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Technology law column by Michael Geist

Internet Surveillance Bill is Dead but Canada's Telecom Transparency Gap is Alive and Well

The government's recent decision to kill its online surveillance legislation marked a remarkable policy shift. The outcry over the plan to require Internet providers to install surveillance capabilities within their networks and to disclose subscriber information on demand without court oversight sparked an enormous backlash, leading to the tacit acknowledgment that the proposal was at odds with public opinion.

One Phone Call is Not Enough: Court Rules You Have the Right to Google a Lawyer

Hollywood crime dramas are infamous for the scene when an accused is taken to a local police station and permitted a single phone call to contact a relative or lawyer. While the storyline is myth - there is no limit on the number of phone calls available to an accused or detainee - a recent Alberta case established a new, real requirement for law enforcement. After a 19-year old struggled to find a lawyer using the telephone, the court ruled that police must provide an accused with Internet access in order to exercise their right to counsel.

Businesses Think Anti-Spam Should Protect Them, Not Consumers

For the past month, business groups from across the country have waged an extraordinary campaign against Canada's anti-spam legislation. With the long overdue law likely to take effect by year-end, groups such as the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, and the Canadian Marketing Association, have launched an all-out blitz to carve out large loopholes in the law and exempt highly questionable conduct.

CRTC Should Be Bolder With Wireless Code

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission unveiled its much-anticipated draft wireless code of conduct this week, offering a promise of new, enforceable protections for consumers. The draft code, which is open for public comment until mid-February, generated a mixed reaction. 

Some consumer groups welcomed it as a step in the right direction. But other commentators were left underwhelmed, disappointed that the code does little to address consumer frustrations with issues such as long-term wireless contracts and exorbitant roaming fees.

CRTC Should Put Consumers First and Drop 'Must Carry' Requirements

Canadians frustrated with ever-increasing cable and satellite bills received bad news last week with the announcement that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission will consider whether to require cable and satellite companies to include nearly two-dozen niche channels as part of their basic service packages.  If approved, the new broadcast distribution rules would significantly increase monthly cable bills with consumers forced to pay for channels they may not want.

Swartz's Death Places Spotlight on More Open Access To Information

The Internet community has been reeling for the past week as it grapples with the suicide of Aaron Swartz, a prominent digital rights activist who left a remarkable legacy for a 26-year old. Swartz's contributions are used by millions of people every day as he played a key role in developing the specifications for RSS (which makes it easy to syndicate online content), Creative Commons licences (which makes is easy to make creative works freely available), and the popular website Reddit.

Government Caves to Lobbying Pressure on Anti-Spam Legislation

Canada's anti-spam legislation was back in the news last week as the government unveiled revised regulations that may allow for the law to finally take effect next year. Canada is one of the only developed economies in the world without an anti-spam law and lengthy delays have created considerable uncertainty.

Courts Adopt Aggressive Approach in Cross-Border Internet Jurisdiction Cases

In a world where data now moves effortlessly between computers on the Internet without regard for geographic borders, is the appearance of a website on a computer screen sufficient for a court to claim that a trademark has been used in the country? Is the use of a computer server enough to assert jurisdiction over a non-resident? My weekly technology law column notes that two recent cross-border cases - one Canadian and one U.S. which both pitted a U.S. company against a Canadian individual - found that it is.

Crystal Ball Gazing at the Year Ahead in Tech Law and Policy

Given that few would have predicted that Internet protests last year would have led to the defeat or delay of legislation in the United States (the Stop Online Piracy Act) and Canada (Internet surveillance legislation) as well as spell the end for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement in Europe, a new round of predictions for what lies ahead amounts to little more than guesswork. With that caveat in mind, my weekly technology law column provides a month-by-month look at what 2013 may have in store for technology law and policy.

The Letters of the Law: The Year in Tech Law from A to Z

From the remarkable battle over the Stop Online Piracy Act to the massive public backlash against Internet surveillance in Canada, law and technology issues garnered headlines all year long. A look back at 2012 from A to Z:

A is for Astral, the Canadian broadcasting giant that was to be sold to Bell Media for over $3 billion. The CRTC blocked the sale on the grounds that the companies failed to demonstrate the transaction was in the public interest.


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