Feed aggregator

Provisions: how Bitcoin exchanges can prove their solvency

Freedom to Tinker - Mon, 2015/10/26 - 15:43
Millions of Bitcoin users store their bitcoins with online exchanges (e.g. Coinbase, Kraken) which store bitcoins on their customers’ behalf. They present an interface that looks somewhat like an online bank, allowing users to log in and request payments to other users or withdrawals. For many users this approach makes a lot more sense than the traditional approach of storing private keys on your laptop or phone […]

The TPP’s Canadian Copyright Costs Creating Concern

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Mon, 2015/10/26 - 10:58

The Trans Pacific Partnership agreement is still not public – the text may not be released for sometime – but with the leak of the intellectual property chapter, the implications for Canadian law is already well known.  Despite the prior government’s claims that the deal was largely consistent with current law, the reality is that the TPP will require significant changes to Canadian copyright.

The biggest change is a requirement to extend the term of copyright from life of the author plus 50 years to life plus 70 years. The additional 20 years will keep works out of the public domain for decades. The New Zealand government estimates that this change alone will cost NZ$55 million per year for a country that is one-ninth the size of Canada. Moreover, New Zealand was able to negotiate a delayed implementation of the copyright term provision, with a shorter extension for the first 8 years and only after the full extension.  The TPP also would appear to bring a copyright takedown system to Canada without the involvement of Canadian courts and potentially without the application of Canadian copyright law.

The Globe and Mail picked up on these issue in a masthead editorial published last week. The Globe notes:

Extending the copyright would come at a cost to Canadian consumers, possibly in the hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s not clear where the benefits are. Nor is it exactly clear what this has to do with free trade.

The Canadian Press also covers the issue, with lawyers noting that the deal may undo Canadian law, creating significant disruptions in the process.

The post The TPP’s Canadian Copyright Costs Creating Concern appeared first on Michael Geist.

Real Change on Digital Policy May Take Time Under New Liberal Government

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Tue, 2015/10/20 - 09:56

A Liberal majority government will undoubtedly mean big things for digital policy in Canada.  At the start of a new mandate, many will hope that a new party will lead to a significant change on telecom, broadcast, copyright, and privacy. With a majority mandate, there is certainly time to tackle these issues. My guess, however, is that real change will take some time. The Liberal platform did not focus on digital issues and other than the promised reforms to Bill C-51 and much-needed open government and transparency initiatives, most will have to wait.

The real action – and perhaps real change – will take place in 2017. By that time, the U.S. election will have concluded and the future of the Trans Pacific Partnership will be much clearer. Canada will surely start studying the TPP once it is finally released, but any steps toward ratification would likely depend on the U.S. position on the agreement. With Hillary Clinton currently opposed to the deal, its ratification is far from certain.

Several laws are also slated for review in 2017, including the Copyright Act. There will be great lobbyist pressure to adjust the 2012 reforms alongside the mandated changes from the TPP (if Canada proceeds with the agreement) and the ratification of the Marrakesh treaty for the visually impaired. Publishers will ask the government to curtail fair dealing, the U.S. lobby groups will demand stronger anti-piracy measures, and consumers will focus on re-considering the restrictive digital lock rules.

Privacy, broadcast and telecom may also be up for review in 2017.  The next PIPEDA review is technically scheduled for 2016, but it would not be surprising if that slipped by a year. On the telecom and broadcast front, the Liberals will likely let the CRTC lead on issues such as broadcast reform and the review of telecom services. By 2017, however, the term of current chair Jean-Pierre Blais will conclude and there will be mounting pressure to consider issues such as net neutrality, wireless competition, and broadcast regulation as a political matter.

The new Liberal government has some excellent people to lead on these issues including Marc Garneau, who was a strong Industry critic during the copyright reform process, as well as the many Liberal MPs who worked on privacy issues as part of Bills C-13 and S-4. Further, the new government has one of Canada’s leading intellectual property experts as an MP as McGill law professor David Lametti was elected in a Montreal riding. Lametti has written extensively about the problems of copyright term extension and the importance of fair dealing, providing a strong voice for a public interest perspective on digital policy. All of this points to real change and the chance for a fresh start on Canadian digital policy in the years ahead.

