Sometimes you have have a lot to write about and sometimes you have nothing to write about. This is one of those times. So let’s write about all of it. And none of it.
OK I admit that intro was cryptic as hell. Let me clear that up. There is a bunch of stuff I want to tell you about, but really none of it was getting me excited to write, because nothing was really juicy and felt like it could be a whole post in and of itself. But I had to tell you I guess, it’s my job! Or, uh, my side job. So then it hit me like a ton of bricks – a few snarky comments about each of 4 or 5 topics would be perfect. So let’s snark!
1. The Federal Budget 2017
You see what I have to deal with? Who wants to write a whole post on the budget that just came out? Blech. But it has internet stuff in it, so I should say a few words. Here is what the budget says:
Technological change brings with it tremendous opportunities but not every Canadian is able to access the benefits that are part of an evolving digital world.
If that is not a load of Liberal crap I don’t know what is (and I am a card-carrying Liberal! Or I was, until I stopped paying my dues). So yes, the budget wants to help poor people and rural people get on the internet. That’s good I guess. What else?
For its part, the Government believes in an open and transparent Internet environment that emphasizes freedom—freedom to innovate, freedom to connect with others, and freedom of discussion.
I should fucking hope so. More claptrap. We already have all those freedoms. What else ya got?
Over the next year, the Government will outline a new approach to growing Canada’s creative sector—one that is focused on the future, and on bringing the best of Canada to the world, rather than a protectionist stance that restricts growth and limits opportunities.
The Government also recognizes that Canada’s media industries, and the systems that allow for broadcasting, distribution and the exchange of ideas, are fundamentally changing in the digital age.
To ensure that Canadians continue to benefit from an open and innovative Internet, the Government proposes to review and modernize the Broadcasting Act and Telecommunications Act.
(…) Further details on the review will be announced in the coming months.
Well this is actually important. This in part comes out of the Department of Canadian Heritage’s look into the Canadian Content rules in the digital age. The government could completely revamp a whole bunch of shit about CanCon, culture, the internet, and more! We’ll see! They will announce further details! In the coming months! Will they be good or bad? Who knows! Not even Michael Geist. OK I have had enough of this.
2. MtlFreeTV.com v. Bell Canada
Ooh look, a case! This was sort of interesting I guess. In Wesley (Mtlfreetv.com) v. Bell Canada, the Federal Court of Appeal upheld the lower court’s judgment that a company selling illegal set-top boxes should, uh, stop selling them. You see there were a bunch of companies that were selling boxes you could plug into your TV and get free TV that normally you would have to pay for. You don’t have to be a copyright lawyer to know that probably infringes copyright. And look, if you are going to have “freeTV” in your URL you are really not helping yourself. The Court of Appeal was having none of their arguments:
In our view, in light of the uncontradicted evidence including the advertisement that these pre-loaded set up boxes are a way to access free tv content and avoid cable bills, the Federal Court was entitled to draw the inferences that it did
As Barry Sookman said, this was a “decision that should not surprise anyone”. If you want some more details about what was in the original lower court judgment, you can read my post about it from last June. There is even audio of me talking if you don’t want to read. I wouldn’t blame you. Though my voice can be grating. Moving on.
3. Idiot Violates Anti-Spam Law
All the fines (sorry CRTC – “Administrative Monetary Penalties”) that have been doled out so far under CASL, Canada’s Anti-Spam Law, have been against companies. Big ones! Like Porter Airlines and Kellogg’s. Oh Tony the Tiger, don’t you know about explicit consent to send Commercial Electronic Messages? But this time, the CRTC has hit up some dude in his basement for $15,000! In the CRTC’s defense, this guy was an idiot:
Because his Wi-Fi network was unsecured and there were no passwords on his home computers, Mr. Rapanos stated that anyone could have gained access to his personal information and used his Internet connection to commit the violations under his name.
Ahh, the old “I am stupid and was hacked defense”. Dude had sent a shitload of CEMs without the recipient’s consent, and other things CASL requires in the emails as well. There was plenty of evidence. He did complain that $15k was a bit much, and he may have a point there. But the CRTC decision actually goes through quite a serious analysis about what the fines (sorry CRTC – “Administrative Monetary Penalties”) are supposed to do, and agrees that $15k is a pretty good idea. Conclusion – if you are an idiot, obey CASL!
4. U.S. Congress Destroys Internet Privacy
If any of these things deserved its own post, it was probably this. But it made me so angry that writing a whole post about it would have given me a heart attack. You see, good ol’ President Obama (remember him?) decided ISPs in the U.S. should not be able to share your internet browsing history. The evil Republican House of Representatives have now shit all over that. The Republicans say it is important for the poor giant telecom companies. They are a bunch of lying assholes. Obama’s rules said that you had to opt in for the Telecoms to sell your internet history. No more. So once President Trump (ugh) signs this (and he will), ISPs will be able to take Americans’ browsing history and sell it to anyone. Without their permission. Go look at your browsing history. Do you want anyone seeing that without your permission? Say a prayer for your American friends.
5. Me! Me! Me!
I’ve had a busy month! You may remember that last year I wrote the Freedom on the Net Report for Canada for Freedom House. I’ve been busy writing that report for 2017. You may have heard that a Canadian was arrested in the Yahoo! email hack. That prompted my old friend Scott Radley to have me on his radio show to talk about internet privacy in general. We had a fine time, one of my better and more entertaining interviews (mostly thanks to Scott). You can listen to it right here!
Finally, I had the honour of giving a guest lecture in the Intellectual Property Law class at McGill’s Faculty of Law. Those kids loved me. My lecture had the nice generic title of “Intellectual Property on the Internet”. Here are my slides, which are boring as fuck and unfortunately don’t really give you an idea of how entertaining I am, if I do say so myself. At least it has Simpsons references.
Well that will about do it for the month of March. Let’s hope April brings something big I can sink my teeth into.