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Judge Issues Scathing Decision on Costs in Teksavvy vs Voltage

March 18, 2015 1 comment

The judgement around costs in the Teksavvy vs Voltage court case is now in.  This is one of the first copyright file sharing cases in Canada to make it to the courts since our new copyright laws were passed.  As some of you may remember Teksavvy was asking for court costs of $346,480.68 for the disclosure of subscribers names, while Voltage was asking to pay Teksavvy for just under $900 for those names.  Both parties also brought up this blog in court.  Teksavvy added time in its costs docket for reading it, while Voltage couldn’t look past one post I had criticizing the costs associated with IP correlation. I had some choice words in December for both parties, and today the Judge in this case weighed in ordering Teksavvy only $21,557.50 in total costs.

Micheal Geist wrote today on the cases in a blog titled: “Defending Privacy Doesn’t Pay: Federal Court Issues Ruling in Voltage – TekSavvy Costs“:

With TekSavvy now bearing all of those motion costs (in addition to costs associated with informing customers), the decision sends a warning signal to ISPs that getting involved in these cases can lead to significant costs that won’t be recouped. That is a bad message for privacy. So is the likely outcome for future cases (should they arise) with subscribers left with fewer notices and information from their ISP given the costs involved and the court’s decision to not compensate for those costs.

I disagree with this statement when looking at the whole picture and decision.   This seems to be a balanced decision on how both parties acted in this case. I believe Teksavvy could have done a much better job at defending its customers privacy than it has to date.  This decision seems to be a rather scathing view from the courts on the evidence, merits, and costs argued by Teksavvy. I don’t see how defending hearsay evidence can be beneficial to promoting subscribers privacy in court by both parties!  The judge in my view acted in a very balanced way as a result of the evidence presented in the case and the law in place surrounding costs.

The full judges decision is here.  Below I will be posting some points I found interesting in the decision with some commentary.

The prosiding judge was Prothonotary Aronovitch.  In her opening statement on the decision Aronovitch wrote:

 [9] TekSavvy’s interpretation of the Order’s meaning is too expansive, Voltage’s too narrow. Neither position, in my view, is justifiable on the evidence or at law.

For it’s part, Teksavvy presented to the court as a defense of costs, that the case generated huge amounts of public interest.  Teksavvy wanted compensation as a result of their decision not to oppose the order, to which seemingly generated a huge uptake in calls into Teksavvy by angry subscribers:

[23] TekSavvy’s provides evidence to the effect that Voltage’s motion generated considerable interest and concern among TekSavvy’s then-current subscribers, potential subscribers, and the general public. This resulted in a massive increase in telephone and online inquiries, comments and complaints to TekSavvy. Gaudrault says that in the days before the December 17, 2012 return date of the motion, at one point TekSavvy was receiving 4,000 to 6,000 calls per day, of which 90 percent were related to Voltage, had as many as 200 telephone calls in queue for response, and had employees working overtime to field inquiries.

The above should be of concern to all ISPs.  Subscribers are very concerned about their privacy and how each ISP handles it.  It seems as though not opposing the court order really pissed off Teksavvy customers.  A wound in my opinion that was self inflicted.

Something that came out of this ruling as well, is that all three parties Teksavvy, Voltage, and Canipre were subjected to a DDoS attack on December 15th, 2012.  Teksavvy attributes this to the public interest generated in the case, thus has asked for compensation for it:

[24] Gaudrault attests to the fact that the attention and interest generated by Voltage’s motion was also manifested in a much more negative way. TekSavvy, Voltage, and Canipre were each victims of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, in which hackers disable a website or online business by manipulating a huge number of computers to flood a targeted host with communication requests. Given the targets (TekSavvy, Voltage, and Canipre) and the timing of the attacks (which started on December 15, 2012), Gaudrault attributes the DDoS attack to the Voltage motion.

I strongly disagree with anyone who would use DDoS attacks to express frustration about this case.  Anyone disagreeing with the way all three parties have handled things, should speak up.  That’s what I’ve been doing throughout this whole process providing alternate views to the public on the case, which is something Openmedia started to do, then retracted.  I think those supporting Openmedia, should have voiced their strong concerns to this consumer group, and put this consumer group (who is supported by Teksavvy) in a position to negotiate with the ISP on it’s stance as it relates to public interest.  That is a much more proactive approach, and consumer groups need to learn they should not be influenced in any way by telecom providers!

