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Technology law column by Michael Geist

Make No Mistake, This is a New CRTC

Last week's Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications decision to reject the proposed Bell - Astral merger surprised most observers, as few predicted with much confidence that the deal would be flatly rejected. There was good reason to doubt such an outcome, given that the CRTC review of the merger transactions has historically focused on the "tangible benefits" package that often provide millions in funding for new Canadian television and radio productions.

Internet Governance World Meets in Toronto Amid New Domains Controversy

The Internet governance world gathers in Toronto this week as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the California-based non-profit corporation charged with the principal responsibility for maintaining the Internet's domain name system, holds one of its meetings in Canada for only the third time. The Toronto ICANN meeting comes at a particularly tumultuous time for the organization with mounting criticism over its process for creating new domain name extensions that could reshape the Internet.

Random Government Takedown Demands Point to Need for Policy

Given the enormous popularity of social media, establishing a foothold on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other popular websites has become a top priority for most organizations. The same is true for the federal government, which last year released a lengthy policy document that established the rules for departmental engagement with "Web 2.0" sites and tools.

Privacy Commissioner Should Name "Leaky" Websites

Last week, Privacy Commissioner of Canada Jennifer Stoddart released the results of a disturbing new study conducted by her office that found many leading websites "leaking" personal information. The study, which came on the heels of similar findings by researchers in the United States, found that one in every four websites examined suffered from privacy leaks that included disclosing names, email addresses, postal codes, and location data to third party advertisers (in the interests of full disclosure, I am a member of the Stoddart's external advisory board).

Copyright Lobby Demands Rollback of Recent Canadian Reforms in Secretive Trade Deal

More than ten years of contentious debate over Canadian copyright law appeared to come to a conclusion in late June when Bill C-11 passed its final legislative hurdle and received royal assent. Yet despite characterizing the bill as a "vital building block", the copyright lobby that pressured the government to impose restrictive rules on digital locks and tougher penalties for copyright infringement is already demanding further reforms that include rolling back many key aspects of the original bill.

Setting the Stage for the Next Decade of Open Access

Ten years ago, sixteen experts from around the world gathered in Budapest, Hungary to discuss the how the Internet was changing the way researchers could disseminate their work. The group hatched a plan to "accelerate research, enrich education, share the learning of the rich with the poor and the poor with the rich, make this literature as useful as it can be, and lay the foundation for uniting humanity in a common intellectual conversation and quest for knowledge."

CRTC Places Consumers and Access at the Top of its Priority List

The Canadian communications world is focused this week on the proposed merger between Bell and Astral Media as the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission holds its much-anticipated hearing on the issue in Montreal. While the merger takes centre stage, the Commission may have upstaged the process last Thursday by releasing a detailed priorities document that covers the next three years.

Putting Some Substance into Canada’s Digital Economy Penske File

Industry Minister Christian Paradis paid a visit to the Economic Club of Canada in Toronto last week to deliver a speech focused on the digital economy. As has been the case for months, the speech was short on specifics but filled with platitudes about a forthcoming digital economy strategy that "challenges our innovators" and "drives new technology."

Public Safety Shuffle Could Allow for an Internet Surveillance Restart

Sometime in the next few weeks, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews is expected to be appointed to the Manitoba Court of Appeal. The Toews appointment is among the worst kept secrets in Ottawa, with the move causing a domino effect that will lead to a new minister and an opportunity for a fresh start on Internet surveillance legislation, one of the government's biggest political blunders to date.

Billions at Stake if Canada Caves on Drug Patent Demands

The negotiations over a Canada - European Union trade agreement may be approaching the final stretch as both sides say they plan to wrap up the CETA talks by the end of the year. The parties have apparently reached agreement on roughly 75 per cent of the text, but the last quarter will require significant political compromise.

Canadian negotiators recently advised that there remains a sharp divide over issues such as investment rules, financial services, and taxation. Given the ongoing European financial crisis, these issues are particularly sensitive and will raise questions about how much risk the government is willing to assume in order to strike a deal.

The most contentious issue, however, is likely to be the intellectual property chapter. The revelation that provisions from the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement may sneak their way into CETA generated widespread headlines throughout Europe last month with politicians and activists expressing exasperation at the clumsy attempt to secretly revive an agreement that was roundly rejected by the European Parliament.

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