The post Real Change on Digital Policy May Take Time Under New Liberal Government appeared first on Michael Geist.

The Rise and Fall of the Conservatives’ Digital Policy

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Mon, 2015/10/19 - 07:43

As Canadians head to the polls, Internet and digital issues are unlikely to be top-of-mind for many voters. Each party has sprinkled its election platform with digital policies – the NDP emphasizes privacy, net neutrality and its opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership, the Liberals focus on open government, and the Conservatives tout cyber-security – yet Internet and digital issues have played at best a minor role in the campaign. The early references to a Netflix tax or the debate over Bill C-51 have been largely lost in an election whose central issue seems primarily to be a referendum on ten years of Stephen Harper and the Conservative government.

My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that a review of digital and Internet law in the 2015 election campaign involves a similar assessment on the past decade of privacy, copyright and telecom policy. The Conservatives once placed a heavy emphasis on Internet-friendly approach, crafting rules that were designed to attract popular support by encouraging telecom competition, greater flexibility for copyright, and consumer privacy protection. Yet toward the end of its mandate, the government shifted priorities and in the process seemed to forget about the Internet.

When the Conservatives were elected in 2006, their Internet policies largely reflected the interests of large lobby groups. Then Industry Minister Maxime Bernier made his mark by mandating a hands-off approach for telecom regulation, rejecting the notion that Canada’s telecom regulator should actively intervene on behalf of the public interest. Meanwhile, copyright policy mirrored restrictive U.S. rules, net neutrality reform was non-existent, and the government delayed any potential improvements to privacy law.

By 2009, the Conservatives began to change course. Telecom policy was transformed into a pro-consumer issue with spectrum set-asides for new competitors and a CRTC mandate to aggressively promote consumer interests without concern for opposition from the big incumbent providers. The government held a national copyright consultation that offered the chance for a fresh start, ultimately leading to a far more balanced copyright bill. And digital privacy emerged as a key policy issue with new privacy and anti-spam laws figuring prominently in a long-delayed national digital strategy.

The record from 2009 to 2013 features some impressive achievements. Yet in the closing two years of the Conservatives government, the policy approach changed yet again. Government efforts to entice a major new entrant into the Canadian market fell flat after Verizon dropped plans to move north, leaving it with little more than spectrum policy tinkering that might provide some long-term benefits but shows little sign of making a significant dent into Canada’s competitive environment for wireless services.

The copyright balance struck in 2012 had also shifted by 2015 with backroom lobbying resulting in a copyright term extension for sound recordings buried in a budget bill and the secretive Trans Pacific Partnership threatening to further extend copyright term and bring U.S. style takedown rules to Canada. Plans to support an international treaty for access for the blind was not prioritized and remains in limbo.

Moreover, the earlier pro-privacy position was dropped altogether with lawful access and privacy rules that paved the way for voluntary disclosure of personal information without court oversight, opposition to a Supreme Court of Canada decision restricting warrantless access to subscriber data, continuing co-operation with global surveillance initiatives revealed by Edward Snowden, and the swift passage of Bill C-51 without beefing up accountability and oversight protections.

Why did the Conservatives largely abandon a pro-Internet approach?

The answer may lie in the recognition that the mainstreaming of the Internet meant that the policy trade-offs were more challenging for a government with competing priorities.  Copyright was transformed into trade policy when key concerns formed part of the TPP, while privacy increasingly involved security considerations.

Digital issues simply became “issues” and the concerns associated with the Internet and digital rights took a back seat to other considerations. As Canadians begin to look ahead on digital policies, whoever forms the next government will undoubtedly face the same complexities as it works to strike the right balance.

The post The Rise and Fall of the Conservatives’ Digital Policy appeared first on Michael Geist.

How the Conservatives Lost the Internet

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Mon, 2015/10/19 - 07:39

Appeared in the Toronto Star on October 19, 2015 as Internet Issues Playing Minor Role in Election

As Canadians head to the polls, Internet and digital issues are unlikely to be top-of-mind for many voters. Each party has sprinkled its election platform with digital policies – the NDP emphasizes privacy, net neutrality and its opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership, the Liberals focus on open government, and the Conservatives tout cyber-security – yet Internet and digital issues have played at best a minor role in the campaign. The early references to a Netflix tax or the debate over Bill C-51 have been largely lost in an election whose central issue seems primarily to be a referendum on ten years of Stephen Harper and the Conservative government.

