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Latest from Michael Geist

Earlier this year, the Canadian government launched a timid consultation on copyright term extension. After years of rejecting copyright term extension beyond the international law standard of life of the author plus 50 years, the Canadian government caved to pressure from the United States by agreeing to the equivalent of life of the author plus 70 years in the U.S.-Canada-Mexico Trade Agreement (USMCA). With a 30 month transition period to allow for consultation, this represents an opportunity to mitigate against the harms of term extension. I submitted my response last night and it is posted here. The submission…
The Canadian technology community has a long history of working together with government and regulators to counter online harms such botnets, spam, and malicious hacking. It therefore came as a surprise when the CRTC launched a consultation on addressing botnets that raised the possibility of the regulator stepping in with new blocking mandates. The consultation just completed its first round of comments and in addition to industry experts, there were others that opportunistically looked at the blocking discussion as the chance to promote copyright related blocking or other Internet blocking requirements. Jonathan Curtis has been at the heart of battling…
As countries around the globe work to get their citizen vaccinated against COVID-19, a battle over intellectual property rules has emerged at the World Trade Organization. Last year, Canada passed legislation designed to ensure that patents would not pose a barrier to securing supplies of a vaccine or treatment. A year later, developing countries around the world have looked to the WTO to develop similar standards through a waiver process that would speed up access to, and production of, vaccines. Yet the proposal has run into opposition at the WTO, including from Canada. Thiru Balasubramaniam is the Geneva Representative of…
In early 2018, Bell led a consortium of companies and organizations arguing for the creation of a new website blocking system in Canada. Complete with a new anti-piracy agency and CRTC stamp of approval, the vision was to create a new system to mandate site blocking across ISPs in Canada. Canadians challenged the so-called FairPlay proposal and the CRTC rejected the Bell application on jurisdictional grounds. Since that time, the Canadian courts have been dealing with site blocking requests (the Federal Court of Appeal is soon set to hear arguments on the issue) and the Canadian copyright review conducted by…
Having spent a good chunk of Monday talking to reporters about the proposed Rogers merger with Shaw, I thought it might be worth highlighting my initial three takeaways. First – and this is stating the obvious – the deal will result in higher prices and less competition. There is no need to overthink any of this. Removing a company that some have touted as the best chance at a viable national fourth carrier would leave some of Canada’s biggest markets (notably Ontario, Alberta, and B.C.) without a much needed competitor. Canadians already pay some of the highest prices for
A Canadian coalition of consumer advocates, civil society and social justice groups, policy experts, activists and independent ISPs will come together in a national Day of Action on Tuesday to demand the immediate implementation of federal measures to deliver affordable internet and wireless services in Canada and to put an end to constantly increasing bills. This week’s Law Bytes podcast brings together three people that bring unique perspectives to the issue: Madeleine Redfern, the former mayor of Iqaluit, Nunavut and currently the Chief Operating Officer at CanArctic Inuit Networks. Dr. Mary Cavanagh, the Director of School of Information Studies (ÉSIS) at the University…
Months after its introduction, it is fair to say that Bill C-10, the broadcasting reform bill, has not been the government’s finest performance. Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has made claims about the economic benefits that his own department is unable to support, made inaccurate statements about the inclusion of economic thresholds and news in the bill in the House of Commons, and misleadingly compared his plans to the policies in Europe. From a substantive perspective, even supporters have acknowledged that the bill eliminates the policy objective of Canadian ownership of the broadcasting system (Canadian Heritage officials have offered easily
My post yesterday on Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault’s Facebook use generated considerable attention as many noted the obvious inconsistencies for a Minister that has described linking to news stories on social media sites without payment as immoral, while at the same time actively linking to news stories on his own Facebook feed. While it is difficult to set aside the uploaded broadcaster videos without referral links (which raise thorny copyright issues for someone who shares responsibility for copyright law) and the thousands spent advertising on Facebook (given that Guilbeault has called for reduced digital ad spending), I think the…
Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault yesterday told the House of Commons Heritage Committee that his department would reduce the amount it allocates to digital advertising, arguing that too much goes to online platforms and that “we need to change this.” The decision to politicize where the government spends its ad dollars is perhaps unsurprising given Guilbeault’s penchant for battling with the tech companies, dating back to his claims that linking to news articles without payment is “immoral.” Leaving aside the question of whether taxpayer funded advertising campaigns should prioritize effectiveness and value for money (personally, I’d prefer that the government…
Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault is expected to soon introduce new legislation designed to address online harms through increased regulation. Reports indicate that the bill will target five categories of illegal content: hate speech, terrorist content, content that incites violence, child sexual exploitative content and non-consensual sharing of intimate content. The details will matter, however, as failure to ensure due process for content removal and strict limits on scope will raise constitutionality concerns. David Kaye is a clinical professor of law at the University of California, Irvine, and served as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection…
Last November, then Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains introduced Bill C-11, long overdue privacy reform. The bill appeared to be a top government priority, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau emphasizing that the new law would give Canadians more control over how companies handle their personal information. While the bill isn’t perfect – I wrote posts on some of the benefits and concerns – there was no debating that it represented an important step forward in modernizing Canada’s privacy law. Yet months after the bill was introduced, it is seemingly going nowhere. The bill has been granted one…
As the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage continues its study on Bill C-10, it has also received some notable submissions from organizations and experts that raise further questions about the wisdom of the bill. One submission not yet posted (but provided to me with the consent to post) comes from Philip Palmer, former Senior General Counsel with the Department of Justice focused on communications law. Palmer spent decades in government focused on telecommunications and competition law issues. His expert opinion is that Bill C-10 is unconstitutional since on-demand streaming services such as Netflix are not inter-provincial undertakings and therefore are…
For years, Canada resisted extending the term of copyright beyond the international standard of life of the author plus 50 years. That appears to have come to an end with the USMCA, which requires an extension. The Canadian government has just launched a public consultation on the issue, identifying several “accompanying measures” to address concerns about the negative impact of term extension. For the many Canadians that participated in the recent copyright review process, the consultation document comes as huge disappointment as it seemingly rejects – with little legal basis – the review’s recommendation on establishing a registration requirement for…
Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault seems set to table another bill that would establish Internet content regulations, including requirements for Internet platforms to proactively remove many different forms of content, some illegal and others harmful or possibly even “hurtful.” Few would argue with the proposition that some regulation is needed, but venturing into government regulated takedown requirements of otherwise legal content raises complex questions about how to strike the balance between safeguarding Canadians from online harms and protecting freedom of expression. Vivek Krishnamurthy, is a colleague at the University of Ottawa, where he is the Samuelson-Gluschko Professor of Law…
Last year, the Australian government presented Google and Facebook with an ultimatum: if the companies wanted to continue to allow users to link to news articles, they would be required to compensate news organizations. The Australian plan called for the creation of a mandated code that would create a process to determine the price to be paid for the links. Facebook’s response made it clear that if that was the choice – links with mandated payments or no links – it would choose the latter and block Australian news sharing from its service. While some described this as a threat…
The Toronto Star reports that Senator Claude Carignan, a Conservative Senator, plans to introduce a new bill that would amend the Copyright Act to create a new compensation scheme for media organizations by establishing a new collective rights system for the use of news articles on digital platforms. I’ve written extensively about why calls for mandated compensation for linking to news articles on social media sites is an ill-advised policy and how the media organizations themselves are responsible for much of the posting. Heidi Tworek has written about the risks of using IP to address the issue, which she…