Wednesday, March 31, 2010

CanCon Online

The Globe and Mail today has an interesting piece on the House of Commons Committee on Canadian Heritage's current study on new media. Google, in response to the study's launch, has let it be known that it sees no role for online Canadian content rules.
Canadian content regulation could apply online in a few ways:
  1. Internet radio and television: whereas the CRTC does not currently regulate online radio and television, they could: at a minimum, they could require traditional Canadian broadcasters to reflect their content quotas in their live online feeds; at a maximum they could require a broader swath of online broadcasters to respect some quota for online video and radio.
  2. Online store displays: many online stores have a front portal that allows much less space for display than does a traditional store; the front page of an e-book store, or the front page of an online music store, allows for the display of a relatively small number of books. These have a huge marketing advantage. Some may or may not have pre-programmed searches or search capabilities that show or help the user to find or prioritize Canadian content.
  3. Canadian commercial initiatives: regulation could encourage commercial initiatives online that showcase Canadian content through, for example, grants, training and networking, or tax incentives.
  4. Search displays: Google, for example, does not seem to have a category of Canadian books in its Google book search. Google's search engine also makes it very difficult to find specific Canadian content, such as Parliamentary records, that it does occasionally have in its database. The government could spur such features along thorough encouraging partnerships, for example, that would see Canadian organizations work with Google to make such features available.
  5. Canadian digitization initiatives: Regulation could very much encourage the digitization of vast amounts of Canadian materials, including the Parliamentary records, archival records, music, and more. The IMSLP is a Canadian initiative to make public domain music scores available online. The project has a competitive advantage over sites hosted elsewhere; it can make more public domain music available because Canada has held fast to its relatively shorter term of copyright protection of life + 50 years. This is an excellent example of how Canadian law can improve online access through regulation - not only to Canadian content, but to all kinds of content.
I think the Heritage Committee should start with 5 (quite important) and work its way down to 1 (not so important?) when it considers ways to encourage Canadian content online.

Monday, March 29, 2010

ACTA won't replace WIPO

Michael Geist has a very interesting post about the possibility of ACTA replacing WIPO, replicating certain WIPO functions, and slowing or undermining the WIPO Development Agenda. Although ACTA could certainly become the centre of action in IP treaty-making and may take on some functions that are similar to what WIPO now does, I don't believe it will replace WIPO or undermine the Development Agenda. Here's why:
  1. WIPO has historically been faced on various occasions with outside IP treaty-making organizations. In 1952 it faced the competing Universal Copyright Convention, and in the 1990s it faced the World Trade Organization's TRIPs Agreement. In both cases, it came to arrangements with the external organizations that secured its own role and made the treaty-making processes compatible between the two organizations. Although WIPO's ability to conclude treaties may be somewhat weakened by these outsiders, WIPO remains a strong and growing international organization whose expertise and capacity to work on IP issues is unrivaled by any other.
  2. It seems as though the ACTA secretariat, as proposed, would be institutionally very small compared to WIPO.
  3. The possibility remains that the ACTA secretariat will actually be housed at WIPO.
  4. The Development Agenda is not working at cross-purposes with ACTA. The Development Agenda has morphed into a set of thematic projects that pose very little threat to the interests of developed countries. Some are, indeed, just what developed countries have been asking for. Projects will provide all kinds of resources to IP offices and infrastructure in developing and least developed countries, will put in place seminars and training programs - even regional IP academies, and create opportunities for IP organizations worldwide to partner with IP organizations in developing countries. It's not inconceivable that the Development Agenda projects could be used to eventually help bring developing countries on board with ACTA.