A review of digital and Internet law in the 2015 election campaign involves a similar assessment on the past decade of privacy, copyright and telecom policy. The Conservatives once placed a heavy emphasis on Internet-friendly approach, crafting rules that were designed to attract popular support by encouraging telecom competition, greater flexibility for copyright, and consumer privacy protection. Yet toward the end of its mandate, the government shifted priorities and in the process seemed to forget about the Internet.

When the Conservatives were elected in 2006, their Internet policies largely reflected the interests of large lobby groups. Then Industry Minister Maxime Bernier made his mark by mandating a hands-off approach for telecom regulation, rejecting the notion that Canada’s telecom regulator should actively intervene on behalf of the public interest. Meanwhile, copyright policy mirrored restrictive U.S. rules, net neutrality reform was non-existent, and the government delayed any potential improvements to privacy law.

By 2009, the Conservatives began to change course. Telecom policy was transformed into a pro-consumer issue with spectrum set-asides for new competitors and a CRTC mandate to aggressively promote consumer interests without concern for opposition from the big incumbent providers. The government held a national copyright consultation that offered the chance for a fresh start, ultimately leading to a far more balanced copyright bill. And digital privacy emerged as a key policy issue with new privacy and anti-spam laws figuring prominently in a long-delayed national digital strategy.

The record from 2009 to 2013 features some impressive achievements. Yet in the closing two years of the Conservatives government, the policy approach changed yet again. Government efforts to entice a major new entrant into the Canadian market fell flat after Verizon dropped plans to move north, leaving it with little more than spectrum policy tinkering that might provide some long-term benefits but shows little sign of making a significant dent into Canada’s competitive environment for wireless services.

The copyright balance struck in 2012 had also shifted by 2015 with backroom lobbying resulting in a copyright term extension for sound recordings buried in a budget bill and the secretive Trans Pacific Partnership threatening to further extend copyright term and bring U.S. style takedown rules to Canada. Plans to support an international treaty for access for the blind was not prioritized and remains in limbo.

Moreover, the earlier pro-privacy position was dropped altogether with lawful access and privacy rules that paved the way for voluntary disclosure of personal information without court oversight, opposition to a Supreme Court of Canada decision restricting warrantless access to subscriber data, continuing co-operation with global surveillance initiatives revealed by Edward Snowden, and the swift passage of Bill C-51 without beefing up accountability and oversight protections.

Why did the Conservatives largely abandon a pro-Internet approach?

The answer may lie in the recognition that the mainstreaming of the Internet meant that the policy trade-offs were more challenging for a government with competing priorities.  Copyright was transformed into trade policy when key concerns formed part of the TPP, while privacy increasingly involved security considerations.

Digital issues simply became “issues” and the concerns associated with the Internet and digital rights took a back seat to other considerations. As Canadians begin to look ahead on digital policies, whoever forms the next government will undoubtedly face the same complexities as it works to strike the right balance.

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

The post How the Conservatives Lost the Internet appeared first on Michael Geist.

How is NSA breaking so much crypto?

Freedom to Tinker - Wed, 2015/10/14 - 20:09
There have been rumors for years that the NSA can decrypt a significant fraction of encrypted Internet traffic. In 2012, James Bamford published an article quoting anonymous former NSA officials stating that the agency had achieved a “computing breakthrough” that gave them “the ability to crack current public encryption.” The Snowden documents also hint at […]

Classified material in the public domain: what’s a university to do?

Freedom to Tinker - Thu, 2015/10/08 - 17:28
Yesterday I posted some thoughts about Purdue University’s decision to destroy a video recording of my keynote address at its Dawn or Doom colloquium. The organizers had gone dark, and a promised public link was not forthcoming. After a couple of weeks of hoping to resolve the matter quietly, I did some digging and decided […]
Syndicate content