Tag Archives: canada

Long term impact of ending the long form census

Can the long-form census be saved?

I fear it cannot. I fear that the announcement by Industry Minister Tony Clement to scrap the mandatory long-form census in favour of a voluntary survey has already damaged the future of the census beyond repair. I fear that the minister has already galvanized those who support his point of view such that any return to a mandatory census will only see more inaccurate answers than ever before.

Before the issue exploded in ink and phosphor, how many people actually thought to list their religion as Jedi Knight? In 2001 that was 21,000 people, or approximately 0.0035% of the total respondents covered by the long-form census — well within the margin of error for most statistic reports. But what about now? Who wants to take bets that the rank of Jedi Knights will see a significant increase in their number if the government is forced to reverse its decision?

From a letter from Terry McGinn in thewhig.com

This is my biggest concern as well. Even if the decision were reversed now, the government’s rhetoric will have given more people the view that the census is coercive, as opposed to a civic duty. With respect to the census, the relationship of Canadians with the census will be fundamentally changed. I hope we’re wrong, but that’s my fear too.

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Canada needs a funded, independent opengov body

Politics of Canada

Image via Wikipedia

There’s some great open government and open data momentum in Canada right now, with a few websites coming online in recent days. There’s the wonderful??openparliament.ca,??and datadotgc.ca??is??expected soon. See David Eaves article in the Globe and Mail??on this, or his blog post. And let’s not forget one of the first Canadian websites in this area, MyCelium, which indexes video of question period.

On the government side, this week PMO spokesman Guy Giorno said (link to committee evidence coming soon) that freedom of information is the oxygen of democracy, although the Information Commissioner’s report gave the government a failing grade on their access to information practices.

Tonight, David Eaves will be on The Agenda to talk about open government.??And there’s word that a major opengov unconference is coming to Ottawa soon (stay tuned for more about that).

It’s great to see this momentum gathering.

But I’m concerned about the lack of an established, funded, independent body in Canada to coordinate government transparency initiatives from outside of government.

In the US, while the government runs data.gov, the independent organization Sunlight Labs develops tools and projects focused on open government. In the UK, there are government initiatives for opengov, but the independent group mySociety??similarly develops tools and runs projects focusing on government transparency and citizen enagegement.

In Canada, we have this wonderful assortment of websites, all developed independently, but as a result there is no coordinated strategy in their development or centralized API or access to the sites. It’s great that individual Canadians are taking the initiative to develop these sites, and absorbing the cost of hosting them, and I wouldn’t want to create barriers to that. But at the same time, it would be more efficient to coordinate what is needed and work together to develop (and in some cases adapt) the best possible tools for government transparency and open data.

Unfortunately, there is currently no organization in Canada in a position to take on this task.

The closest thing we have, Visible Government, is a homegrown organization modeled on Sunlight Labs and mySociety, but has struggled to secure the funding necessary for them to meet the challenge. It is a great organization with the kind of vision needed for the job, but the lack of funding may make it impossible for VG to do their work on the scale Canadians really need.??[Full disclosure: I was formerly on the board of VG].

It saddens me to think that just as momentum is growing in this area, an area that Visible Government pioneered in Canada, one of the only independent organizations at the centre of the movement may fail because of lack of funds.

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Is music downloading copyright infringement in Canada?

There’s some sparring going on in the copyright world between Michael Geist and Richard Pfohl of the Canadian Recording Industry Association. In a June 8, 2009 article “slaying” Canadian file-sharing myths, Michael Geist stated, “The law… opens the door to some legalized music downloading, but it does not cover other content (movies or software) or the uploading of any content.”

In response, Richard Pfohl wrote in a June 12 letter to the editor, “Downloading pirated music is not legal in Canada.”

Who’s right? Copyright lawyer Howard Knopf sorts it out:

 

So – copying unauthorized sound recordings obtained via P2P onto a 120 GB iPod Classic, for example, where the hard drive memory is permanently embedded (don’t even think about trying to take it out!) may indeed be infringing – because the iPod as a whole is a “device” and not a medium subject to the levy.

However, a PC internal hard drive that is not “permanently embedded” and particularly an external plug and play hard drive that is clearly not in any sense “embedded” in anything and serves no function other than to be a large memory medium may very well be “audio recording media.” In that case, downloading any sound recording onto them obtained in any way from any source for private use would be legal in Canada, regardless of whether a levy has ever been sought from the Copyright Board. This follows from what the Copyright Board said in 2003 at page 20-21 of this famous decision [PDF] and, contrary to Mr. Pfohl’s assertion, no Canadian Court has ever ruled to the contrary.
[emphasis from Mr. Knopf]

 

That’s right: That dedicated music device you have? The one that comes with software for ripping CDs and is sold by Apple, owner of the world’s biggest music store? It’s copyright infringement to download music and put it on that device. In fact, it’s copyright infringement to rip your own CDs if you’re putting them on your iPod or other mp3 player.

But an external hard drive that can’t play back music? That’s not embedded media, so it may not be infringement to download or rip music and save it there. Such is the paradox of copyright law in Canada today.

