. On the broadcast front, the most obvious manifestation of that approach is the gradual move toward pick-and-pay channels, which seems likely to emerge as a policy option later this year. Establishing mandated pick-and-pay would  be a political and consumer winner, but there are still reasons for Canadians to vent against the regulator. The retention of simultaneous substitution policies is one of them.

I made the case for gradually eliminating the simultaneous substitution policy late last year, arguing that the policy hurts Canadian broadcasters (by ceding control over their schedules to U.S. networks) and Canadian content (which suffers from promotion). Moreover, simultaneous substitution will become less important over time as consumers shift toward on-demand availability of programs. There are still supporters of simultaneous substitution, but few come from the consumer community.  Indeed, even the CRTC is hard-pressed to identify consumer benefits in its FAQ on the policy. In fact, its Super Bowl commercial FAQ claims viewers benefit from signal substitution during the broadcast, but the Commission can't seem to identify any benefits.

Given the lack of consumer interest in, and occasional hostility toward, simultaneous substitution, the policy represents a problem for the CRTC's pro-consumer orientation. With that background in mind, last week CRTC Chair Jean-Pierre Blais wrote to Rogers to complain about the company's Twitter response to a customer complaint about simultaneous substitution. When a customer complained about the CTV substitution of the Fox feed of the NFC Championship (Go Hawks), the company noted that "it's due to the CRTC rules so no way to watch the Fox feed sorry."

After stating that he was dismayed to read the Rogers response, Blais stated:

There is an important distinction to be made between authorizing broadcasters to substitute signals and forcing them to do so. As I said at the 2013 Prime Time in Ottawa conference, the time has come for broadcasters and distributors to start speaking up on simultaneous substitution rather than simply passing blame onto the CRTC.

There are several problems with Blais' letter.  First, the Rogers response isn't inaccurate. The viewer is unable to view the Fox feed due to the Canadian broadcaster (CTV) using the simultaneous substitution regulations created by the CRTC. The broadcast distributor (Rogers) is required by licence to abide by the simultaneous substitution request. The entire simultaneous substitution system is a regulatory creation of the CRTC and attempts to distance itself from it are misleading. Second, Blais' prepared remarks at the 2013 Prime Time conference did not say that it was time for broadcasters and distributors to speak up on simultaneous substitution (perhaps remarks after the speech did). The speech contained one reference to simultaneous substitution, but there was no urging of broadcasters and distributors to speak out on the issue. [Update: the CRTC Twitter feed points out the Blais went off script to urge broadcasters and broadcast distributors to stop blaming the CRTC for simultaneous substitution].

Third, it is odd to see the CRTC Chair exhorting broadcasters and broadcast distributors to speak out in favour of simultaneous substitution. According to Blais, the Commission's "Let's Talk TV" consultation is "open to any suggestion, question or idea you want to bring forward." Is the Commission open to removing the simultaneous substitution rules?  Or is it merely looking for cover from broadcasters and broadcast distributors on a policy that is not well-liked by many consumers and which ultimately provides less choice by creating Canadian networks that mirror their U.S. counterparts during prime time? If the CRTC wants to retain the unpopular policy, it should own it, not try to pass the responsibility for public support to broadcasters and broadcast distributors.

Podcast: Cheap writing tricks

Here's a reading of my latest Locus column, Cheap Writing Tricks, which discusses the mysterious business of why stories are satisfying, and how to make them so:

Plots are funny things. In the real world, stuff is always happening, but it’s not a plot. People live. People die. People are made glorious or miserable. Things eagerly awaited are realized, or hopes are cruelly dashed. Love is gained; love is lost. But all these things are not a plot – they lack the fundamental tidiness and orderliness that makes a story a story.

In fiction-land, stories have beginnings, middles and ends. They have dramatic tension, which rises to a climax towards the end of the story, and then roll on a while longer, into denouement. A plot is what you get when you draw a line around a set of circumstances and say, ‘‘These things are all part of one story, and they comprise its beginning, middle and end, and its arc from low tension to high. This moment here is the climax of this story.’’

