#CyberFLASH: Google, B.C. firm duel over free speech, copyright in Supreme Court battle

google-logo-jpg-size-custom-crop-1086x714OTTAWA—A legal fight between Internet giant Google and a British Columbia technology company unfolds today in the Supreme Court of Canada, where they will duel over competing free speech and copyright infringement issues.

At issue is whether Canadian courts have the jurisdiction to make sweeping orders to block access to content on the Internet beyond Canada’s borders.

Google is challenging a 2015 ruling by the British Columbia Court of Appeal that ordered it to stop indexing or referencing websites linked to a company called Datalink Technologies Gateways.

The B.C. appeal court granted that injunction at the request of Equustek Solutions Inc., which won a judgment against Datalink for essentially stealing, copying and reselling industrial network interface hardware that it created.

Equustek wanted to stop Datalink from selling the hardware through various websites and turned to Google to shut down references to them.

Initially, Google removed more than 300 URLs from search results on Google.ca, but more kept popping up, so Equustek sought — and won — the broader injunction that ordered Google to impose a worldwide ban.

Read more here

#CyberFLASH: Melanie Joly’s Tough Choice on Canadian Content: New Thinking or New Taxes

27521603693_5eda2af096_k-780x350Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly launched her surprise national consultation on Canadian content in a digital world last April with considerable excitement for the possibilities of revolutionizing policies born in an analog era. Joly spoke enthusiastically about the potential for Canadian creators to use digital networks to reach global audiences and for all stakeholders to rethink the cultural policy toolkit.

My Globe and Mail op-ed notes that submissions to the consultation closed last week and despite the hope for new, innovative thinking, many of Canada’s largest cultural groups placed their bets on extending a myriad of funding mechanisms to the Internet. Rather than overhauling older programs, the groups want those policies expanded by mandating new fees, costs or taxes on Internet services, Internet service providers, Internet advertisers, and even the sale of digital storage devices such as USB keys and hard drives.

Netflix is the top target, as the streaming giant is on the receiving end of demands to extend sales taxes and implement a Cancon contribution tax on foreign online video providers. For its part, Netflix highlighted its investment in Cancon in its submission, noting that Canada is now one of the top three locations worldwide for its commissioned original productions and pointing to dozens of Canadian programs that it has licensed or helped finance.

Yet groups such as ACTRA, the Writers Guild of Canada, the Canadian Media Producers Association, and the Directors Guild of Canada remain unconvinced, arguing that the government should require Netflix to contribute a percentage of its revenues toward the creation of Canadian content.

If implemented, such a Netflix tax could have far reaching effects. For example, ACTRA recommends that any online video service that distributes broadcast content with more than 2,000 subscribers be required to contribute 5 per cent of its gross revenue toward independent Cancon creation funds. The proposal could mean that many services block Canadian subscribers to avoid the mandated payments, resulting in decreased online video competition in Canada. In fact, the Directors Guild of Canada wants even more, running into the hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

Read more here

#CyberFLASH: Why Navdeep Bains and Melanie Joly Are on a Collision Course on Digital Policy

heritage-minister-melanie-joly

The Canadian chapter of the International Institute of Communications held their annual conference in Ottawa this week, headlined on Thursday by back-to-back appearances from Canadian Heritage Minister Melanie Joly (in a question and answer session with Jennifer Ditchburn) and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains.

Both ministers spoke primarily about their key policy initiative, namely digital cancon (Joly) and innovation (Bains). Joly’s cancon discussion again emphasized the benefits of exports and foreign investment, but she also indicated that all policies are still on the table, including an ISP tax and efforts to bring Internet companies such as Netflix “into the system.” Joly was followed by Bains, who used his speech to sketch out the foundation of his forthcoming innovation strategy. His focus included universal, affordable Internet access and telecom competition (which raises real doubts about whether the government will approve Bell’s proposed purchase of MTS).

Both ministers noted that their public consultations are ongoing, yet the reality is that sooner or later the government will have to make some policy choices. An export-led cancon strategy that focuses on foreign participation would mesh nicely with an innovation strategy that envisions similar benefits from embracing the digital environment. However, many of Joly’s comments and the pressures from some stakeholder groups point to the prospect of new Internet fees or regulations to support the domestic industry. Should that happen, it is increasingly likely that Bains and Joly will present dramatically different visions of Canada’s digital future with policy proposals that are fundamentally incompatible with one another.

The most obvious example involves the issue of universal, affordable Internet access which pits Bains’ vision of an innovative economy that has affordable Internet access as its foundation against Joly’s potential support for an ISP tax. The two policies tug in opposite directions as Bains is looking for ways to lower Internet costs and increase access, while an ISP tax would increase costs and reduce access.

Read more here

#CyberFLASH: Beyond a Netflix Tax, Why Melanie Joly’s Comments Point to Regulation of Internet Services

4803540838_70b9e9515a_b-780x350

The prospect of new digital taxes and regulation to fund the creation of Canadian content continues to attract attention with cultural groups leading the charge. For example, the Canadian Independent Music Association recently called for the regulation of digital services and ISPs including mandated contributions to support the development of Canadian content, while ADISQ has previously lobbied for a similar policy approach.

With mounting coverage of the issue, Canadian Heritage Minister Melanie Joly appeared last weekend on CTV’s Question Period, spending most of the nine minutes dodging questions from host Evan Solomon. Joly started by clearly stating that “there will be no new Netflix tax”, but spent the rest of the interview making the case for one. The discussion featured speaking points that seemed to contradict the no Netflix tax approach, emphasizing that everything is on the policy table and that the government is looking at all scenarios. Solomon noted the inconsistency of the comments and Joly struggled to respond.

