Archive for the ‘Digital Policy’ Category

Indie Telecom Lobbying Efforts Putting Users at Risk

January 13, 2015 Leave a comment

I recently wrote about how BMG/Rightscorp have been providing false and misleading notices for ISPs to hand over to users suspected of downloading.  While most are focusing on the Government, questions have arisen on what role these ISPs have in the new copyright legislation yet again.  Those questions became quite the discussion in the comments section of Micheal Geists latest blog.  One poster identifying himself as an ISP insider from an indie ISP came out stating that most agreed the legal risk to ISPs on withholding these notices was minimal:

I think that most people would agree, including I suspect most lawyers, that if it were tested in court that ISPs would probably be exonerated for not forwarding these notices.

So why the public fiasco?  Well turns out after a lengthy discussion on Geists blog, that indie ISPs seem to want a zero risk approach when dealing with consumer related issues.  They wanted complete clarification within law, so that there was no inherent risk to the ISP for not forwarding these notices.  Not even a 0.01% risk.  So they piped up, made the issue public in an effort to use public discourse to essentially lobby government for a zero risk approach to protect their own business interests, rather than assuming a small amount of risk in these copyright complaints.

Openmedia has come out with an interesting tool today supporting those lobby efforts, asking people to sign a petition to get Government to stop misleading copyright notices in law.  The government has already responded, by posting information on those notices to consumers.  There are also reports that most if not all ISPs are not forwarding off these misleading notices with the governments blessing.

The problem for this Openmedia petition though, is the government is in the process putting in laws which may allow for the sharing of your personal information by Industry Canada under bill S-4.  Presumably, those who write in concerned about misleading copyright notices would be those that would be affected by those notices (ie. peer to peer users).  Bill S-4 proposes:

an organization may disclose personal information without the knowledge or consent of the individual… if the disclosure is made to another organization and is reasonable for the purposes of investigating a breach of an agreement or a contravention of the laws of Canada or a province that has been, is being or is about to be committed and it is reasonable to expect that disclosure with the knowledge or consent of the individual would compromise the investigation;

Government could very well disclose the information you provide through this tool to rights holders to some day identify repeat offenders, or even breach of an Internet providers contract without your knowledge or consent.  This tool is an inherent risk to users privacy as a result, and not a very well thought out process by Openmedia who should be putting internet users above the lobby efforts of it’s telecom financial supporters.  Openmedia should be very well aware of inherent risks this tool poses with proposed legislation in the pipeline.  Openmedia should also be re-thinking it’s approach to supporting a telecom sector, which has no intentions of sticking their necks out for consumers as long as there is risk involved in doing so.  To continue support for this sector, contravenes the very values this organization is fighting for.


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.

Self-Expressionism And The Hypocrisy of Politics

January 8, 2015 1 comment


(Credit: Olive Bites Blog)

Yesterday like many across the world, I became glued to newscasts as events unfolded in France regarding the shooting of satire cartoonists, and journalists. These innocent lives were gunned down in a rampage because a newspaper decided to publish satire portraits of the prophet Mohammad. What followed was an immediate and swift condemnation of an attack on freedom of expression by these terrorists from most global leaders.

What is freedom of expression? Freedom of expression to me is the ability to express myself freely without the worry of being gunned down by terrorists, or jailed for expressing certain points of view. This goes hand in hand, in my opinion with freedom of speech. It’s essential to a democracy to be able to question the politics or ideology of any given topic. Democracy is about different views, and the ability to express those views no matter how distasteful some of those views can be without fear of persecution, or censorship.

Every religion has been guilty of suppressing self-expression. Leonardo Da Vinci had a love for the human anatomy, and often disagreed with the Christian pope at the time. To study what we consider science today in Da Vinci’s time was considered blasphemy by the church, and punishable by death. Think of where the world would be now if Da Vinci and others of that time period were able to freely express their scientific views without persecution. The advancement of human knowledge is also a benefit of self-expression.