That line is wholly arbitrary, of course – your personal life-story’s climax is merely a passing moment in someone else’s arc – but the really weird thing is that a story that lacks this arbitrariness feels arbitrary. A bunch of things that happen without any curation or pruning away of extraneous moments do not a story make, despite the fact that this is how the world actually works.

Mastering by John Taylor Williams: wryneckstudio@gmail.com

John Taylor Williams is a audiovisual and multimedia producer based in Washington, DC and the co-host of the Living Proof Brew Cast. Hear him wax poetic over a pint or two of beer by visiting livingproofbrewcast.com. In his free time he makes "Beer Jewelry" and "Odd Musical Furniture." He often "meditates while reading cookbooks."


Makers review from high-school senior Rebecca Nguyen

Rebecca Nguyen is a high-school senior who is a fan of my young adult novels. Recently, she read my book Makers and liked it so much that she wrote a great review of it, which she placed with the Poughkeepsie Journal. It's an incisive review, and I'm very grateful to Rebecca for it. Thank you, Rebecca! I hope the Journal gives you more reviewing work in the future -- you're very good at it!

Motion to certify order for interlocutory appeal granted in Capitol Records v. Vimeo

Recording Industry vs The People - Fri, 2014/01/24 - 17:54

In Capitol Records v. Vimeo, the Court has certified its September, 2013, decision of the respective summary judgment motions for an interlocutory appeal.

The Court also partially granted defendant's motion for reconsideration seeking summary judgment dismissing the case as to additional videos, and granted plaintiff's motion for leave to amend its complaint.

December 31, 2013, decision of Hon. Ronnie Abrams Ray Beckerman, P.C.

Announcing “In Real Life”: graphic novel about gold farming, kids and games

Yesterday, FirstSecond formally announced the publication of In Real Life, a graphic novel about gaming and gold farming for young adults based on my award-winning story Anda's Game, adapted by Jen Wang, creator of the amazing graphic novel Koko Be Good. Jen did an incredible job with the adaptation.

Kotaku conducted a Q&A with Jen and me about the book and its themes, and lavishly illustrated it with art and panels from the book:

The book touches on points that some people who play video games don't want to think about, like the social attitudes or economic politics surrounding the delivery and maintenance of these experiences. The reluctance happens because it's not easy to think about these things. "I am as guilty of this as anyone is. It doesn't feel good to think about it. I think that life in the modern world embodies all kinds of contradictions that are difficult to face," Doctorow said over e-mail. "We don't decide to abandon our principles in a rush—rather, they slide away in a series of incremental steps, each of which seems like a reasonable compromise based on the LAST compromise."

"We are most capable of detecting relative differences. Once you've made a little compromise, another little compromise seems like not much, and another, and another. No one wants to admit that the fun bit of plastic he unboxed from Amazon this morning is awash in invisible blood, especially because, as an individual, there's nothing he can do about the blood, and not buying the thing doesn't make it any less bloody. So you draw the curtains."

Gold farming is the kind of thing that captured the public imagination for a while and is now accepted as par for the course in massively online games. When asked why he'd want to re-visit the practice now, Doctorow said that "science fiction isn't about the future, it's always about the present." "When you contemplate the microscale phenomenon of a world-in-a-bottle like an MMO and the toy economy within it, it equips you with a graspable metaphor for understanding the macroscale world of monetary policy. In other words: thinking about gold farming is a gateway drug to thinking about money itself."

In Real Life [Amazon]

Reminder: Gold Farmers Are People, Too

Rogers' Changing Tune on Fully Opening Canadian Wireless to Foreign Investment

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Fri, 2014/01/24 - 04:00
Rogers' executive Rob Bruce in 2012 on changes to Canadian foreign investment rules that removed restrictions for companies with less than ten percent of the market:

“Our view is 'bring it on. As far as competition goes, we've always been a full-speed-ahead competitor and we're ready to go with whoever comes to market.”

Rogers' CEO Nazr Mohamed in 2013 on Canadian wireless foreign investment rules:

Mohamed repeated that Rogers favours opening foreign investment for large telecom players too, which can't be more than one-third foreign owned. "If the Canadian government decides to open up foreign ownership, it should open it up for everybody," he told reporters later.