Most troubling was the exchange on new regulations, taxes or fees for Internet companies and services. Solomon specifically asked whether the only digital tax that Joly was willing rule out was a Netflix tax. Joly’s response:

I’ve said that we’re willing to have a conversation with digital platforms. Netflix is one of them. There are Amazons, Hulus, Apple. There are big companies that are part of our ecosystem, that are used and liked by Canadians. This is why we want to make sure that we know that they are using a large part of our spectrum that we can have a conversation with them to see how they can participate.

While it is somewhat difficult to fully decipher Joly’s comments, the references point in the direction of a tax or regulation on Internet services and service providers.

Read more here

#CyberFLASH: Behind the Scenes of the Digital CanCon Consultation: Geist

heritage-minister-melanie-joly

Canadian Heritage Minister Melanie Joly launched her review of CanCon rules last spring by stating that “everything is on the table.” The pre-consultation revealed a sharp divide between industry and the public with industry stakeholders emphasizing more public and government support and the public focusing on efforts to promote Canadian content.

This week I obtained government documents under the Access to Information Act that provide some interesting insights in the behind-the-scenes process that brought a major government consultation from concept to launch in a matter of weeks. The roughly thousand pages show Canadian Heritage officials worked long hours to develop timelines, consultation documents, communications plans, and advisory committees. Given the time constraints, it is an impressive effort.

The documents also highlight internal thinking on several major issues, including Netflix regulation, the CRTC’s Let’s Talk TV rulings, and copyright. On the Netflix tax, the documents indicate that officials downplayed the possibility of legislative reforms for broadcasting before the consultation was even launched. Part of the department’s communication plan includes the following Q&A on Netflix regulation:

Some have been calling for changes to the Broadcasting Act – including to require OTT players like Netflix to be regulated by the CRTC. Do you see moving in that direction as a potential result of these consultations?

a. In my view, legislation is not the starting point. It’s one tool that governments have used to support cultural policy objectives.

b. The starting point is ensuring that we strengthen the creation, discovery and export of Canadian content in a digital world.

Read more here

#CyberFLASH: Canadian Battle over “Zero Rating” Places Net Neutrality Safeguards at Risk

03748212-700x500Net neutrality emerged as a top Internet policy issue over 10 years ago as some Internet service providers openly discussed creating a two-tier system with a fast lane for websites and applications willing to pay additional fees and a slow lane for everyone else. The companies maintained that consumers would benefit from the two-tier approach by gaining faster access to premium content.

Internet users and emerging technology companies banded together to oppose the approach, arguing that all traffic should be treated in an equal manner regardless of content, source, or destination. They noted that the two-tier approach could lead to unfair competition and an inability for start-up companies to challenge established players.

My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that Internet users won the policy battle and years later net neutrality rules can be found worldwide. Indeed, the importance of an “open Internet” was recently affirmed by Navdeep Bains, Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Development, who told an international conference that the economy depends upon it.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) established its policy response in 2009 with the Internet traffic management practices. The rules restrict content blocking or slowdowns and require ISPs to disclose how they manage their networks.

The net neutrality debate has shifted in recent years to the issue of “zero rating” or “differential pricing”, references to network providers exempting certain content from data charges. While the traffic management practice has flipped from charging extra for content to offering access to content without data charges, the fundamental concerns are largely the same.

Read more here

#CyberFLASH: Science and Tech museums’ documents to be ‘open by default’ by fall, CEO pledges

a-woman-uses-her-computer-keyboard-to-type-while-surfing-the-internet-in-north-vIn a government town like Ottawa, where information has traditionally been jealously guarded, what Alex Benay is proposing could trigger a bout of cognitive dissonance.

According to Benay, president and CEO of the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation, almost all documents generated by the corporation’s three national museums – Science and Technology, Aviation and Space, and Agriculture and Food – will soon be available to the public through an online portal.

“Our hope is by the fall, roughly 90 per cent of our information is available to the public in real time,” Benay said in an interview Monday, hours after tweeting that museum documents will be “open by default” by autumn.

Not everything will be made public: cabinet documents and material dealing with such things as personnel matters or corporate planning will remain confidential.

But after that, pretty much anything goes, Benay said, including early drafts of historical assessments, exhibition plans and schedules for travelling exhibitions.

Within two or three years, he said, even internal emails should be made public on the corporation’s Open Heritage Portal (documents.techno-science.ca).

“The problem with email is volume,” Benay said. “That’s what we’re wrestling with.” Solving that will require technology that “we may or may not have yet. But eventually, we want to share everything we do on email.”

The corporation’s three museums are the first national museums in Canada to create a portal for open access to their documents. In fact. said Benay, “We haven’t been able to find another cultural institution anywhere in the world that is trying this.”

Read more here

#CyberFLASH: G7 ministers to push for internet freedom, reduce digital divide

Cyber-700x500TOKYO: Information technology ministers of the G7 countries, during a meeting in Japan on Saturday, agreed to tackle the digital divide by bringing internet access to more people, and pushing for policies free of political censorship.

The plan set out by the ministers of the G7 countries — Japan, the US, Germany, Britain, France, Canada and Italy — and European Union officials is to enable 1.5 billion more people to have internet access by 2020, EFE news reported.

It is believed that around 4 billion people, representing 60% of the world’s population, still lack internet access.

“We believe that global digital connectivity should in particular contribute to improving the quality of life for all people everywhere, to generating economic growth,” they said.

Meanwhile, in a message to countries such as China and Russia where governments censor web content, the ministers called for a free flow of information.

“We continue to support ICT policies that preserve the global nature of the internet, promote the flow of information across borders and allow internet users to access online information, knowledge and services of their choice,” a joint statment issued after the meeting said.

Read more here

© 2013 CyberTRAX Canada - All Rights Reserved.
Sponsored by C3SA Corp.