As events unfolded in France, I began to start questioning the Canadian response. First the CBC’s editorial staff refused to show the cartoons in question, in an attempt to accommodate the Muslim faith. I wouldn’t have thought twice about it if it were not for yesterday’s events. Those cartoons after yesterday became an important part of a global news story. Journalists have a responsibility to cover the facts of the story, and report it in full without fear of retaliation. The CBC is a publicly funded organization and should hold democratic values of free expression, which sadly were not present yesterday during the initial reporting of the events. Here is an example of one of the cartoons:


(French Translation: Love is stronger than hate)

Another troubling aspect is the fact that these terrorists were known to authorities. In an age of mass surveillance even people who are known to have terrorist backgrounds keep slipping through the cracks. This is now becoming a considerable theme across the globe since the Boston bombings a few years ago, and the frequency of these attacks in recent months strongly suggests that the policy of mass surveillance is inadequate to prevent any future attacks. In fact it looks to be doing quite the opposite. Too often than not, hard police work and targeted investigations are lacking even on known suspects.

After 9/11 the US gave birth to a state run security sector and public dollars flowed into private security firms. Today that security sector is huge and continues to grow with Canadian companies also benefiting. We’ve ended up giving away our right to privacy online as a result of events like yesterdays. We’re spending vast amounts of money beefing up our surveillance capabilities, and yet these known perpetrators who commit these horrible acts of terror are continuing to do so at an alarming rate. With today’s surveillance capabilities, shouldn’t we be seeing a significant decrease in these attacks?  With the capabilities we have in place today, there should be no excuse for this.

Yet every time society goes through these types of attacks, the private sector security lobby has no problems lining up at the door of public coffers. This lobby is now very strong and keeps stating we need to give up more of our constitutional rights, and enable more failed national security mass surveillance policies to prevent future attacks. Since our Conservative politicians are mainly twits (and could care less about civil liberties), rather than looking at the past decade and learning, they just throw money at the situation, and pass laws that undermine the importance of freedom of expression by attacking our privacy.

What does privacy have to do with freedom of expression you ask? Ask yourself this; if Da Vinci lived 10 years from now with no expectation of privacy, would he become the artist we know him today? A lot of Da Vinci’s most provocative works were hidden from those that would have certainly put him to death if they found them. Some of those works are still being unearthed and studied even today. If he didn’t have any private moments, what would we know of Da Vinci today? Will we end up even having our own private thoughts of self-expression in the future, or will give into those who claim to protect us and are financially benefiting from fear?

If politicians are serious about defending self-expression as so many did yesterday, why then are they attacking the very core of that expression by diminishing the very right to privacy (in the name of national security), where that democratic right of self-expression is birthed? If we can’t freely express ourselves in the privacy of our own homes, through private communications, or through the public without “fear” of prosecution or government listening in, than those that died yesterday, did so without purpose, or meaning and not in defense of core democratic values.

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…

Is Canada’s Broadcast Media Consortium Using Attack Ad Scandal to Push Copyright Political Agenda?

October 10, 2014 8 comments

Over the past few days the broadcast airwaves have been filled with stories relating to proposed changes the Conservatives want to make to the copyright law to allow them to use news clips in their political advertising without permission or compensation. Like many Canadians, I find attack ads distasteful, despicable, and a disgusting way of doing politics.  However like everyone in Canada political parties should be free to criticize political figures.  Criticism of political ideology is a very healthy exercise for democracy, even if you don’t agree with how it’s done, or what’s being said.

During my time in the copyright debates in 2009, the one thing I learned is that big media companies hate a piece of law in the Copyright Act called “Fair Dealing” which explicitly exempts copyright owners from being compensated under certain circumstances.  This is to protect free speech, education, political satire, research, and criticism from being controlled by rights holders.  Big media hates this provision because quite simply their not getting paid for their works.  The way CTV,  journalists, and opposition MPs are reporting this to the Canadian public is that the Conservatives would steal news content, and not pay for it.