Rogers Deputy Chair Edward Rogers yesterday on Canadian foreign investment rules:

It's a complex topic but I think our view is as Canadians we better really study and understand what that is before we do it, because the model we have now, I believe, allows Canadians to have the best wireless industry, the best cable industry, and some fantastic media assets in Canada. And I personally don’t want to just sell that. So, the shareholders maybe the richest executives enjoy that. But we have the hollowing out of Canada after that. I don't think there's any formula where any of these companies are own outside of Canada and they do better for customer. I think there is a lot you could argue that if we were a branch plant that Canada would be last.

Pirate Cinema and Homeland covers shortlisted for the Kitschie for best cover

The Kitschies are a British award for science fiction and fantasy; every year they choose some marvellous books to honour. This year, I'm proud and pleased announce that they've shortlisted the UK editions of my novels Pirate Cinema and Homeland for the "Inky Tentacle" award for best cover. Both covers were designed by the studio Amazing15 for my British publishers, Titan Books. I'm indebted to the judging panel and the Kitchie volunteers -- thank you!

Pirate Cinema and Homeland covers shortlisted for the Kitschie for best cover

The Kitschies are a British award for science fiction and fantasy; every year they choose some marvellous books to honour. This year, I'm proud and pleased announce that they've shortlisted the UK editions of my novels Pirate Cinema and Homeland for the "Inky Tentacle" award for best cover. Both covers were designed by the studio Amazing15 for my British publishers, Titan Books. I'm indebted to the judging panel and the Kitchie volunteers -- thank you!

Here We Go Again: Canadian Recording Industry Calls on Government To Regulate the Internet

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Wed, 2014/01/22 - 03:58
Graham Henderson, the head of the Music Canada (formerly the Canadian Recording Industry Association) wrote a blog post late last year lamenting musicians' earnings, a situation he blames on the Internet allowing a few to "amass staggering, unprecedented wealth" while musicians toil for tiny incomes. Leaving aside the facts that the Canadian music industry experienced increased digital sales last year (while sales declined in the U.S.) and that the Ontario government is handing out tens of millions of tax dollars to the industry, Henderson now says the government needs to step in and regulate the Internet. According to Music Canada, government support must be complimented by:

judicious and reasonable regulation of the internet. The actions taken by courts in other jurisdictions have very reasonably required ISPs to block websites that are almost entirely dedicated to the theft of intellectual property.

In fact, Internet regulation and blocking websites are not the only music industry target. Last week, Music Canada appeared before the Ontario Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs, where it cited Google as a problem:

the federal government has done a lot to help us in our battle against illegal sources, but they could certainly do more. One of the biggest problems we have is that consumers cannot find legal services on Google. Type in: "Carly Rae Jepsen"; pick your song; press “search.” You would have to look to page 7 of the results to find iTunes. Before you get there, you have six and a half pages littered with illegal sites which are constantly being taken down and constantly being put back. With government support, maybe we can urge intermediaries to actually do something to help consumers find legitimate sources, because I think they’d like to.

I tried replicating Henderson's claims regarding Google and arrived at much different results. Searching for Carly Rae Jepsen and the song Call Me Maybe, the very first result was a music video posted by Jepsen's label which receives royalties and has a link to the iTunes version for purchase. Other top results include Jepsen's own website (with links to iTunes sales of her songs) and licensed streaming versions of the song, which all appear before "infringing sites."

With digital sales on the rise in Canada and copyright reform now complete, regulating the Internet, blocking websites, and manipulating search results is the last thing government's should be mandating. Yet it seems that is precisely what the music industry once again has on its mind.

Alberta Privacy Law Update: PIPA Declared Invalid

IPBlog (Calgary) - Tue, 2014/01/21 - 20:00
In the case of Alberta (Information and Privacy Commissioner) v. United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 401, 2013 SCC 62, released last Friday, the Supreme Court of Canada has declared the Alberta Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) invalid in its entirety. This case pits constitutional rights against privacy rights. The court ...