The next bit is a bit of legalese.  From paragraphs 36-39 of the decision Teksavvy is trying to make an argument within law that they should be compensated for ALL costs associated with this case, not just the order to produce. Aronovitch stated:

[41] I find no support for that view in the jurisprudence or Prothonotary Aalto’s Order. More to the point, TekSavvy has produced no cases where, in similar circumstances, costs have been ordered to be paid, or assessed to be paid, on that basis.

So essentially Teksavvy’s lawyers didn’t convince the judge they should be entitled to all costs associated with this case within law.  On the now infamous Norwich orders, in which some Teksavvy supporters have stated publicly in the past was the reason why this case was different, and why Teksavvy could not oppose the motion (my emphasis added):

[49] While a Norwich order remains a discovery remedy that is out of the ordinary, orders requiring ISPs to provide contact information for their subscribers are not new or uncommon, whether in the context of the posting of defamatory materials (York University v Bell Canada Enterprises (2009), 99 OR (3d) 695 (Sup Ct) (York University); Pierce v Canjex Publishing Ltd., 2011 BCSC 1503, 27 BCLR (5th) 397 (Pierce)), or of alleged infringement of intellectual property rights (BMG; Voltage Pictures LLC v Jane Doe, 2011 FC 1024, 395 FTR 315 (Voltage 2011)). Indeed, TekSavvy acknowledges that the only uncommon aspect of Voltage’s motion is in the number of IP addresses that are identified.

Presumably, if the Norwich orders are not uncommon regarding subscribers information, there should be ample amount of case law out there to defend against them as well.

Paragraphs 54 – 55 the judge explains that the previous judge who ordered Teksavvy to disclose the information did not state that Teksavvy was entitled to full costs outside of the court order:

[54] I ascribe no special significance to the fact that Prothonotary Aalto identifies three heads of costs to be reimbursed. The legal costs, the administrative costs, and the disbursements he identifies are not independent costs, they are recoverable only insofar as they are directed to and incurred for the purposes of “abiding by this Order” to produce the requested subscriber information. There is no basis in the jurisprudence or in Prothonotary Aalto’s reasons to give any broader scope or meaning to the plain language of his order.
[55] Had Prothonotary Aalto intended TekSavvy to be compensated, in full, for any costs that it would have incurred “but for the motion” or “in connection with the motion,” I am confident he would have so ordered.

The judge goes on to explain that her decision on costs will than be based on evidence provided and what she deems as reasonable:

[56] I will proceed on the basis that the costs which Voltage is required to reimburse are limited to those incurred in abiding with the Order, that is, to locate and produce the required contact information of the subscribers identified by their IP addresses. It remains to be determined, on the evidence, what those costs are and whether they are reasonable, by which I mean “reasonably necessary” to give effect to the Order (Fontaine v Canada (Attorney General), 2012 ONSC 3552 at para 7).

Teksavvy provided notice to affected customers.  Teksavvy supporters noted that the notice provided was separate from what other ISPs were doing and the ISP should be patted on the back for it.  Well, Teksavvy tried to claim costs on those notices stating that it was essential to weed out any false accusations, and to let affected customers obtain legal council.  Based on the evidence the judge disagreed with Teksavvy, however awarded Teksavvy for the costs of “rechecking” the IP addresses only if the identity of the affected subscriber can be proven (my emphasis added):

[64] While the Court has the discretion to order a party to give notice, the Rules do not require TekSavvy to have provided notice of the motion to its affected clients. TekSavvy acted voluntarily and on its own initiative. Whether it acted out of altruism or self-interest is irrelevant.

[65] I do not accept the argument that the notice served to verify the correlation as it led to a more accurate identification of affected customers, and that the resulting costs should therefore Page: 19 be subsumed in the costs of abiding with the Order. This appears to be an explanation after the fact. Notice was not given to ensure the accuracy of the correlation. There is nothing in the notices or in the exchanges of counsel to suggest that the purpose of the notice was anything other than to inform subscribers of the motion and to provide them with an opportunity to seek legal advice, or to appear at the motion.

[66] That said, the costs incurred from rechecking and correcting information following the notice would be recoverable, if identified and proven.