Section 29, of Canada’s Copyright Act deals with the fair dealing exemptions (in which criticism is fully covered emphasis added):

29. Fair dealing for the purpose of research, private study, education, parody or satire does not infringe copyright.

R.S., 1985, c. C-42, s. 29;
R.S., 1985, c. 10 (4th Supp.), s. 7;
1994, c. 47, s. 61;
1997, c. 24, s. 18;
2012, c. 20, s. 21.

Previous Version
Marginal note:Criticism or review

29.1 Fair dealing for the purpose of criticism or review does not infringe copyright if the following are mentioned:

(a) the source; and

(b) if given in the source, the name of the

(i) author, in the case of a work,

(ii) performer, in the case of a performer’s performance,

(iii) maker, in the case of a sound recording, or

(iv) broadcaster, in the case of a communication signal.

1997, c. 24, s. 18.

Marginal note:News reporting

29.2 Fair dealing for the purpose of news reporting does not infringe copyright if the following are mentioned:

(a) the source; and

(b) if given in the source, the name of the

(i) author, in the case of a work,

(ii) performer, in the case of a performer’s performance,

(iii) maker, in the case of a sound recording, or

(iv) broadcaster, in the case of a communication signal.

1997, c. 24, s. 18.

I’ve quoted the fair dealing exemptions in full, because it’s important that Canadians know where the law lies on this.  Fair dealing is necessary to allow blogs like this to continue to criticize public policy without being taken down on copyright laws.  It allows journalists to report on the news, and it also allows Rick Mercer to suggest that the speaker of the house should be replaced by a bag of flour. The interesting question would be, if fair dealing already states that for the use of criticism no compensation or permission is needed to use the copyright protected works, why are the Conservatives introducing amendments to the copyright act to allow what’s already allowed, and why are the news agencies all pissed off about this.  It all comes down to the mighty dollar for the media companies.

The narrative that the Conservatives are stealing news content (which many of the journalists are using to describe legal fair use of their works) strongly suggests Canada’s Broadcast Media Consortium has issues with fair dealing uses of their works, not just by the Conservatives however; this could also extend to blogs, and other online media such as their works being used by youtube commentators and so forth. Canada’s Broadcast Media Consortium sent a letter to the Conservatives back in May demanding authorization (that essentially means they pay for the use of their copyright protected material) or they would not air the content (which under several laws, notwithstanding fair dealing, and election laws is illegal).

From here the Conservatives set out to clarify the law by sneaking in an amendment to the copyright act due to this threat from the Media Consortium who is not co-operating with fair dealing laws, specifically to allow political parties full access under fair dealing.  The problem is the Conservatives are well known for sneaking in unrelated stuff into their budget bills, and have a track record of being pig headed and dishonest about their intentions, to which the media (especially CTV) are playing up big time because they want people to pay for any use of their works, and seemingly disagree with the fair dealing clauses currently in law by the way they are framing this.  CTV News Channel had a large number of experts throughout the day yesterday that explicitly disagreed with the stations views on fair dealing.  During the nightly CTV’s National News cast, not one of those interviews made it to air.

There is an excellent interview with copyright lawyer Howard Knopf on the current situation as it relates to current law, and another good explanation of fair dealing. Also the fact that we have defamation laws that cover inaccurate and defamatory reporting when it comes to taking comments out of context.  If Canada’s Broadcast Media Consortium pushes this into court, they will have a very huge hill to climb, considering the Supreme Court has ruled on fair dealing cases 6 times  three times in recent years, so there’s a lot of precedents and case law moving forward that isn’t in the Consortium’s favor.

What’s also troubling is the political position of the Liberals on fair dealing.  Ralph Goodale stood up in the house of commons during question period yesterday and essentially repeated the fact that fair dealing is stealing.  Is the official position of the Liberal Party of Canada that fair dealing needs to be scrapped entirely?  That would kill free press/free speech in this country.

Like many Canadians I’m fed up with Conservative attack ads.  Rather than taking the approach to attack fair dealing in copyright law needed for among other things a free press, and free speech; why not introduce legislation or commit to a platform to deal with the decorum in Canadian politics?  That would be the grown up thing to do.  Unfortunately we’re going to be stuck with Conservative attack ads in the next election. The media consortium will back down, because legally it would be the battle of their life time with several precedents moving forward in favor of the Conservative’s position on fair dealing.  What we can do as Canadians, is vote.  If you don’t like attack ads, than don’t vote for the attacking party.  Plain and simple.