Keeping Your Tax Identity Safe

Google Public Policy BLOG - Tue, 2014/01/21 - 16:23
Posted by Rob Mahini, Policy Counsel

Once upon a time, Tax Day meant pens and pencils, paper forms, and long waits at the post office. Now, the Internet makes tax day much simpler -- online software and e-Filing now allows everyone a much smoother Tax Day experience. Unfortunately, the Internet also makes something else easier: tax identity theft that allows scammers to do things like file for fraudulent tax refunds or apply for jobs.

As the FTC noted earlier this month, "identity theft has been the top consumer complaint to the FTC for 13 consecutive years, and tax identity theft has been an increasing share of the Commission’s identity theft complaints." In fact, tax ID theft accounted for more than 43 percent of the FTC's ID theft complaints, "making it the largest category of identity theft complaints by a substantial margin."

With this in mind, the FTC hosted events around the country last week as part of its Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week, to educate consumers about the risks of tax identity theft and how to avoid becoming a victim. The IRS also released a video this month to educate taxpayers on what to do if they are victimized by tax ID theft.

At Google's Good To Know site, consumers can learn about the many ways that they can protect all of their data, including their SSN, tax forms, and other information that tax identity thieves are after. For example:
  • Don’t reply if you see a suspicious email, instant message or webpage asking for your personal or financial information. Identity thieves try to use these phishing techniques to steal your information such as your social security number or other tax info. 
  • If you see a message from someone you know that doesn’t seem like them, their account might have been compromised by a cyber criminal who is trying to con you into providing your SSN or other sensitive information. 
  • Don’t send your password via email, and don’t share your password with others -- thieves that gain access to your accounts can then steal your tax identity. Legitimate sites won’t ask you to send them your passwords via email, so don’t respond if you get requests for your passwords to online sites.

The ease and convenience of the Internet has helped simplify tax filing. And following these tips will help keep your tax information safe in the process.

Speaking at SXSW with Barton Gellman about Edward Snowden and NSA surveillance

I'll be returning to SXSW Interactive this March for the first time in more than five years, to interview Pulitzer-winning journalist Barton Gellman, who is one of the journalists who's been entrusted with some of the Snowden NSA leaks. We're doing a presentation called "Snowden 2.0: A Field Report From the NSA Archives," which follows an address by Glenn Greenwald. We're speaking on March 10 -- I hope to see you!

Today we reveal the addition of another session focused on this topic, “Snowden 2.0: A Field Report From the NSA Archives.” This session will feature Barton Gellman (pictured at left) of the Century Foundation, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on Vice President Dick Cheney. Gellman is one of three reporters entrusted by Edward Snowden last May with top secret NSA archives. In December 2013, he was the first to interview Snowden face-to-face in Moscow. Nine months after breaking the PRISM story in The Washington Post, Gellman looks back at what we have learned, what it means, and what we still don't know. Snowden gave birth to an insurgency against the surveillance-industrial state. A counterinsurgency rose to defend the status quo. Gellman offers an insider's view of who is winning and why.

Barton Gellman and Cory Doctorow Talk NSA at SXSW Interactive on Monday, March 10

Canadian Regulators Place Google's Business Model Under Microscope

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Tue, 2014/01/21 - 04:21
Among the many Internet success stories of the past two decades, Google stands alone. The undisputed king of search, hundreds of millions rely on it daily, supporting an Internet advertising business model that generates tens of billions of dollars annually.

My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that kind of success invariably leads to legal and regulatory issues, though most of Google's legal fights have focused on content, such as the inclusion of controversial websites in its search index, the digitization of millions of books through its book search initiative, and the removal of links that may lead to websites that host infringing content.   

Until recently, Google's Internet advertising business model has, with a few notable exceptions (including a large U.S. settlement involving pharmaceutical advertising), been spared much regulatory scrutiny. That has started to change with high profile actions in the U.S. and European Union and the prospect of similar investigations in Canada.  