Teksavvy should be applauded for notifying its customers, however the court disagreed that they should be awarded full compensation for such.  That’s going to have interesting results going forward with future cases.  This is the only privacy concern I can see, however what sets apart others from the rest of the pack (and the more noble thing to do) on privacy should be those that incur costs to do the right thing, rather than leaving their subscribers in the dark. Unfortunately the telecom industry is increasingly less likely to do that as a whole, so this does become a concern.

Regarding Teksavvy’s legal costs.  The judge took exception of how Teksavvy’s lawyers were billing, and award only $4,500 in legal fees (my emphasis added):

[77] Finally, I need not comment on the entries to Stikeman Elliot’s bill that are on account of “Reviewing draft and revised press releases,” “Reviewing and revising draft blog posts,” and “Review talking points; interviews; conference call re media lines,” to name a few. These and other similar items are irrelevant to the implementation of the Order and not recoverable.

I’m glad that the court agrees that Teksavvy isn’t entitled to costs for reading my blog!

[78] I also need not comment on the evidence of Philpott taking issue with the manner in which TekSavvy or its counsel allegedly drove up these costs as I have had no reference to the evidence.
[79] Having reviewed the bill of legal costs, I am satisfied that the following legal costs alone fall within the scope of the Order: the costs of McHaffie’s communication with counsel for Voltage concerning time zones or timestamp information necessary to carry out the correlation and those of reviewing and providing advice on Prothonotary Aalto’s Order. I fix these at $4,500.00.

The judge goes on to question the administrative costs associated with the order, citing only “estimates” were provided, and a lot of those costs were not related to the implementation of the court order.

[81] Gaudrault says that Tacit’s retainer by TekSavvy “in the relevant period” was monthly rather than hourly. Tacit did not himself provide a bill of costs or time sheets in relation to his services. Rather, Gaudrault attaches “estimates” of Tacit’s monthly costs for advice with respect to Voltage’s motion, including representing TekSavvy in the litigation as co-counsel, and giving advice related to customer communication, IT issues, call centre issues, and privacy matters. Neither specific tasks, nor the time at which they were performed or the length of time it would have taken to complete them, are identified.

[82] Most of the items identified are unrelated to the implementation of the Order. Tacit’s advice or involvement related to the performance of the look-up or correlation exercise required to locate accurate contact information for TekSavvy subscribers cannot be identified or determined on the evidence. I do not comment on whether any cost items might be excluded due to overlap with items also claimed by Stikeman Elliott. VI.

Voltage had objected to the “estimates” provided by Teksavvy on administration costs.  Teksavvy employee’s apparently didn’t submit time sheets (my emphasis added):

[97] On the first ground regarding hearsay, Voltage makes several points. First, Gaudrault and Tellier did not themselves do the work of correlating the IP addresses. As revealed on crossexamination, it was Misur, not the affiants, who created the appendix setting out the hours of work. Gaudrault’s and Tellier’s evidence is therefore inadmissible hearsay. Additionally, the times noted in the appendix as well as the hourly rates are merely estimates as TekSavvy employees did not keep time sheets or time logs of the work that was done. Finally, the individuals who carried out the work did not produce their own evidence even though they had direct personal knowledge of the facts.

Paragraphs 107 – 113 deal with the judge basically throwing out Voltages notion on the very low cost amount of administration costs of close to $900, stating that Voltages experts were not familiar with Teksavvy’s systems.  One of the main admin costs I objected to on this blog that Teksavvy filed for what was the purchase of a new computer system to handle the court order.  The judge on that:

[114] The Order does not distinguish between the correlation and the systems necessary to carry it out. The adaptations to TekSavvy’s look-up process were necessary to effect the required correlation and, in my view, its costs are thereby encompassed by the Order. Put another way, in this respect Voltage has to take TekSavvy as it finds it.
[115] While TekSavvy may have derived a benefit from the situation, TekSavvy will not be able to claim the costs of its upgraded correlation process again in the context of future requests. What’s more, if such costs are to be excluded, it is up to the parties to see that the cost order reflects their intentions.

Finally the court arrived at a sum of $17, 057.50 for administration costs provided to the court by Teksavvy, and flat out rejected the notion that Teksavvy be allowed to recover costs associated with not opposing the motion and having to deal with upset consumers.  The court finds that to be a regular business expense:

[118] In sum, having reviewed TekSavvy’s claim for technical administrative costs, I find that it has proven costs in the amount of $17,057.50. In arriving at this sum I have excluded costs of “Preparation of information for court” and one half of the costs of “Second check/QA verification” as these were not identified and supported by evidence. Moreover, at the hearing of the motion, TekSavvy failed to explain what was meant by “QA verification.”