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No love for Amazon’s One Click patent in Canada

Michael Geist reports on an important recent decision of the Canadian Patent Appeal Board (CPAB) regarding business method patents. These are patents that companies started collecting in the United States in the 1990s but which have not been embraced as enthusiastically in Canada. The most notorious business method is probably Amazon.com’s patent on the method of processing a customer’s online order in one click.

At first blush, the CPAB could have relied on the Manual of Patent Office Practice to support Amazon.com’s claim for a business method patent.  The 2005 Manual provides that “[business] methods are not automatically excluded from patentability, since there is no authority in the Patent Act or Rules or in the jurisprudence to sanction or preclude patentability.”

Yet the panel delivered very strong language rejecting the mere possibility of business method patents under Canadian law.  The panel noted that “since patenting business methods would involve a radical departure from the traditional patent regime, and since the patentability of such methods is a highly contentious matter, clear and unequivocal legislation is required for business methods to be patentable.”

In applying that analysis to the Amazon.com one-click patent, the panel concluded that “concepts or rules for the more efficient conduct of online ordering, are methods of doing business. Even if these concepts or rules are novel, ingenious and useful, they are still unpatentable because they are business methods.”

 

Read the whole post here.

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CRTC extends exemption for new media and calls for a national digital strategy

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (the CRTC) today released a very important decision reviewing their original New Media decision of 1999. In the 2009 review of that decision, the CRTC has essentially extended their policy of not regulating new media.

OTTAWA-GATINEAU —The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) today announced that, after a careful examination and a full process, it will maintain its approach for broadcasting content distributed over the Internet and through mobile devices. The Commission will continue to exempt new media broadcasting services from its regulation and monitor trends as they evolve.

“While broadcasting in new media is growing in importance, we do not believe that regulatory intervention is necessary at this time,” said Konrad von Finckenstein, Q.C., Chairman of the CRTC. “We found that the Internet and mobile services are acting in a complementary fashion to the traditional broadcasting system. Any intervention on our part would only get in the way of innovation.”

 

Read the full release and decision for details. Basically, the Commission was not convinced in the hearing process that regulation was needed in this sector. But there will be some changes. For one, it will be five years, not another 10, before they review this again. And they are asking the Federal Court of Appeal to clarify whether internet service providers are subject to the Broadcasting Act if they provide access to traditional broadcasting content.

But most intriguing is the CRTC’s endorsement of the National Film Board’s call for a national digital strategy, as some countries already have in place. New media itself has evolved tremendously since the CRTC first considered it 10 years ago, and is likely to change even more dramatically before they reconsider this decision in 2014. Let’s make sure there is a national policy in place before then to ensure a safe market for innovative media developers.

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Contribute your Ideas for a Roundtable on E-Democracy

On June 11, 2009, I will be leading a “Roundtable on E-Democracy” on Parliament Hill in Ottawa for parliamentarians . At that meeting, I want to present and discuss the ideas that I heard people talking about at ChangeCamp Ottawa. But instead of just writing an outline for a presentation/discussion based on the topics that I think are important in terms of citizen engagement, I thought I would use some of the very technology that has sparked an interest in citizen participation, like EtherPad.com.

So if you’re interested in how changing technologies, trends, behaviours, expectations and standards present challenges and solutions for citizen engagement with government in Canada, please head over to this very easy-to-use page at Etherpad.com and contribute your thoughts. And please pass on the link — the more people who contribute, the more I can bring your thoughts to decision makers on the Hill.

When you get there, please feel free to add to the list of topics, take topics out, move them around, restructure the list, or even suggest formats for delivering the information to the intended audience. If you want to, you can do it anonymously. If you leave me your name or handle, I’ll give you credit at the Roundtable.

Once again, you can find the page to edit right here.

Thank you,
Andy

[image “Peace Tower Clockby jpctalbot licensed under a Creative Commons licence]
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Where CAIRS.info gets its data

Michael Geist has a new service online today called CAIRS.info which resurrects the government’s ATIP request tracking service, CAIRS. And how does Geist get the content for the site? How does he find out what ATIP requests government departments are handling? I can’t be sure, but it looks like he makes ATIP requests to find out!

In this image from CAIRS.info, from here, we see Elections Canada reporting that one of the ATIP requests they got in July 2008 was a request for a list of all ATIP requests received. I enjoy the recursiveness of this.

In fact, I’m considering making an ATIP request for a list of ATIP requests resulting in lists of ATIP requests that do not include their own requests. Would my request be on the list? [Sorry, math nerds — I couldn’t resist!]

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Finding Free music to play in your shop

Suppose you own a bookstore or a cafe, or maybe you’re a dentist or you own a hair salon. You probably play music in your shop, cafe or clinic. Are you infringing copyright when you play that music? Are artists collecting royalties for the music you play? And if you want to make sure you’re on the right side of the law, what are your options?