In the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission conducted a two-year investigation into Google's business practices that wrapped up last year with a settlement featuring several commitments for business practice changes. The settlement stopped short, however, of finding anti-competitive bias in Google's search results.

While the U.S. settlement was widely viewed as a win for Google, European regulators are conducting their own investigation and may demand greater concessions. In fact, European officials recently warned the company that time is running out to settle claims of abuse of its dominant position.

The U.S. and European Union may have been active on the Google front, but Canadian officials have generally remained on the sidelines. The federal privacy commissioner has examined privacy-related issues, with action involving Google Street View (its popular street-level mapping service) and Google Buzz, but broader investigations into the company's business model have been largely absent.

That too is changing, as in recent months both the Competition Bureau and the federal privacy commissioner have either launched or concluded investigations involving Google's business model. Both investigations were complaint-driven, suggesting that competitors or disgruntled users may increasingly turn to those regulatory bodies to address their concerns.

The Competition Bureau investigation mirrors the actions in the U.S. and Europe. According to court documents filed in December, the Bureau has worked with Google's competitors to identify the information the company should be ordered to disclose as part of a competition law investigation. Last month, the Federal Court of Canada issued an order mandating disclosure of information related to the company's business activities, which the complainants claim rise to the level of anti-competitive behaviour.

The investigation remains at an early stage with no indication that the Bureau is close to reaching a conclusion. However, the Bureau's interest in Google indicates that the company is now firmly on the Canadian radar screen and competition watchers will be looking closely to see whether Canada follows the U.S. example or adopts the more aggressive European approach.

The federal privacy commissioner has also waded into Google's business model. Last week, the office concluded an investigation into online behavioural advertising that arose from a complaint by a Google user who was uncomfortable with health-related targeted advertisements that suggested his Internet usage was being tracked. After he searched for medical devices for sleep apnea, he began receiving advertisements on random sites for the devices.

The reality is that website usage is tracked, hence the mounting demands for do-not-track legislation that would provide users with greater control over the data generated by their Internet activities. In this case, the privacy commissioner concluded that the advertising breached Canadian privacy law as the tailored advertisements involved sensitive information that required an explicit opt-in consent.

Google agreed to several changes in response to the finding, including increased monitoring of its advertising programs to ensure compliance with company policies and the law. Given the heightened interest from Canadian regulators, the company is apparently no longer alone in the monitoring of its advertising practices and business activities.

Podcast: Digital failures are inevitable, but we need them to be graceful

Here's a reading of my latest Guardian column, Digital failures are inevitable, but we need them to be graceful, about the social and political factors that make all the difference when choosing technologies.

Banshee fails gracefully because its authors don't attempt any lock-in. When I find myself diverging from the design philosophy of Banshee to the extent that I want to use a rival system to manage my music, Banshee is designed to assist me in switching. Unlike Apple, Microsoft, and others, who treat you as a product to be bought and sold – and who have engineered laws like the DMCA to make it illegal to convert your files for use with rival products – Banshee is designed to work with me until we part ways, and then to gracefully bow out and let me move on to someone else's version of this particular bit of plumbing.

A good example of this is Amazon's MP3 store. Until recently, it worked beautifully. I'd pay a reasonable price for my music, and Amazon would let me download it to my computer with as little fuss as possible. Recently, that changed. Amazon wants to promote its cloud drive services, so now it requires that you lock yourself into an Amazon-proprietary downloader to get your MP3s. The Amazon MP3 store started life with a lot of rhetoric about liberation (they made t-shirts that trumpeted "DRM: Don't Restrict Me!") that contrasted their offering with the locked-in world of the iTunes Store. Now that Amazon has won enough marketshare in the MP3 world, it's using that position to try and gain ground in the world of cloud computing – at the expense of its customers.

Lucky for me, MP3 is an open format, so MP3 investments fail well. The fact that I bought hundreds of pounds' worth of music from Amazon doesn't stop me from taking my business elsewhere now that they've decided to treat me as a strategic asset instead of a customer. By contrast, I was once unwise enough to spend thousands on audiobooks from Amazon's Audible subsidiary (the major player in the audiobook world), kidding myself that the DRM wouldn't matter. But the day I switched to Ubuntu, I realised that I was going to have to spend a month running three old Macs around the clock in order to re-record all those audiobooks and get them out of their DRM wrappers.

