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Technology law column by Michael Geist

How the U.S. Got Its Canadian Copyright Bill

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Last week's introduction of new copyright legislation ignited a firestorm with thousands of Canadians expressing genuine shock at provisions that some MPs argued would create a "police state." As opposition to the copyright bill mounts, the most commonly asked question is "why"?  

Copyright Bill's Fine Print Makes For a Disturbing Read

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In 2004, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a landmark copyright decision in a battle between the Law Society of Upper Canada, the Ontario legal bar association, and CCH Canadian, a leading legal publisher.  The court was faced with a dispute over an old technology - photocopying in a law library - and in a unanimous decision it ruled that the underlying purpose of copyright law is to serve the public interest.  That interest, reasoned Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin, is best served by balancing both user rights and creator rights.

Government Should Lift Veil on ACTA Secrecy

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Last week, Canadian negotiators huddled with representatives from countries such as the United States, European Union, and Japan at the U.S. Mission in Geneva to negotiate the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).  The ACTA, which was shrouded in secrecy until a leaked summary of the agreement appeared on the Internet last month, has sparked widespread opposition as Canadians worry about the prospect of a trade deal that could lead to invasive searches of personal computers and increased surveillance of online activities.

Digital Advocacy Comes to Parliament Hill

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Last week, hundreds of Canadians descended on Parliament Hill in Ottawa for a public rally in support of net neutrality, a contentious issue that focuses on the need for Internet service providers (ISPs) to treat all content and applications in an equal, non-discriminatory manner.  The event succeeded in attracting politicians from two major political parties, labour leaders, independent ISPs, and individuals concerned with the Internet in Canada.  

Canadians Stuck With Analog Rights in a Digital World

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Earlier this month, some fans of the NBC television programs American Gladiators and Medium found themselves unable to digitally record the shows on their personal computers.  The reason for the blocked recordings raises important technical and legal questions about the rights of consumers to "time shift" television programs in the digital era.

Ten More Questions for Industry Minister Prentice

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Last fall, as Industry Minister Jim Prentice was preparing to introduce new copyright legislation, I wrote an article in the Hill Times posing ten questions to Prentice about the forthcoming bill.

Senate Spam Bill Important Step After Years of Inaction

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The Canadian government's lack of action against spam has been one of the most puzzling policy failures in recent years.  While addressing a problem that has grown from a mere nuisance to a costly scourge that raises criminal concerns would seem like a no-brainer, successive Industry Ministers have failed to prioritize the issue.  

Records Indicate Government Misusing Crown Copyright

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As Industry Minister Jim Prentice prepares to introduce new copyright legislation, crown copyright is unlikely to be part of the reform package.

iPhone Arrival Places Spotlight on Canada's Wireless Crisis

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Last week's announcement that the Apple iPhone will make its long awaited Canadian debut later this year generated considerable excitement.  While analysts focused on the bottom line impact for Rogers Wireless, it may be that the most important effects have already been felt in Canada since more than any industry statistics or speeches, the iPhone's slow entry into Canada has crystallized the view that the Canadian wireless market is hopelessly behind the rest of the world with limited competition, higher prices, and less choice.

Getting Beyond Canada's Copyright Myths

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Last week, James Rajotte, the Chair of the Standing Committee on Industry, told a Public Policy Forum conference on intellectual property that Industry Minister Jim Prentice hopes to introduce the highly contentious copyright bill within the next few weeks.  The announcement, which comes just days after the United States raised copyright with Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the SPP meeting in New Orleans, suggests that the concerns of business, education, and consumers may be cast aside in order to pacify U.S. pressure on the file.

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