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Technology law column by Michael Geist

Technology and the Law in 2014: 14 Questions in Need of Answers

The coming year is likely to be a very significant one for law and technology. As the year unfolds, here are 14 questions (along with possible answers) that will go a long way to determining the path of Canadian technology law policy.

1.    Will the government finally unveil a national digital strategy?

The long-promised national digital strategy could become a reality in 2014 after years of inaction. Industry Minister James Moore is on the verge of clearing out the lingering policy issues he inherited and may be ready to set his own path on a digital strategy.

The Letters of the Law: The Year in Tech Law and Policy

With Edward Snowden and the great wireless war of 2013 leading the way, law and technology issues garnered headlines all year long. A look back at 2013 from A to Z:

A is for Americangirl.ca, a Canadian domain name that was the subject of two dispute claims in 2013. The popular doll company relied on a quirk in the policy that permitted afollow-up complaint after its first case was rejected.

The Case For Cancelling Canada's Simultaneous Substitution Rules

The government's promise to implement a "pick-and-pay" television model that would allow consumers to subscribe to individual channels from cable and satellite providers garnered significant attention this fall. The approach was promoted as a pro-consumer reform that better reflects expectations that the public controls when, where, and on what device they watch broadcast programming. 

What Will Canada's Anti-Spam Law Mean for Users?

Long before sites such as Youtube and Twitter were even created, the Canadian government established a national task force to examine concerns associated with spam and spyware. The task force completed its work in May 2005, unanimously recommending that the government introduce anti-spam legislation (I was a member of the task force). Four years later, then-Industry Minister Tony Clement tabled an anti-spam law, which underwent extensive committee review before receiving royal assent in December 2010.

Lawful Access Returns Under the Cover of Cyberbullying Bill

In February 2012, then-Public Safety Minister Vic Toews introduced Internet surveillance legislation that sparked widespread criticism from across the political spectrum. The overwhelming negative publicity pressured the government to quickly backtrack by placing Bill C-30 on hold. Earlier this year, then-Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announced that the bill was dead, confirming "we will not be proceeding with Bill C-30 and any attempts that we will continue to have to modernize the Criminal Code will not contain the measures contained in C-30."

Leaked TPP Text Confirms Countries Had Plenty to Hide

The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, a massive proposed trade deal that includes Canada, the United States, Australia, Mexico, Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand, Vietnam, Japan, Peru, and Chile, has long been the target of criticism owing to the veil of secrecy associated with the draft text. While negotiations have been ongoing for several years, participating countries have steadfastly refused to release the working text that addresses everything from agriculture to copyright, claiming that trade talks must be conducted behind closed doors.

New Risks Emerge as Anti-Counterfeiting Bill Placed on the Legislative Fast Track

The government's anti-counterfeiting legislation, which died over the summer when the Conservatives hit the parliamentary reset button, is now back on the legislative fast track. Industry Minister James Moore quickly re-introduced the bill last month and speedily sent it to the Industry Committee for review (I appeared before the committee earlier this week).  

Statscan Data Points to Canada's Growing Digital Divide

Statistics Canada released its bi-ennial Internet use survey this week and while much of the immediate reaction focused on the continuing growth of Internet use (due largely to increased usage by those aged 65 and older), the bigger story is the ongoing Canadian digital divide that confirms the strong link between household income and Internet use.

Is Bell's Plan to Monitor and Profile Canadians Legal?

Last week, Bell announced plans to implement new consumer monitoring and profiling practices that would greatly expand how it uses the information it collects on millions of subscribers. The planned scope of Bell's profiling is unprecedented in Canada, reflecting the power of a vertically-integrated media giant to effortlessly track their customers' location, media habits, search activity, website interests, and application usage.

Canada May Be Nearing the Open Access "Tipping Point"

The power of the Internet to shake up well-established industries has become a common theme in recent years as many businesses struggle to compete with new entrants and technologies. While it has captured limited attention outside of educational circles, the Internet has facilitated the emergence of open access publishing of research, transforming the multi-billion dollar academic publishing industry and making millions of articles freely accessible to a global audience.

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