Mastering by John Taylor Williams: wryneckstudio@gmail.com

John Taylor Williams is a audiovisual and multimedia producer based in Washington, DC and the co-host of the Living Proof Brew Cast. Hear him wax poetic over a pint or two of beer by visiting livingproofbrewcast.com. In his free time he makes "Beer Jewelry" and "Odd Musical Furniture." He often "meditates while reading cookbooks."

MP3 link

Busting Bad Advertising Practices — 2013 Year in Review

Google Public Policy BLOG - Fri, 2014/01/17 - 11:43
Posted by: Mike Hochberg, Director, Ads Engineering

(Cross-posted from the Google AdWords Blog)

Advertising helps fund great web services and enables companies of all sizes to grow their businesses online. However, this economy can also attract bad actors that want to abuse online advertising tools for harmful or deceptive purposes.

We've allocated substantial technical, financial, and human resources to stopping bad advertising practices and protecting users on the web. Hundreds of our engineers, policy experts and others have dedicated their careers to this work.

Following up on our 2012 report, below is an overview of how we fought bad ads and bad ad-funded content in 2013.

Stopping more bad ads from fewer bad sources

We removed more than 350 million bad ads from our systems in 2013. To put that in perspective, if someone looked at each of these for one second, it would take them more than ten years to see them all. This was a significant increase from approximately 220 million ads removed in 2012. This trend has been consistent in the last several years and we attribute it to several factors, including: the growth of online advertising overall and constant improvement of our detection systems.

The number of advertisers we disabled, however, dropped from over 850,000 in 2012 to more than 270,000 in 2013. In part, we attribute this decline to scammers — counterfeiters, for example — being thwarted by our safety screens and searching for less-secure targets.

Counter-attacking counterfeiters

We continue to see positive results in our work to combat counterfeiters. Attempts to market counterfeit goods on AdWords decreased by 47% in 2012 and 82% in 2013. In parallel, the volume of complaints about these ads dropped by 85% in 2012 and by another 78% in 2013.

As these numbers have declined, we’re pleased to report that we’ve also banned fewer bad advertisers for counterfeit violations. Last year, we banned approximately 14,000 advertisers for trying to sell counterfeit goods — a decline of more than 80% compared to 2012.

Preventing good ads from funding bad content

Maintaining a healthy ads ecosystem isn’t just about stopping bad ads and advertisers; we closely monitor the sites and mobile apps that show our ads as well. Early last year, we outlined some of this work, with a particular focus on our efforts to stop scammy ad-funded software, like toolbars, that provides a poor user-experience.

By the end of 2013, we had blacklisted more than 200,000 total publisher pages, an encouraging decline from last year, and disapproved more than 3,000,000 attempts to join our AdSense network. We also removed more than 250,000 publisher accounts for various policy violations. This includes more than 5,000 account removals for violating our copyright policies, an increase of more than 25% compared to 2012.

Here’s a more complete overview of our work to bust bad advertising practices in 2013:

Click here for full size image 
This is an ever-evolving and ongoing fight. Bad actors are relentless, often very sophisticated and will not rest on their laurels. But neither will we. Nothing is more important than the security of our users and we’ll continue to work tirelessly to keep them safe online.

Re: Looking to be a Better Business

Russell McOrmond on Disqus - Fri, 2014/01/17 - 05:24

I'm curious if the criteria for B Certification is published. I wandered the site and didn't see that easily listed. When I first looked into the idea of ethical investment I quickly found out that we don't all share the same ethics, so have since wanted far more details for certifications like this.

The Shameful Canadian Silence on Surveillance

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Fri, 2014/01/17 - 04:11
Later this morning, U.S. President Barack Obama will give a speech on U.S. surveillance activities in which he is expected to establish new limitations on the program. While the measures will likely fall well short of what many believe is necessary, it is notable that the surveillance issue has emerged as a significant political issue since the Snowden leaks and the U.S. government has recognized the need to address it. 