A. The “operational” administrative costs of implementing the Order
[119] Under this heading, TekSavvy seeks to recover the sum of $81,524.12 for expenses incurred in communicating with affected and non-affected subscribers and the public; creating an online portal tool for the use of subscribers; and responding to a higher volume of inquiries and complaints. The claim, including overtime, is on account of the work performed by supervisors and staff in the e-services department, at the call centre, and in the marketing department.

[120] These tasks, which Gaudrault refers to as “work relating to TekSavvy’s reputational impact,” are, in effect, TekSavvy’s costs of marketing, promotion, and customer relations, which I consider to be TekSavvy’s costs of doing business. Consequently, I disallow these costs. I do not consider them recoverable as they are unrelated to the identification and production of the required customer information, and fall outside the ambit of the Order.

In conclusion the court has found that both parties were way out there on their costing of disclosure.  It’ll be interesting to see how or even if there will be an appeal and on what basis.  The court quite clearly called out Teksavvy here for the evidence provided for costs.  To my non-lawyer eyes, the judgement on costs (while low) seems to fit with the evidence provided in the case, and the decision seems balanced within that respect.

Government Scolds BMG and Rightscorp Over Copyright Notices

January 12, 2015 Leave a comment

Last week I wrote about music publisher BMG and copyright troll Rightscorp sending threatening copyright notices to Canadians suspected of peer to peer downloading, and demanding payment.  On Friday, the government responded and isn’t very happy about the situation.  Jake Enright, a spokesman for Industry Minister James Moore stated in an interview with Reuters News Service on Friday:

These notices are misleading and companies cannot use them to demand money from Canadians

Enright also stated that the Ministry would be in contact with the ISPs and representatives of the entertainment lobby in the coming days to discuss the issue.  Internet law expert and U of O law professor Micheal Geist fired back in his most recent post on the subject stating:

While that is encouraging, the reality is that this is a mess of the government’s own making. In fact, according to documents obtained under Access to Information, the government previously dismissed calls for changes to the system from Internet providers. Moreover, Industry Canada officials conducted consultations that were designed to create reforms that might have stopped these practices. Moore decided to forge ahead with the notice-and-notice system without any additional regulations, however, a decision that lies at the heart of the current problem.

Geist also said that just stating that government disapproves of this practice is not enough, and the government should rectify the situation through legislation and a possible complaint into the Competition Bureau.

The NDP has chimed in as well on the issue of these false and misleading notices.  NDP Industry Critic Peggy Nash said:

The Conservatives are letting these companies send false legal information to Canadians in order to scare them into paying settlements for movies or music no one has even proved they’ve actually downloaded

With an election looming in the coming months, will the Government push through legislation to stop this practice?  What are the platforms all parties are committed to on this issue?  What I find very interesting about this situation politically, is that the Liberals so far have been largely silent on it.  I wonder why that would be?  Depending on how this all plays out, copyright may once again become an election issue in the near future.

Governments Cyber-bullying Front Man Gets Taken To Task Online

January 10, 2015 Leave a comment

Glen Canning, the governments’ sales person on the controversial cyber-bullying bill has received a lot of flak recently from internet users over the past few days, for tweeting out a compromising picture on social media of an MSVU professor.  Those that have followed the cyber-bullying legislation through committee know that Canning was a stark defender of the cyber-bullying bill; often coming out strongly against those who had privacy concerns on the bill.

Canning’s daughter killed herself when compromising pictures of her were circulated online, and was aggressively cyber-bullied as a result of those pictures.  The Conservative Government had a hard time getting victims’ rights groups to fully support the controversial bill which enshrined into law lawful access provisions allowing the police warrant-less access to an internet users information.  Eventually they put Canning (a grieving father) front and center on the bill which polarized the debate around the bill.  Canning became a supporter of lawful access, and quickly became a polarizing figure in the debate surrounding the cyber-bulling bill as a result of his support for police access to information without judicial oversight.

