internet

Lawful Access – Consumer Unfriendly

The Conservative Government wishes to re-introduce legislation enabling law enforcement to access online communications without a warrant.

They believe that this would help them combat terrorism and crime. But unfortunately they may rely on internet providers to retain information on their behalf, which could be costly for the consumer because the internet providers would require more equipment and personel to do so.

In searching for illicit activity online our internet providers will be required to store vast amounts of information and these extra expendatures will be passed down to their subscribers.

According to a 2002 Statistics Canada report, law enforcement are hindered by the use of pseunomyms, anonymous remailers, dial-up connections and public wi-fi.

One can only imagine how much information would be required to keep track of suspects that use “public Internet stations in airports, bus depots, libraries, cyber-cafés and convenience stores” alone, examples mentioned in the report.

Anyone using any of the above mentioned services would have their information catalogued and accessible for cross referencing and analysis, which is not only a burden on resources at the internet providers but may result in a violation of our privacy laws according to the Office Of The Privacy Commissioner Of Canada.

In an October 27th, 2009 letter to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, the Privacy Commissioner stated :

“Though isolated anecdotes abound, and extreme incidents are generally referred to, no systematic case has yet been made that demonstrates a need to circumvent the current legal regime for judicial authorization to obtain personal information. Before all else, law enforcement and national security authorities need to explain how the current provisions on judicial warrants do not meet their needs.”

The aforementioned 2002 Statistics Canada report may claim a lack of standard in cybercrime statistics, possibly resulting in a lack of classification or reporting of these crimes. But crime in Canada is down according to this June 2011 Statistics Canada report.

These costly, potentially insecure systems, are not required. Law enforcement has managed quite well with the current regulations, even with their limited manpower, and the flood of information will probably overwhelm them requiring costly automation.

This is, in my opinion, not the way to go. And this is why i’ve signed the following Openmedia.ca petition :

Please sign the above petition and contact your local Member of Parliament about this issue as soon as possible, preferably before September 19th. Thank you.

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.

Must Reads On Usage Based Billing

The following documents dispell many of the claims used to justify Usage Based Billing : “Canada’s 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.

CRTC Refuses To Expand Internet Review

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has denied a request from The Public Interest Advocacy Centre and Consumers’ Association of Canada to expand their review of internet billing in Canada.

On February 12th, 2011, these associations had requested that the CRTC investigate the pricing of internet access and accept comments on this subject during their public consultation on usage based billing. But the CRTC denied this request, claiming that “There is no evidence that market forces are not working properly in this unregulated market” in an email published today.

Minister of Industry Tony Clements had stated in a tweet that a “door must still be open to Canadians’ broader concerns re pricing & competition” and in another tweet hinted that he would expand debate on the issue.

Liberal Party Proposal on UBB

The Liberal Party of Canada has submited a proposal to the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission in regards to Usage Based Billing.

This five page submission was authored by Industry, Science and Technology Critic and former Astronaut Mark Garneau and includes a statement against the throttling of VOIP telephone service to “preferentially advantage home phone lines“. It also includes a statement against UBB fees that would “disadvantage live-streaming from Netflix while leaving Internet Protocol television such as IPTV exempt from caps“.

According to this document, the Liberal Party of Canada believes that network congestion should be addressed with further investment in infrastructure and location specific measures that are limited to peak periods.

For example, if congestion persists in Toronto they believe that people in Saskatoon should not be forced to pay for it, especially those who use the internet off peek from 10pm to 7am.

I’m guessing that most of the political parties in Canada agree with the major points of this document. But those that agree may co-sign this submission here.

Maclean Magazine Scorns Canadians

Appearently Maclean believes that Canadian consumers are being unfair about usage based billing, and that we all want free access to the internet.

This Rogers Communications owned publication thinks that because they believe average users aledgely only use 16 gigabites per month that anyone going over this amount should be subjected to higher fees, just because some 2% of users download “hundreds of gigs worth” per month.

Is this what they call “Fair” ? And where did they get that 16 gigabite per month figure ?

My average use is at about 40 gigs per month at the moment because of Youtube and i’m sure Netflix users have a similar rate. I am not an “average user” ?

It’s obvious that legitimate online television and film content streaming have resulted in a hike in average use and that 16 gig figure will not cut it.

There are already hundreds of internet ready devices, including televisions and blu-ray players, that enable families to view film and television from the internet. And these devices are getting more and more affordable each day so the “average” use will likely surpass 50 or 60 gigs per month soon, if it hasn’t already.

Cloud computing will also drive some of these transfers up, as more and more people use this new technology from their home, so usage based billing is no response.