As far as journalistic integrity goes,  it’s not attack ads journalists have to worry about. It’s attacking the very principles within copyright law that allow for free press and free speech that does the most damage to a journalists reputation. This is coming from someone who received his broadcast journalism eduction at Niagara College in the 90’s which back then was the root school for CTV!  I got to know a lot of the CTV executives during my education there, and not one of them would have ever tolerated such bias around reporting like I’ve seen from CTV on this issue over the past few days.  In fact, if we had presented bias in our news reporting we would have been failed and kicked out of the course.  I’ll tell you this, I have a lot of thinking to do on exactly who I trust for political commentary after this story.  It puts questions on how independent our free press is, especially when commenting on important public policy such as copyright.  That’s way more disturbing to me than attack ads which I don’t pay attention too in the first place.

UPDATE: Another excellent post by copyright lawyer Howard Knopf on the fact that media themselves are now starting to become part of the story, with documentation accessed through access to information.  The documentation seems to suggest a planned political attack against the Conservatives by our major media news outlets, coordinated by CBC; all the while knowing their position on copyright and attack ads was very weak legally.

See also:

Conservatives Propose to “Amend” Fair Dealing Not Replace It

My Canadian Broadcast Standards Council Complaint on Media Consortium

CRTC vs Netflix: The Fight For Survival Is On

September 24, 2014 Leave a comment

The regulatory process in telecom and broadcasting in Canada is badly broken, and under the new chairman Jean-Pierre Blais it’s very existence as a regulator is about to be put into question by new media companies. From allowing companies like Bell and Rogers to get away with internet throttling for years with no recourse, to excessively high phone bills, and now Blais has picked a fight with Netflix over his assumption that new media companies are regulated under a public mandate in which the not only the Government doesn’t agree with, but companies like Facebook, and Google are surely to take exception too as well as future media distributors.

There is a very interesting presentation about the future of telecom from a market analyst I’ve come to trust over the years when it comes to media. His name is Gerd Leonhard. Below is an embedded talk on the future of telecom to ITC leaders in the EU.

What’s about to take place in media is another technological disruption in content distribution channels. It happened over music, and it’s starting to happen in video content as well.  Over the next few years Africa and the Middle East will be wired up fully with satellite wifi, bringing about 3 billion more users to the net. In these places cell phones dominate and the net will be the medium of choice to consume media. As a result, there is going to be a huge demand on what is known in the policy trenches as “over the top media” (in which Leonhard explains in detail how this currently affects telecom providers in the above embedded video), or in more English related terms “internet broadcasting” services like Netflix.

The next evolution in content distribution will be in the form of social media. Social media companies mine your information on your social media profile to sell you advertising on that site. As a result Google and Facebook will be getting into content distribution within the next 5 years to not only service the needs of the 3 billion coming online in the near future with media, but also to fulfill a market need in media advertising which would be more targeted ads over content through social media. What this will essentially do is set up an entirely new global content distribution network.  This change (due to the needs of the new 3 billion internet users) will be quite rapid.

Telecom companies in Canada currently have an artificial monopoly on Canadian content distribution rights, in which the suppliers of that content will be looking towards the social media distribution channels as more lucrative compared to traditional over the air distribution networks through Rogers, Bell etc. As a result these big telecom companies stand to loose a ton of money, and will have to reinvent themselves, or at least try to minimize the damage.  This technological change will completely disrupt telecom business models in Canada.

For a long time on this blog, I’ve been quite strong on privacy issues regarding all telecom providers on your private information.  The reason being is that telecom providers hold a lot of personal information on websites visited etc.  Social media, is a gold mine of information, but Internet marketers know it’s not completely accurate.  The information from your telecom provider is more accurate regarding the profiling of their users.  With social media gaining content distribution and stealing it from the telecom providers; the next logical step in market and business transition would be the sale of your information at the telecom provider level, with investors hungry for accurate analytics.

