Monday, October 26, 2009

CIRA survey on Internet concerns

The Canadian Internet Registration Authority, working with the International Institute for Sustainable Development, has posted a survey that will help it determine the Internet-related policy concerns of Canadians. Among other questions (Access to the Internet: How concerned are you about access to speedy, affordable, quality broadband across Canada?; Privacy: Are you concerned about control over online access to personal information?), the survey asks "Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) in online content: Are you concerned about how IPRs are protected for content accessible online?" I found it odd that a leading organization in Internet policy would list intellectual property as a potential area of concern without also listing open access to online content as a possible priority area. Luckily, there is room in the survey to add concerns that were missed.
Reading the survey, it sounds like CIRA is interested in possibly starting a public forum on Internet policy - one that would hopefully involve a broad range of stakeholders, inquire on important issues in Canadian Internet policy, and engage with forums around the world.
You can take the survey here to submit your two cents on the future shape of a Canadian Internet policy forum.

FT: India PM calls for Access-to-Green-Technology

India's Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, is calling for an Access to Green Technology regime, similar to the Access to Medicine Regime, that would create rules requiring the sharing of intellectual property in green technologies with poorer countries. The Financial Times reports.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hemmungs Wirtén to speak in Wisconsin

Eva Hemmungs Wirtén gives a talk Oct 29 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her book, Terms of Use: Negotiating the Jungle of the Intellectual Commons, is a fascinating history of the public domain. In it she argues that the history of the public domain is connected to the history of imperialism - that there is an "unbroken liaison between imperialism and the public domain". (141-142) She argues that the concept of a 'commons' allowed the enclosure of land in the name of colonial expansion, improvement, and development. (23-25) While in general agreement with those who value the public domain, Hemmungs Wirtén takes a critical - and very creative - look at its history.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

G&M on Woodrow Wilson event

Barrie McKenna reports in the Globe and Mail on the copyright event at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholarship that I posted about last week. His story reflects closely the slant of the presenters.

Monday, October 19, 2009

CRTC Net Neutrality report

The CRTC has announced that it plans to release its policy statement on Net Neutrality this week.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Great Un-Debate

I have just returned from what Howard Knopf, it turns out fittingly, describes as "The Great Copyright Un-Debate" at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars here in Washington DC.

The Woodrow Wilson Center plays host to a great many interesting events on difficult issues, from the Israel-Palestinian conflict, to Sino-Russian relations, to Arab-Isralei peacemaking, to Soviet-Taiwanese questions. I am certain that many of those events present a fairer view of the issues at hand than the presentation today on Canada-US copyright issues. Today's presentation by Barry Sookman and Eric Schwartz came across as an unfortunate use of the forum generously provided by the Woodrow Wilson Center to pressure Canadian policymakers into a set of copyright reforms that has long been advocated by American industry groups. The gist of the presentation was to portray Canada in an entirely bad light in a seeming effort to embarrass Canada into such reforms as have long been advocated by American industry and the American government. The presentation was not as scholarly as it was heavy-handed, and might as well have been a presentation by two lobbyists for the American copyright industries. This is unsurprising, especially coming from Schwartz, who is the counsel for the International Intellectual Property Alliance, a group representing those industries.

The view of Canada presented today was one-sidedly negative, with little effort made to inquire into or engage with the problems that make Canadian copyright reform difficult, or the contributions of Canada in the field of copyright. It was presented as incomprehensible as to why Canada had not already put in place a Canadian DMCA. There was no mention of the problems arising out of the American copyright reforms of 1997, which inspired not only a number of needed adjustments, but also set off several international movements whose purpose is, in part, to ensure that the same problems - or worse - do not arise in other countries. The volumes of scholarship by very intelligent and eminent thinkers on both sides of the border, and around the world, related to recent copyright reform efforts were simply pooh-poohed as the work of "copyright antagonists". Rather, a long set of statistics about the number of BitTorrent sites hosted in Canada (Canada hosts several) and the use of those sites by Canadians (though it was admitted that Americans make up a larger portion of the sites' users) served as a large part of the presentation.

When asked, the presenters were at a loss to come up with anything positive they could say about Canada, Canadian copyright, or Canadian copyright policymaking. I have found Sookman's work elsewhere to be helpful and insightful, even if I don't agree with everything he has said; indeed, I have assigned some of it to my students to read. If I had thought of using a webcast of today's presentation in my classes I would think again; those interested in gaining insight into the issues of Canada-US copyright policy will need to do additional reading.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Copyright events in Washington DC

A number of interesting events are coming up in Washington DC with links to Canada:

Moved to GWU

Last month I relocated to Washington DC, where I am now a Fulbright postdoctoral researcher and Visiting Scholar at the Eliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University. I note that there is a frost warning in effect in Ottawa. Here, it is 22 degrees. I am sure this bodes well, if not Canadian copyright scholarship generally, then for certain Canadian scholars working in the US.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Ins and Outs of the Public Domain

My review, The Ins and Outs of the Public Domain, was published in the Canadian edition of the Global Media Journal. It reviews four books: Terms of Use: Negotiating the Jungle of the Intellectual Commons, The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind, The Global Idea of “the Commons”, and The Future of the Public Domain: Identifying the Commons in Information Law.