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Technology law column by Michael Geist

Culture Cuts a Blow to Canadian Digitization Strategy

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The Canadian cultural community has been abuzz over the past two weeks as details emerge about the government's plans to cut millions of dollars from nearly a dozen culture programs. While the cuts may find support among some Canadians opposed to public funding for the arts, a closer look at the plans reveal that this has little to do with handouts to artists.  Rather, the affected programs are focused on industrial policy and the creation of a digital information strategy.  

Bell's PVR Legal Woes the Tip of the C-61 Iceberg

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Canadians watching the Olympic coverage from Beijing can hardly have missed the Bell commercial touting a new digital video recorder that features an external hard drive permitting users to "record forever." The archiving functionality may sounds enticing, yet last week several media reports noted that Industry Minister Jim Prentice's Bill C-61 forbids Canadians from recording television programs for archival purposes.

Text-Message Fight Obscures Real Consumer Costs

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Of all the recent controversies involving Canada’s wireless carriers - and there have been many - the fight over the 15-cent charge for the receipt of text messages must surely rank as the most puzzling.  

The issue, which generated an enormous amount of attention from politicians, company executives, and consumers, effectively came to a conclusion on Friday after Industry Minister Jim Prentice acknowledged that he was not prepared to intervene.

CRTC Says iOptOut Requests "Valid and Should be Honoured"

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The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission's announcement last week that the national do-not-call registry (DNC) will be operational by September 30th generated a collective sigh of relief from Canadians tired of unwanted telemarketing calls.  Less well known is that the CRTC also recently affirmed the ability for Canadians to use third-party websites to opt-out telemarketing calls from organizations that are currently exempt under the law.

Public Left Out Of ACTA Talks

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Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the leaders of G8 countries closed their recent summit in Hokkaido, Japan by encouraging "the acceleration of negotiations to establish a new international legal framework, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), and seek to complete the negotiation by the end of this year."  The decision to fast-track the controversial ACTA has led to new momentum for the still-secret treaty as the Australian government recently disclosed that a new round of negotiations will commence this week.

Government Copyright Bill Fails Green Test

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The environment is obviously one of the biggest issues of the moment.  The federal political parties are spending their summers trying to sell Canadians on their plans for the future, provincial governments are unveiling regulations to address waste, and local municipalities are getting into the game with increasingly sophisticated recycling programs.

Business Takes Sides in Net Neutrality Debate

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For most of the past two years, the net neutrality issue in Canada, which focuses on equal treatment of Internet traffic, has been limited to a handful of academics and consumer groups pointing to the dangers to the public of a two-tier Internet.  That dynamic changed dramatically earlier this year when Bell Canada instituted "deep packet inspection" of its traffic and limited the bandwidth it allocates to certain applications during peak times (a practice known as "throttling").

Canadians Face Triple Lock on Apple iPhone

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More than one year after the Apple iPhone hit store shelves in the United States, the hugely popular device makes its Canadian debut on Friday.  The arrival of a Canadian iPhone is expected to generate long lines at Rogers Wireless stores, though the pre-launch publicity has not been particularly smooth for the company.  Its announcement of iPhone service pricing set off a wave of online protest, as consumers noted the absence of an unlimited data plan, higher prices, and longer contractual commitments.  

CIRA's Backdoor Access in New WHOIS Policy

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Two months ago, I wrote a glowing review of the Canadian Internet Registration Authority's new "whois" policy that was supposed to better protect the privacy of hundreds of thousands of Canadians.  The column argued that the policy, which governs access to personal information of dot-ca domain name registrants, would serve as a model for other domain name registries around the world.

The Spectrum Surplus

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Each week millions of Canadians buy lottery tickets as they "imagine the freedom" of hitting it big.  While the federal government may not have won the lottery, it has certainly hit the jackpot with the wireless spectrum auction that is now in its final stages. The auction was expected to yield roughly $1.5 billion for the federal treasury, yet it may now top $4 billion as the bids have far exceeded initial estimates.  That represents a huge windfall for the federal government as an extra $2.5 billion does not come around every day.

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