Last week the CRTC got into a spitting match with Netflix over it’s subscribers data. All broadcasters in Canada are required to hand over their “ratings” information to the CRTC. Netflix doesn’t provide this information publicly, and refused to give this info to the CRTC. The CRTC then came up with an implied threat of regulating Netflix if it didn’t cough up that info.  Who regulates the disclosure of your private info collected by online broadcasters is the current question before the Canadian public and government, and it’s a big one since it will impact how your information is handled in the future by telecom, online broadcasters and how will the flow of our personal online data be monitored, and by whom?  In my opinion the CRTC is not mandated to handle this information.  It flows through the Privacy Commissioner, which pretty much puts the CRTC in a very tight corner in the near future regarding it’s ability to regulate anything.

The one thing to be optimistic about is that our regulator and our telecom industries are about to be kicked in the pants by companies that out pace Rogers/Bell by a large margin.  If the CRTC moves forward on pushing Netflix, Rogers/Bell/CRTC will not be controlling that conversation.  That’s going to be interesting.  If I were Bell/Rogers or other creative unions, I’d be very careful what you wish for right now.

To Be Continued….

UPDATE: September 29th, 2014 -> The CRTC has backed down from the Netflix spitting match.  Wise move considering the above info. Worthy to note that the CRTC still thinks it has regulatory power over internet content, it will now not enforce, however even backing down from this public spitting match has significantly weakened that presumption. It would have to be legislated in, and I don’t think any government would be willing to do this considering the power of Google and Facebook.

Jennifer Lawrence Leak Interesting Case Study On Online Privacy

September 2, 2014 Leave a comment

Over the long weekend, stories have started to appear online that a hacker gained access to nude photos of actress Jennifer Lawrence taken from her iPhone and stored on Apple’s iCloud. The hacker was able to hack her account to gain access to get iCloud account.  This case is interesting on several levels.

In an age where private industry security has been intentionally weakened through public policy in the name of national security, unfortunately we are likely to see a lot more of these “leaks” as a result.  Canadian Privacy Lawyer David Fraser has an excellent post on the matter, along with steps internet users can take to do their part in ensuring that their data remains secure. In particular Fraser makes some very good recommends:

  • Try to learn the basics of how your device works, particularly about what is synchronised and backed up to online services; check your default settings;
  • Secure your device with a PIN or password (How to: Android and iOs);
  • Add encryption to your device, if possible (How to: Android);
  • Add remote management to kill your device if it is lost (How to: Android (I also like Cerberus Anti Theft) and iOs);
  • Use a strong password for all your accounts. The longer the better. (Read this XKCD comic. Read it, learn it, live it.)
  • Consider a password manager like LastPass to generate complicated passwords for your accounts and to keep them safe. But protect your password vault with the most complicated and longest password you can reliably remember.
  • Use two-factor authentication for your cloud accounts. While not particularly intuitive, two-factor authentication protects your account even if your password is compromised. This is critical. (How to: Google Accounts, DropBox, and most other places.) Any account to which you sync your personal images and video should be protected by two factor authentication.

I would call this defensive passwording. It’s important for users to also do their part in ensuring they have done all they can to protect their personal information, by using strong passwords to their accounts, and make their accounts less vulnerable to would be attackers.  Another valuable piece of advice; if you don’t want your personally information being potentially leaked, it’s best to minimize the exposure of your personal data online.  In other words, if you take nude photos of yourself with your iPhone, or mobile device there’s always a chance that those photo’s could be compromised due the lack of security as a result of public policy.  In other words, keep your nude selfies offline, and off your mobile devices.

Another situation that is arising from this leak, is the speed in which law enforcement got involved, and how social media companies are voluntarily removing these photos at lightening speed, and how this will affect public policy going forward on matters of privacy, cyber bullying, net neutrality, copyright, and free speech.  Something I will be keeping a close eye on as the situation unfolds, and how this these photo’s were obtained. 

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