Canning was recently approached by a female student at MSVU as a result of one of her professors trying to engage in sexual activity with her.  The professor sent her a nude photo of himself, in which landed in the hands of Canning, and was also sent to media outlets.  Canning (who I believe was well intentioned) tweeted out the photo prior to media reports on the story to try and gain public attention to this students’ case.  This lead to a lengthy discussion on reddit, social media, and blogs regarding Cannings’ actions since the cyber-bulling bill that was recently passed has a provision dealing with unauthorized sharing of intimate images.  Canning quickly removed the tweet, and continued to defend his actions.

Section 162.1 of the new cyber-bulling bill states:

162.1 (1) Everyone who knowingly publishes, distributes, transmits, sells, makes available or advertises an intimate image of a person knowing that the person depicted in the image did not give their consent to that conduct, or being reckless as to whether or not that person gave their consent to that conduct, is guilty

It’s important to note that the cyber-bullying bill has yet to come into effect, so questions and debate around this case would be purely speculation, and whether the Canning image tweet qualifies as enforceable under the act, is also entirely open for debate.  One thing is clear cut though.  From the back lash that Canning is getting surrounding this issue, it’s clear that many Canadians have been closely following developments surrounding the new cyber-bullying bill, and the take home from all of this should be that Canadians are very concerned about their rights regarding this bill.

What I don’t agree with; the Government using a grieving parent to play politics and sell a bill that attacks Canadians rights. Canning has become a polarizing figure in this debate around cyber-bullying that I believe was intentional by design regarding the politics of the situation.  It’s quite easy for Government to distance themselves from Canning now that the bill has been passed, and I would strongly suspect that this will happen as a result of the online debate around Cannings’ tweets that will most certainly continue into the halls of parliament.

While I’m not defending Cannings’ move in tweeting these photos’, it’s apparent that there are underlying political issues surrounding this bill, and the debate needs to be focused away from grieving parents, and on to a so called “responsible” government who’s used Canning in an attempt to deflect political attention away from the Conservative party on a controversial bill that the population is extremely concerned about.

I quite strongly disagree with Cannings’ views regarding internet privacy,  as a father myself I have a great amount of respect for this person.  If I had lost a child in the way Canning did, I couldn’t care less about privacy.  That would be fraternal instinct, and I would be acting in much the same way Canning has been throughout the debate.  The government knew this on the political side of things, which is why Canning became front and center on this bill.  The new cyber-bullying bill C-13 is a bill that’s been sold on emotion, not substance, and those that disagree with the bill should note we have an election in a few months’ time.  Rather than attacking a grieving parent, Canadians should be using their right to vote to signal their discontent.

Any politician that has used grieving parents in the way the government has done to sell C-13, in my opinion doesn’t have the moral authority to lead, nor should command our respect at the voting booth.

Teksavvy Vs. Voltage Update #2 December 2014

December 12, 2014 4 comments

It’s important to note before I start this blog, that as of January 1st, Canadians will start to become familiar with copyright notices if you download through the P2P networks.

I’ve gone through a lot of the court documents.  This blog has been referenced in court several times on both sides.  Seems that the Teksavvy and Voltage lawyers have been taking note of my journalism.  While I appreciate the readership, I am not happy on how both parties are using this blog, to essentially bill out and gain the upper hand in court.  For TSI’s part it billed out the court to essentially read an online debate with David Ellis I had on this blog regarding his mis-interpretation of copyright/privacy law.  For Voltage’s part, they look to be using one of my blogs they dubbed the “Koblovsky Post” in which I came up with some very limited hypothetical numbers they are trying to use to justify low balling the court. The conduct of both parties in this case is “outrageous”.

I’m still reading through these documents, however I’m writing one final post on this subject.  The rest I will keep to myself, and read whenever I feel an urge to go to a 3rd party ISP.  I will quote from my post on DSLR in which there are serious questions about TSI billing the court for fee’s associated with a new computer system they claim was needed to fulfill the courts request, because TSI is claiming it had a data corruption problem in one of their log files:

The courts in Canada are likely to rule on actual costs (or closest to them). TSI looks to be shooting very high and trying to get as much as they can, while Voltage is shooting very low and trying to pay as less as they can.

TSI will essentially play anything less than what they are asking for as a loss, and Voltage will play anything more as ridiculous. The PR on all sides is becoming rather child like in behavior, representative of how incumbent ISPs act, and does nothing to inform, nor protect affected customers.

