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New Year Offers Chance to Hit Reset Button on Digital Policies

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Mon, 2015/01/05 - 10:24

Appeared in the Toronto Star on January 3, 2015 as Time to Hit the Reset Button on Digital Policies

A new year is traditionally the time to refresh and renew personal goals. The same is true in the digital policy realm, where despite the conclusion of lawful access, anti-counterfeiting, and anti-spam rules in 2014, many other issues in Canada remain unresolved, unaddressed, or stalled in the middle of development.

With a new year – one that will feature a federal election in which all parties will be asked to articulate their vision of Canada’s digital future – there is a chance to hit the policy reset button on issues that have lagged or veered off course.

There is no shortage of possibilities, but the following four concerns should be top of mind for policy makers and politicians:

1.    The centerpiece of any national digital strategy is connectivity since ensuring that all Canadians have access to affordable, competitive high-speed Internet services is a basic pre-requisite for most other issues. To the disappointment of many, last year’s long overdue digital strategy included a connectivity target that ranked among the weakest in the developed world.

Its speed target of 5 Mbps is not even considered high-speed in some countries and the government’s goal of 98 per cent access means that thousands of Canadians will still not even have access to that speed. With the United States recently setting a 10 Mbps target, Canada should rethink its approach by at least matching the U.S. benchmark and setting a clear aim of 100 per cent coverage.

2.    The Digital Privacy Act, which was introduced in the Senate last year as Bill S-4, was supposed to be an easy sell and policy win for a government focused on consumer issues. It includes long overdue security breach disclosure requirements that will force companies to notify Canadians when their personal information has been placed at risk.

However, the dominant story of the bill has been the unnecessary expansion of voluntary disclosure of personal information at the very time that the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that Canadians have a reasonable expectation of privacy in such information. The government’s weak attempts to justify the changes have not convinced their newly-appointed federal privacy commissioner and with committee hearings likely to start in February, Industry Minister James Moore should use the opportunity to scrap the change.

3.    The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission will take centre stage early in the new year as it releases the results from several hearings, most notably the “TalkTV” consultation that will undoubtedly include mandatory “pick-and-pay” television packages for consumers. Yet the CRTC’s work on both broadcast and telecom regulation has been undermined by an outdated legal framework that artificially separates the two fields that are now inextricably linked.

As a regulator, the CRTC is not in a position to fix a broken system. Rather, it falls to the government to begin the process of creating a single communications law that better reflects modern realities. While that reform won’t happen before the fall election, it should begin to lay the groundwork for legislative reform with a comprehensive review of the current system and alternatives for change.

4.    Treasury Board President Tony Clement has been a vocal advocate of open government, last year releasing an updated Action Plan on Open Government. Yet the framework has rightly come under criticism for failing to address the access to information system, which is in desperate need of both financial support and legislative reform.

As the single most important part of any open government policy, ignoring access to information consigns the entire effort to failure. While Clement now says there is insufficient time for a comprehensive review before the fall election, there is no need to wait to inject the system with much needed financial stability and to establish timelines for a legal overhaul.

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 New Year Offers Chance to Hit Reset Button on Digital Policies appeared first on Michael Geist.

Interview with the RiYL podcast about personal politics and big-P politics


I sat down for an interview with the RiYL podcast (MP3) at NYCC last fall. We covered a lot of material that I don't get a lot of chances to talk about, particularly the relationship between personal politics and big-P politics. Listening to it again, I'm very satisfied with how it turned out.

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

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Mon, 2014/12/29 - 18:08

With revelations about millions of warrantless requests for Internet and telecom subscriber information and heated battles over the potential regulation of Netflix leading the way, law and technology issues garnered headlines all year long. My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) offers a look back at 2014 from A to Z:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Podcast: Happy Xmas! (guest starring Poesy)

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

MP3

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


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

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

DRM-free audiobook

Interview with Radio New Zealand’s This Way Up

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

Interview with The Command Line podcast

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free Audiobook

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

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

 

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