Canadian Law

HBO To Offer Stand Alone Streaming

Americans will soon be able to subscribe to HBO without subscribing to cable, satellite or IPTV services according to The Wall Street Journal.

The chief executive of HBO informed Time Warner investors today that this service will be made available next year and I suspect many other networks will follow suit. But Canadians will of course be forced to wait for these services as the CRTC decides the future of television.

I certainly hope HBO will choose to bypass the Canadian oligopoly and offer services directly to individuals over the internet like Netflix.

Excellent News For Music Fans

I have just received word that the “Tour Tax”, a prohibitive fee that international artists were subjected to when performing in Canada, has been scrapped.

This counterproductive fee kept newer artists out of Canada, especially independent and unsigned artists, and has caused many clubs to stop featuring live acts altogether. 

Over 143,000 signatures had been registered on a change.org petition promoted on this blog in 2013, which was presented to Jason Kenney, Canada’s Minister for Multiculturalism.

Cyberbullying vs Privacy

Bell Canada customers have just received noticed stating their internet bills will be raised by $5 per month, effective June 1st,2014. And of course people who are unaware of the issue would not know why I have just mentioned this in relation to cyberbullying and privacy.

Unfortunately people are unaware that Bill C-13 calls for an extensive amount of record keeping in relation to cyberbullying and other crimes than can be performed online. And this will require equipment and staffing by internet providers, whose associated costs will be handed down to customers.

As a victim of harassment online you might think that I would support such a measure but the costs to Canadians is not only limited to these higher rates. Bill C-13 proposes questionable leniencies in regards to privacy and even cyberbullying victims like Carol Todd are concerned about privacy :

“I don’t want to see our children to be victimized again by losing privacy rights. I am troubled by some of these provisions condoning the sharing of Canadians’ privacy information without proper legal process.” – Carol Todd, mother of Amanda Todd.

Carol Todd has asked a Parliament committee on Bill C-13 to separate to more controversial portions of the bill to "allow this bill to be free of controversy and to permit a thoughtful and careful review of the privacy related provisions that have received broad opposition". And I agree because these more questionable parts of the bill may be challenged legally, causing the whole bill to fail.

Harassment should be addressed as should the distribution of illegal photographs and video recordings. But other issues have been added to the bill to justify the loss of privacy and none of the proponents of this bill appear to want to address the possibly failures in the technicalities of this bill.

In interview after interview they deny it will cost Canadians their privacy yet are unable to explain why certain parts of the bill cannot be rewritten to address the concerns.

Warrants can be invalidated in law if certain conditions are not met and this bill proposes that no warrants are required to collect, share and store information, circumventing the conditions imposed on warrants. 

Warrants in no way facilitate luring and the creation and distribution of child pornography so why is it necessary to bypass warrants ? And warrants can address cases of cyberbullying that involve death threats, threats of bodily harm and threats to property because of our current criminal code.

Internet providers can also implement their own policing on other cases by enforcing their own terms of service agreements on their customers, some of which restrict the use of their services to impede the use of the internet by others and include provisions allowing them to provide information to the authorities when a crime is alleged.

Could they not restrict the use of their services to send unsolicited requests for a recipient’s suicide or threats involving the distribution of an image or recording of the recipient ? Could they not state that such acts would result in information being shared with law enforcement, with or without an account holder’s consent or knowledge ?

As a person who has never asked someone to commit suicide or threatened someone with death, bodily harm or with the distribution of an image or recording, my privacy would remain intact under a split Bill C-13. And a guilty party would be convicted under the conditions of a properly issued warrant, without the more controversial portions of the bill, so why am I being asked to sacrifice my privacy ? 

Bill S-4 – (The not quite) Digital Privacy Act ?

I had originally wanted to wait until the Privacy Commissioner of Canada released a report on Bill S-4 before commenting but decided that I should just go ahead and post something about this senate bill.

This bill was proposed to help in the cases of security breaches, to help control identity theft. But unfortunately it may also cause individuals to have their information given to third parties without their consent or knowledge.

“an organization may disclose personal information without the knowledge or consent of the individual if

(a) the disclosure is made to the other organization, the government institution or the part of a government institution that was notified of the breach under subsection (1); and

(b) the disclosure is made solely for the purposes of reducing the risk of harm to the individual that could result from the breach or mitigating that harm.” – Bill S-4, Section 10.2 (3)

Furthermore warrants may not be required under Bill C-13 and the costs associated to the infrastructure required to keep records of your online activities would be passed onto either consumers and/or taxpayers.

Are to believe this bill is meant to improve our situation ? We would be paying more for internet and give more private information to a government that was just hacked because of the Heartbeat Bug.

I think this bill needs to be re-written. And if you do too I think you should sign the Open Media petition on Privacy.

Thank you.

Budget Day Goodies ?

Today is Budget Day in Ottawa. And the current government has been promising to address some issues related to the higher prices Canadians pay for certain products.

Canadians pay significantly more for certain products than the Americans and although some of the price differences can be attributed to tariffs, labour and transportation costs, much of the purchase price is pre-determined by the manufacturer.

“Country Pricing” has become the standard and unfortunately Canada’s prices have not been adjusted to match our dollar’s strength.

Some online retailers have done their best to match prices but Canadians were still forced to either import products from the states or pay higher prices at their local retailers.

I suspect that tariffs will be reduced or eliminated on certain products in this budget, perhaps on books, clothing, electronics and home appliances.

Those are the most imported products, especially on Black Friday. But I’m also hoping they will follow the recommendations in the February 2013 Senate Committee report of the US/Canada Price Gap  and raise the de minimis threshold for postal shipments from $20.

When you import most products by mail you are exempt from duties, fees and taxes if the product or products shipped are valued at less than $20 Canadian.

I’ve managed to save some money using they exemption. But many countries like the United States, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore had raised this minimum to US$100 in November 2011, enabling their citizens to avoid paying the hefty brokerage fees some couriers charge on parcels.

Brokerage fees have recently gone up in Canada so I’m hoping they will at least consider a CAN$50 threshold.

The other probabilities in the budget are reductions in credit card/banking fees, funding for an expansion of high speed internet into rural areas, and the unbundling of cable channels so I guess lots of Canadians will be watching this afternoon.

The budget broadcast will air on television and online on CPAC at 4PM Eastern. Details on the budget will also be made available on the Government’s Official Site after 4 PM Eastern.