Canada

Blockbuster Canada Not Safe After All

The Globe And Mail reported that Blockbuster Canada has gone into receivership.

It appears that when Blockbuster restructed in the United States in September 2010 they had used the profitable Canadian operation as collateral. And now the studios have decided to sell Blockbuster Canada to recoup some of their losses.

Blockbuster Canada had issued a statement last September that their operations would be unaffected by the restructuring of the American operation. But had in April issued a notice to customer that they would not be issueing gift cards or Blockbuster Rewards memberships by April 30th, 2011.

So, what does it mean ?

As you may have heard the Conservative Party was elected as a majority in Canadian Parliament yesterday, the New Democratic Party having been elected into the opposition. And you must be wondering what next ?

Well, it obvious that copyright reform will likely be on the agenda shortly.

When the election was called Bill C-32 died whilst it was being reviewed by a legislative committee, the legislation’s digital lock provisions having been a major issue.

Had Bill C-32 passed, consumers in Canada would have been able to make private copies but would not have been able to circumvent copy protection to do it.

This meant that the counsumer would again be subjected to the whims and experimentations of the film and music distributors, who in the past had attempted to impose digital locks that kept people from copying material, even for personal use, to the extent that it caused security issues (i.e Sony BMG’s rootkit).

Basically Bill C-32 appeared to give the music and film industries an ability to disable private copying whenever it suited them, independently from the democratic process, whilst possibly giving them the ability to impose additional levies to conform to several World Intellectual Property Organization treaties. And of course this didn’t bode well with the Canadian consumer, who refused to pay the exhorbitant rates proposed on iPods/mp3 players and were wary of RIAA style copyright litigation.

Format shifting, the ability to copy copyrighted material from one medium or device to another, will probably remain a major issue in the forthcoming new copyright reform bill. And i’m hoping we have progressed on the issue.

The majority of consumers simply want more control in regards to the accessibility and portability of the content they purchase. They should not be subjected to obtuse allegations of piracy nor should be subjected to levies or taxes on devices on which they store legally purchased material.

Royalties are obtained from this legally purchased material, some of which is dependant on the existance of devices that enable the consumer to access this material.

For example, if it weren’t for iPods and mp3 players the consumer would not be purchasing music downloads from legal distributors, who pay royalties to rights agencies.

Levies on such devices may sound good to some artists but in reality it would result in fewer purchases because the consumer would eventually be presented these extra costs by the manufacturers. After all, the WIPO treaty ratifications would have resulted in additional levies for foreign content, resulting in prohibitive costs for the consumer.

This may be being sold as a compensation scheme for artists and composers but in reality quite a large amount of levies collected from the sale of blank audio media failed to be distributed from the current levy.

According to the Canadian Private Copyright Collective ‘s financial highlights, only $183,301,000 of the $284,878,000 collected from 1999 to 2009 was distributed. And nearly 11% of the monies collected were used as expendatures by the collective itself.

One can only guess how much of these levies would remain available for distribution if international copyright owners were to get levies. But is clear that all of these schemes would be quite costly to the consumer.

In March 2002, the CPCC had requested a rate of $21 per gig, as publisized in the Canada Gazette, and the Copyright Board had decided on a rate of $15 or $25 per device in December 2003 until having their decision overturned by the Federal Court Of Appeal, twice.

I certianly hope both the Conservatives and New Democrats appreciate the fact that this is not the time to hinder the sale of consumer products by introducing costly levies that fail to be distributed to the artists and composers.

Privacy Commissioner Investigating Breach

A representative of Canada’s privacy commissioner has told Postmedia News that it is investigating this month’s Playstation Network/Qriocity security breach.

The security breach has caused additional headaches for Sony in California, where a class action lawsuit was filed on Wednesday over this issue.

Epsilon Hack & Canadians

Well, that was some April Fools Day, wasn’t it ?

Epsilon was hacked and confirmed that 2% of their clientelle have had their email lists compromised, Alliance Data confirming that email addresses and their associated names had been stollen from their database.

Bank Info Security has posted a list of companies whose information was compromised. And among these nearly 70 companies are financial institutions, internet merchants and loyalty programs Canadians use.

Most of these companies have already contacted their Canadian customers in regards to this security breach. But what now ?

The Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email advises people to change their email addresses as soon as possible, especially when dealing with financial institutions.

Twelve financial institutions were affected according to CAUCE, namely American Express, Ameriprise Financial, Barclays Bank of Delaware, Capital One, CITI, JP Morgan Chase, Moneygram, Scottrade, TD Ameritrade, TIAA-CREF, U.S. Bank and World Financial Network National Bank. But of course even if you don’t have an account at those financial institutions you should consider changing your email address at your financial institution if you’ve been advised by one of the other companies of this breach on your current email address.

The hackers have probably sold your information by now so you will likely be subjected to emails claiming to be from several financial institutions and online payment companies.

They’re of course hoping people will click on the links included in these emails and provide them with passwords and other information to facilitate identity theft. But of course no financial institution or online merchant will ever ask you to provide personal information by email and these companies always use encypted connections on the internet.

The most recent internet browsers either have a confirmation that the connection is secured or a verification scheme that confirms that the web site you’re visiting is authentic. But of course it is up to the user to keep on eye on the address bar at all times.

Internet users that are versed in Phishing know to look for an https:// and/or a picture of a lock in their address bar because scammers rarely purchase security certificates to scam people out of their information. They usually just stick to variations of a web site address to lure the less knowledgable into providing their passwords or other information on a fake website.

Personally, whenever some company sends me a warning about my account I open up a new tab on my browser and I use my bookmarks to access the site. I never click on the link provided in the email or provide account numbers via email. And if all else fails, I call their toll free number to resolve the issue.

Webmail services also offer anti-spam and anti-phishing options that you might consider using. These have worked quite nicely for me. But of course if push comes to shove the webmail address I use on most sites are disposible.

BTW, if you’re interested in obtaining additional security software or information on related consumer issues, I have some links listed in my Consumer Links that you might find interesting.

Must Reads On Usage Based Billing

The following documents dispell many of the claims used to justify Usage Based Billing : “Canada‚Äôs Usage Based Billing Controversy: How to Address the Wholesale and Retail Issues” by Michael Geist and “Myths and Fallacies about Usage Based Billing (UBB)” by Bill St. Arnault.

The later was commissioned by Netflix, who have recently decided to offer additional video quality settings to their customers because of this issue.

For additional information on Usage Based Billing, consult Michael Geist’s blog.

Online Retailer Adapts To Usage Based Billing

Netflix Canada has decided to offer additional options to their customers in response to the usage based billing issues.

Canadian subcribers will now be able to access additional options when it comes to the quality of the videos they stream from Netflix in order to reduce their consumption of bandwidth.

According to Netflix, they will now offer three levels of video quality to their Canadian customers :

  1. Good – Max. 625 kbps Video/64 kbps Audio, which translates to about 9 gigabites of data for 30 hours of content.
  2. Better – Max. 1300 kbps Video/192 kpbs Audio, which translates to about 20 gigabites of data for 30 hours of content.
  3. Best – Max. 4800 kbps (1080p HD video) and 384 kbps (5.1 audio), which translates to about 67 gigabites of data for 30 hours of HD content.

On the Best setting transfers will fluctuate depending on if the content is in HD and/or whether there is congestion. This means 30 hours of non-HD content on the Best setting will translate to about 31 gigabites of data.

It should be noted that American and Canadian television episodes from before 2009 are not likely going to be available in HD, so people who enjoy watching this content can use the Best setting. And several films on Netflix are not available in HD as well, including many by Paramount, who have just signed onto the service in Canada.