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Technology law column by Michael Geist

New Canadian WHOIS Policy Balances Privacy With Public Access

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Earlier this month, the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, the agency that manages the dot-ca domain, celebrated its one millionth domain name registration.  While that represents an important milestone, a far more noteworthy development is that CIRA also quietly announced the implementation of a new "whois" policy that will better protect the privacy of hundreds of thousands of Canadians and serve as a model for domain name registries around the world.

"Three Strikes and You're Out" Policy Strikes Out

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The new baseball season is in full swing, yet in recent months the phrase "three strikes and you’re out" has taken on an entirely different meaning on the Internet.  Prodded by content lobby groups, a handful of governments have moved toward requiring Internet service providers to terminate subscribers if they engage in file sharing activities on three occasions.

National Gallery Looking For Profits in the Wrong Place

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Last week the City of Montreal hosted the annual Museums and the Web conference, which brings together hundreds of museum leaders from around the world.  For the past twelve years, the conference has served as the focal point for the digitization of museum collections, artifacts, and exhibits as museums open themselves up to new audiences and possibilities.

Fair Dealing Reform a Key Innovation Policy Priority

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As successive Canadian governments have prioritized economic competitiveness and innovation, copyright reform has slowly crept onto the innovation agenda.  The 2007 Speech from the Throne included a promise to "support Canadian researchers and innovators in developing new ideas and bringing them to the marketplace through Canada’s Science and Technology Strategy. Our Government will improve the protection of cultural and intellectual property rights in Canada, including copyright reform."

Bell's 'Throttling' Plan a Threat to a Competitive Net

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The CRTC has long acknowledged that Canadians enjoy limited competition for high-speed Internet services.  In response, it has supported independent ISPs by requiring incumbents like Bell to provide wholesale broadband Internet service at regulated rates.  

The CBC's Next Great Way To Distribute Content

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Last night, the CBC aired the finale of Canada's Next Great Prime Minister, a television program that attracted attention not only for its sizable audiences and the participation of several former Prime Ministers, but also for its emphasis on Internet-based participation.  As part of its nationwide search, the show conducted YouTube auditions, resulting in hundreds of videos and thousands of comments.  It followed up a Facebook group that has hundreds of members who have posted photos, videos, and engaged in active discussions.

Business on the Hotseat Over Net Censorship

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As the Internet moved into the mainstream in the mid-1990s, John Gilmore, one of the founders of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, coined the phrase "the Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it."Gilmore’s comments were a reference to the architecture of the Internet, which was designed to ensure that information was delivered by the most efficient means possible and render attempts to block content nearly impossible.

Everybody Is Jumping on the Levy Bandwagon

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From levies on blank CDs to tariffs on background music played in dental offices, Canada has long held the reputation of being a haven for policies that support cultural and creator groups through levies, tariffs, and other fees.  In recent months, this love of levies has grown dramatically as a number of new proposals have emerged that could significantly increase the costs to consumers for Internet, television, and new media services.  

Canada Stuck in the Slow Lane on Traffic Shaping Debate

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Last fall, the Associated Press and the Electronic Frontier Foundation reported that Comcast, the largest cable provider in the United States, was actively interfering with network traffic by engaging in traffic shaping.  The practice - largely undisclosed by the company - resulted in reduced bandwidth for peer-to-peer file sharing applications and delayed the delivery of some Internet content.

Canadians Play a Lead Role in Books 2.0

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Last year, the Department of Canadian Heritage commissioned Turner-Riggs, a Vancouver-based market-analysis company, to study the Canadian book retail market.  The resulting report - The Book Retail Sector in Canada - has received considerable attention from both policy makers and the industry as it describes the dramatic change in how books are distributed and sold in Canada.

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