I’m still pouring over these documents. I still don’t see any valid justification for a new SQL system. I’m also flattered both parties like my blog, and the hours of personal time correcting Ellis’s views on copyright, to which I didn’t receive a dime for. What I don’t like is TSI trying to get money from the courts to essentially read my blogs, and Voltage trying to use my blog to low ball the court. The purpose of the blogs were meant to inform the public and raise questions on both parties in a public forum, and not to be used in consultation for this case with TSI’s or Voltage’s lawyers. Too me that speaks volumes to the “merits” of both parties in this case, and others involved with it.

There are about 1000 different ways to solve IT problems. Part of what a System Analyst does is go through each of those ways to find the best fit for the best price for the problem and budget. Or if you like, the best and most efficient cost effective way to solve system or data flow problems. Usually new system development takes years of planning, and often is a result of changes in technology. A new system is hardly ever the solution to solve one or a few data problems. Data is data and can be very easy manipulated with existing tech. It’s usually several problems that also effect day to day operations before a new system is considered. There is no justification for purchasing a new system to solve one problem. So arguing costs and tech is exactly what both parties want, but I haven’t seen any justification nor process TSI had to go through (yet) in determining how they reached the ultimate solution of a new SQL system. I haven’t found any technical documents that usually accompany a decision to go to a new system, submitted by TSI.

If I’m missing something here, please quote relevant testimony. I’m still going through everything. I haven’t found one DFD or for that matter one flow chart. These documents are usually drawn up while troubleshooting a data related corruption problem, even if the previous system didn’t have documentation. All I see is hearsay on the justification of a new SQL system, met by a cross examination of a forensics expert on that hearsay evidence (which was a complete farce for both parties). I can’t seem to find any scientific imperial data or documentation that usually comes with the decision for a new system, which should be needed before the court considers any costs associated with the IT of this IMO.

Knopf has also posted on the recent court docs here:

»excesscopyright.blogspot.ca/2014···its.html

While I’m still reading up on the case, I will not be commenting any further on this blog, or to anyone else for that matter. Like Knopf I’ve also said enough in the past.  I’ve just about had enough of being used to add to the bottom lines of both parties, and this blog being used as a pawn in a proceeding I very much disagree with and how both parties have been acting. Giving any more air time on this blog or elsewhere to the two parties involved would be an utter sin without billing $346,480.68 in consultation fees.

York University Indoctrinates Rick Mercer In Law After Misleading Public on Copyright Law

October 16, 2014 Leave a comment

The night after Rick Mercer’s copyright rant aired in which he mislead the public in copyright law, York University felt fit to present Mercer with an Honorary Doctorate in Law.

Copyright Lawyer Howard Knopf last night put out a no holds barred blog on Mercer’s rant, and the need for the Competition Bureau to further investigate the “consortium’s” efforts as it pertains to law.  I don’t know how a University can indoctrinate someone who looks to be seriously involved in an effort to mislead the public on the law of that land at this point.  That looks very bad on an institution of education and learning, who also relies on fair dealing laws on a regular basis.  The timing seems very suspicious to me, and I just hope that the University is not part of a wider effort that would call the institutions independence into question.

In my view, Mercer’s Doctorate should be put on hold or stripped by York U until he corrects his points in law publicly to the nation.  I’m pretty sure the legal community itself will be weighing in on that in due time.

Rick Mercer: Not Informed or Copyright Troll?

October 15, 2014 1 comment

The answer to the above question may play out in the next few days.  Last night Rick Mercer ranted (more felt like a lecture from my parents) on the issue of copyright.  As many of you may know, I used Rick Mercer as an example of why fair dealing is necessary in my blog post last week.  It appears the answer to the question I posed last week: “Is Canada’s Broadcast Media Consortium Using Attack Ad Scandal to Push Copyright Political Agenda?” is in fact YES!  Mercer has come out with a video strongly suggesting that we should scrap the fair dealing clauses all together:


From Howard Knopf, to Michael Geist, to Ariel Katz, to Dwayne Winseck and Openmedia (who just released their report calling for expanding fair use provisions), disagree with Rick Mercer’s take/position on fair dealing and have commented on the attack ad issue publicly. These are the experts!