Reaction to the Snowden leaks in the U.S. has not been limited to political responses. In recent months, Verizon and AT&T, the two U.S. telecom giants, announced plans to issue regular transparency reports on the number of law enforcement requests they receive for customer information. The telecom transparency reports come following a similar trend from leading Internet companies such as Google, Twitter, Microsoft, and Facebook

The U.S. reaction stands in stark contrast to the situation in Canada. Canadian government officials have said little about Canadian surveillance activities, despite leaks of spying activities, cooperation with the NSA, a federal court decision that criticized the intelligence agencies for misleading the court, and a domestic metadata program which remains shrouded in secrecy. In fact, the government seems to have moved in the opposite direction, by adopting a lower threshold for warrants seeking metadata than is required for standard warrants in Bill C-13.

Moreover, Canada's telecom companies remain secretive about their participation in the surveillance activities, with no transparency reports and no public indications of their willingness to disclose customer information without a court order. With the U.S. telcos now on board, the telecom transparency gap in Canada has become particularly noteworthy.

Under Canadian law, Canadian telecom companies and Internet providers are permitted to disclose customer information without a court order as part of a lawful investigation. According to data obtained under Access to Information, we know that the RCMP has successfully obtained such information tens of thousands of times. Moreover, Bill C-13, the so-called "cyberbullying" bill includes a provision that is likely to increase the number of voluntary disclosures since it grants telecom companies and ISPs complete immunity from any civil or criminal liability for such disclosures.

Canadians deserve to know more about government surveillance activities, more about whether Canadian oversight is sufficient, and more about how companies such as Bell, Rogers, and Telus handle their personal information. This includes how many requests they receive for subscriber information, the reasons for the requests, how often they comply without a warrant, and how often they require court oversight before disclosing the information. The shameful Canadian surveillance silence - from both government and the telecom sector - must end with an open conversation about Canadian activities and whether current law strikes the right balance.

App Developer Wins in SCRABBLE Battle

IPBlog (Calgary) - Thu, 2014/01/16 - 14:00
- Zynga, the world's largest app-developer has scored a win against the owner of the SCRABBLE brand. This case brings up several interesting points about international trade-mark protection in the era of apps. The well known SCRABBLE® brand is a registered trade-mark owned by different owners in different parts of the world. Hasbro Inc. ...

How to have a healthy relationship with technology

My latest Guardian column, "Digital failures are inevitable, but we need them to be graceful," talks about evaluating technology based on more than its features -- rather, on how you relate to it, and how it relates to you. In particular, I try to make the case for giving especial care to what happens when your technology fails:

Graceful failure is so much more important than fleeting success, but it's not a feature or a design spec. Rather, it's a relationship that I have with the technology I use and the systems that are used to produce it.

This is not asceticism. Advocates of software freedom are sometimes accused of elevating ideology over utility. But I use the software I do out of a purely instrumental impulse. The things I do with my computer are the soul of my creative, professional, and personal life. My computer has videos and stills and audio of my daughter's early life, rare moments of candid memoir from my grandmothers, the precious love letters that my wife and I sent to one another when we courted, the stories I've poured my heart and soul into, the confidential and highly sensitive whistleblower emails I've gotten from secret sources on investigative pieces; the privileged internal communications of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a law office to whom I have a duty of care as part of my fellowship (and everything else besides).

Knowing that I can work with this stuff in a way that works is simply not enough. I need to know that when my computer breaks, when the software is discontinued, when my computer is lost or stolen, when a service provider goes bust or changes ownership and goes toxic, when a customs officer duplicates my hard-drive at border, when my survivors attempt to probate my data – when all of that inevitable stuff happens, that my digital life will be saved. That data that should remain confidential will not leak. That data that should be preserved will be. That files that should be accessible can be accessed, without heroic measures to run obsolete software on painstakingly maintained superannuated hardware.

Digital failures are inevitable, but we need them to be graceful

(Image: Smashed, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from sarahbaker's photostream)

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