 

Canadian Copyright law

You can read the Copyright Act if you’re interested — it’s not that bad a read, really. But basically what you need to understand is that the artist who wrote a song has exclusive rights to reproduce and perform that song. And the people who recorded it also have exclusive rights in the recording itself; only the recording company can reproduce the recording (which is subtly different from reproducing the song). Any time you take out a guitar and play a song, you’re performing that song. And if you play a CD or plug an iPod into your sound system and play Abba’s Super Trouper on repeat (something my kids love doing), you’re performing the sound recording.

Now, playing the song in private is not infringement, and there is even a special exemption in Canada that allows us to make copies of sound recordings for our own private use under certain circumstances. But if you are playing songs in your shop, cafe or clinic, or anywhere else where the public can hear it, then you are infringing the copyright in that recording unless you have permission from the artist.

 

You can pay for permission

One way to get permission from the artist is to buy a licence from SOCAN, the collective society that represents musicians in Canada. It’s not outrageously expensive either: less than 12 cents per square foot, so it will cost about $230 to buy a licence to play commercial music in your 2000 square foot operation.

 

Or you can get permission for free!

It turns out there are a lot of artists out there who first and foremost want their music to be heard, and they have chosen to give broad permission to anybody and everybody to use their songs and recordings. You generally won’t find these artists on commercial radio, or even at most music stores. After all, many of them operate on small budgets and distribute their music online instead of paying to press discs.

And to make sure you know that you have their permission, many of these artists use a much more permissive, standard form licence that they get from Creative Commons. There are a range of Creative Commons licences, some of which are extremely permissive: if a song is under the CC-BY licence, you can copy, perform, transmit and even adapt and remix the work, as long as you give the original artist credit. Some CC licences are much more restrictive: if a song is under the CC-BY-NC-ND licence, you can copy, perform and transmit the work, but you can’t change it at all (the ND means No Derivatives) and you can’t use it for commercial purposes (the NC means Non Commercial).

So CC licensed music is a great source of free music to play to your customers or clients, but you have two challenges: finding CC licensed music, and making sure the music you pick is under a licence that allows commercial use.

There are a growing number of places to find CC licensed music online, but one of the best is Jamendo. It has a great selection of CC licensed music from around the world in all different styles, very well organized and searchable. To find the music under Creative Commons licences, click the Music tab on Jamendo and then the Creative Commons link in the orange bar under the tabs. On the right of the page, you can search by tags, but if you leave the tags field blank you can just check the box that says “allow commercial use”, and you’ll get all of the music on Jamendo that is under CC licences that allow commercial use — or just click here to go straight to those search results! You can also limit the results by country — here are the Canadian albums that you can play to your customers for free.

 

Podcasts and free music

Podcasts are a bit of a special case since as a podcaster you are not only performing recordings but also transmitting them to the public, and making them available for people to download. If you’re a podcaster and you’re interested in using free music or other content, check out the Podcasting Legal Guide for Canada.

 

Supporting artists

There are different ways to support musicians. SOCAN distributes royalties to artists from licensed performances and album sales. If you like an artist who uses CC licences and you want to support them, you can usually choose to pay for their music as well. For instance, you’ll find the latest album by Brad Sucks on Jamendo, but you can also buy it at his website. Or, if you’re into remixing music, you can download the source master recordings of each track, have your way with it (so to speak), and upload it to ccMixter.

 

Success stories?

Are you an artist who uses Creative Commons licences for your music? Do you run a cafe or shop or someplace else that plays music to your customers or clients? If you have a success story about using Free music, I’d love to hear it. Leave a comment!

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Updates to the Canadian Copyright Term Flowchart

I made two updates to the Canadian copyright term flowcharttoday and thought I would push them out there to others working onsimilar projects.

We were at version 4 of the flowchart before. Two similar problems wereseparately identified and fixed, so we’re at version 6 now.Here’s the latest version of the chart:

Public_domain

Basically,the spine of the flowchart goes down the left side identifying specialcases. In the first two special cases (photographs and “CrownCopyright”), the chart dealt with the special cases but then neglectedto identify the subset of special cases that should be handled like thegeneral case. These were formerly piped to the end of the chart,but should be piped back into the spine to run through the remainingspecial cases.

Hard to follow? So, for example, photographs are a special casefor copyright term calculation in Canada, but only if they havecorporate authors. If their authors are “natural people” (notcorporations), then they should be handled the same way as any otherwork. The flowchart now sends those back to the spine so we cancapture the special case of, say, photographs that are anonymouslypublished.

So photographs were one special case. The other special case isCrown Copyright, a quirk of Canadian law that gives a specialcopyright term to works created or published by the Crown (i.e. thegovernment). But it was pointed out that if a work is co-authored bythe Crown and by one or more other non-Crown authors, then the termof copyright for the work may depend on the non-Crown author. Thesecases are now piped back to the spine. Having made that change, we cannow accommodate works published jointly by the Crown and pseudonymousauthors!

So that puts us at version 6 of the flowchart. To open thesource file, install the open source program Dia. And feel free to use theseand modify them: They are licensed under a Creative CommonsAttribution 2.5 Canada licence. You can attribute them to me, AndyKaplan-Myrth. Thanks!

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