A big online debate is about to happen regarding the nations copyright policies, instigated by what I believe to be the big media industry lobbyists from CBC, CTV, Global, Rogers, Bell (copyright extremists or terrorists take your pick, both fit but I like copyright troll the best since nothing has been about attack ads with this group from CBC, CTV, Bell, Rogers, it’s about getting paid) who are holding our newsrooms, journalists and Rick Mercer hostage at the moment, ahead of an election.  Big media hates fair dealing!  The next few days are going to be interesting.

This blog will be following and participating in those debates, so don’t forget to subscribe if you are interested in following this.

More to come…

Conservatives Propose to “Amend” Fair Dealing Not Replace It

October 14, 2014 4 comments

Over the weekend, I’ve had some time to look at the fine print of the “leaked” Conservative Cabinet document of the Conservatives plans to introduce new copyright laws to allow them to legally use news content for political advertising.  Some have strongly suggested that these new plans will allow more privileges to politicians than the public over fair use laws and free speech.  A closer examination of the documents reveal the Conservatives plan to amend (or add to) the copyright act, not replace the fair dealing clauses that apply to the public.  From the very last sentence in the Cabinet proposal on the fair dealing amendment proposal:

“If supported, the amendment would be incorporated into the budget implementation act and enter into force upon Royal Assent”

In the House of Commons last week, Heritage Minister Shelly Glover stated:

“We believe that (using news clips for advertising) has always been protected under the fair dealing provision of the law and if greater certainty is necessary, we will provide it.”

The reasoning for this amendment by the Conservatives to clarify the law, comes as the party is under threat from the big media companies that they would not comply with existing fair dealing legislation that applies to the public, and politicians.

The Conservatives could have done a better job communicating this to the public.  They could have stated the amendment was to the copyright act, not the budget implementation bill.  However Cabinet documents linked to above were leaked internal cabinet documents.  I don’t think they were expecting these to become public, and most likely part of a conversation around how to deal with a threat from the media companies on not complying with fair use, which is a much bigger threat to civil liberties and free speech in this country ahead of an election, than communication missteps from the Conservative Cabinet on this.

Internal CBC documents from the middle of March this year also suggest that the media consortium very well knew how fair dealing worked in this case:

Bzl-i6xCIAA8Wih.png large

Yet the consortium went to air with the notion that the Conservatives were “stealing” (implicating an illegal act) news content, when they knew under law that wasn’t the case.  The public was purposely mislead on the law by the media, using public discourse around attack ads as cover.  That’s a much more serious issue that needs to be addressed ahead of an election where the electorate will be very cautious around what the law is in the next election due to the robocalls scandal.  If we don’t have media acting independent of bias when it comes to reporting on the law in the next election, it will not be a free or fair vote, which is one of the reasons why I’m complaining about the way this has been reported to the public.  I say this as someone who often criticizes policies on this blog as it relates to copyright and civil liberties, and with no political bias.

Ariel Katz Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, who also holds the Innovation Chair in Electronic Commerce, produced an excellent blog this morning on how the media consortium might also be infringing on the competition act:

The Government’s proposal—a proposal that seems to be unnecessary and misguided at once—might have been prompted by an agreement between the major electronic media organizations not to broadcast political ads that contain audio or video content appearing to come from news services owned by CBC/Radio Canada, CTV/Bellmedia, Global/Shaw, or City/Rogers. If what those documents appear to reveal is true, then the document that those documents reveal might be an illegal one, contrary to section 45 of the Competition Act. Thus, a story that broke as a minor (albeit important) news item about copyright reform, may turn out to be a much bigger story about possible violation of the Competition Act by Canada’s major media outlets.

Katz also went on to state (emphasis added):

Attack ads may be distasteful, or even according to some views harmful to the political process, but they are not illegal. Likewise, using excerpts of content from their own programs may be annoying for some broadcasters, but as even some of the broadcasters’ legal advisers agree, the Copyright Act does not prohibit that. If the broadcasters aren’t happy with this state of the law it is open to them to convince Parliament to change the law (within the bounds permissible for such limitation on freedom of expression that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms would permit). Or, better still, they can fight the speech that they don’t like with their own better speech; after all, unlike most Canadian, they have unfettered access to the media—they are the media. What they cannot and should not do is enter into agreements that allows them, by virtue of their control of the most important media outlets, bypass the political process, impose their own wishes, and make their own wishes effectively the law of the land.

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