Dr. Michael Geist is a law professor at the University of Ottawa where he holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law. He has obtained a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) degree from Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, Master of Laws (LL.M.) degrees from Cambridge University in the UK and Columbia Law School in New York, and a Doctorate in Law (J.S.D.) from Columbia Law School. Dr. Geist is an internationally syndicated columnist on technology law issues with his regular column appearing in the Toronto Star and the Ottawa Citizen. Dr. Geist is the editor of From "Radical Extremism" to "Balanced Copyright": Canadian Copyright and the Digital Agenda (2010) and In the Public Interest: The Future of Canadian Copyright Law (2005), both published by Irwin Law, the editor of several monthly technology law publications, and the author of a popular blog on Internet and intellectual property law issues.
Canadian content depends upon a level playing field against the large intermediaries such as the major ISPs that often control both carriage and content. That has not changed over the past eight years. If anything, a level playing field is more important.
The issue of affordable high-speed Internet access in Canada is no better exemplified than through the actions and beliefs of three mayors across the country: Toronto's John Tory, Ottawa's Jim Watson, and Calgary's Naheed Nenshi. The way each city's mayor submitted letters to the federal government either defending the interests of Bell or the CRTC can show us a lot about how each leader intends to approach broadband infrastructure in their municipalities.
The prospect of considering expanded blocking for copyright purposes validates the fears of civil liberties groups that the introduction of blocking requirements invariably expands to cover a wider net of content. Canadian copyright was already on track for a boisterous debate in the coming years with changes such as copyright term extension mandated by the Trans Pacific Partnership and a review of the law scheduled for 2017. If government officials envision adding VPN usage, access to U.S. Netflix and website blocking to the list of issues, copyright could emerge as one of the government's most difficult and controversial issues.
One of the most troubling, but largely ignored effects of the TPP involves privacy. Privacy is not an issue most associate with a trade agreement, however, the TPP features several anti-privacy measures that would restrict the ability of governments to establish safeguards over sensitive information such as financial and health data as well as information hosted by social media services.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations have attracted considerable attention in Canada in recent weeks as the political consequences of dismantling agricultural protections loom large with a national elections scheduled for the fall.
The changes at OMNI foreshadow a far bigger upheaval within the Canadian broadcasting world. Regulators have embraced change with the full knowledge that many channels will face elimination under the emerging framework.
Bell's claim that the minority of Canadian subscribers who access U.S. Netflix through VPNs are "stealing" simply does not withstand legal scrutiny. Those subscribers might be breaching the Netflix terms and conditions, but that is not breaking the law.
I've received daily emails from people who have been sent a copyright infringement notification as part of Canada's notice-and-notice system. While I'm unable to provide specific legal advice, I can provide more information that may assist in making an informed decision about a system that was designed to discourage infringement.
Why is the CRTC focusing on vertically integrated companies rather than on Netflix? It comes down to competition. Rather than viewing Netflix as a threat, the CRTC rightly sees it as a pro-competitive entrant that creates more consumer choice and forces others to innovate. Its real concern lies with the vertically integrated companies, who may find it in their interests to create competitive barriers since increased consumer choice could be viewed as a threat to their broadcast interests.
The scale of information sharing being proposed by Bill C-51 is unprecedented, the scope of the new powers conferred by the Act is excessive, particularly as these powers affect ordinary Canadians, and the safeguards protecting against unreasonable loss of privacy are seriously deficient. While the potential to know virtually everything about everyone may well identify some new threats, the loss of privacy is clearly excessive. All Canadians would be caught in this web.
Bell announced that it completed its $3.2 billion acquisition of CTV on April 1, 2011. Less than four years later, company executives say that their business is unsustainable and effectively admit that they cannot compete. In most sectors, that would be grounds for unhappy shareholders and corporate change. In the Bell world, it means intense lobbying for radical regulatory reform to raise television fees, block content, violate net neutrality, and fight Netflix.
The Harper government's anti-terrorism legislation is so vague it leaves open the door to the sharing of Canadians' information for any reason whatsoever, and the possibility of intelligence services investigating political activists.
Rightscorp, a U.S.-based anti-piracy company, is using Canada's new copyright notice-and-notice system to require Internet providers to send threats and misstatements of Canadian law in an effort to extract payments based on unproven infringement allegations. Not only does Moore bear some responsibility for establishing the notice-and-notice rules without regulations, but there is now no quick fix.
Perhaps the most notable revelation from documents obtained under the Access to Information Act is that Internet providers have tried to convince the government that they will voluntarily build surveillance capabilities into their networks. A 2013 memorandum prepared for the public safety minister reveals that Canadian telecom companies advised the government that the leading telecom equipment manufacturers, including Cisco, Juniper, and Huawei, all offer products with interception capabilities at a small additional cost.
Reports from CTV and the Globe and Mail indicate that the government is planning to introduce a new copyright exception for political advertising. The reports suggest that the exception would permit the use of news content in political advertising without authorization, provided that it meets three conditions. I think the government should simply rely on existing law.
The Netflix - CRTC battle has generated considerable attention, but Netflix is not alone in contesting the CRTC's authority to regulate Internet video services. As I suggested in a post yesterday, Google has adopted a similar position, refusing to provide the Commission with all of the information it was seeking.
Last week's very public fight between the CRTC and Netflix escalated on Monday as Netflix refused to comply with Commission's order to supply certain confidential information including subscriber numbers and expenditures on Canadian children's content. While the disclosure concerns revolve around the confidentiality of the data, the far bigger issue is now whether the CRTC has the legal authority to order it to do anything at all.
The CRTC hearing is ultimately about shifting away from that model by providing consumers with more choice. That change should force broadcasters to improve their products and broadcast distributors to offer competitively priced services. As the Rogers approach to streaming hockey demonstrates, if they fail to do so, consumers now have other options.