UNESCO’s Guidelines on Contemporary Culture in the Digital Environment: Worth Thinking About

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For some people, saying the word “UNESCO” is like waving a red flag in front of a charging bull. For others, like activists in my region who are seeking to have the Salish Sea (the body of water that straddles British Columbia and Washington State) declared a UNESCO world heritage site, it means getting additional protection for valuable natural heritage areas that are under environmental threat. UNESCO has many guises and is the epitome of the good, the bad and the ugly. First, the positive. Continue reading “UNESCO’s Guidelines on Contemporary Culture in the Digital Environment: Worth Thinking About”

Brexit and Copyright: What Happens Next?

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When British Prime Minister Theresa May introduced her new government’s proposed legislative agenda in Westminster on June 21, (through what is known as the “Queen’s Speech) after her disastrous gamble of calling a general election in which she failed to win a majority, one of the key items announced was her intention to introduce what has colloquially been called the “Great Repeal Bill”, legally the “European Union (Withdrawal) Bill”. Given the timetable for Britain’s exit from the EU (by March, 2019), Ms. May has until then to pass legislation to ensure that British law applies to all legislation currently mandated to the EU. That Bill has now been given second reading in Parliament and was not without controversy given the wide powers it will give the government to modify many adopted EU laws through regulation rather than through legislation. While the stated intent is for the Bill to simply enable a technical conversion of laws in order to prevent a legal hiatus, (allowing for any substantive amendments to follow once final authority is returned to Britain), the devil is always in the detail and there is huge potential for material impact on the laws that govern the lives of UK citizens. Continue reading “Brexit and Copyright: What Happens Next?”

The Year of the RAT—Beware

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In the Chinese zodiac, the Year of the Rat (1984, 1996, 2008, 2020 etc), one of the 12 “animals” of the lunar cycle, brings with it good things as well as some cautions. Its prognostications are similar to those of the other eleven animals in the Chinese zodiac and to the predictions of western horoscopes. People born in the Year of the Rat, or “Rats”, are supposed to be “quick-witted, resourceful, versatile, kind, smart and lovely”, according to one Chinese zodiac website. But there is another “rat” out there that is far less benign and which can affect everyone, not just those born in specified years. I am referring to what is known as a “Remote Access Trojan” (RAT), a growing problem world-wide, particularly in Asia. One definition of a RAT calls it “a malware program that includes a back door for administrative control over the target computer.” Continue reading “The Year of the RAT—Beware”

Wanda’s Wannabe Theme Parks in China: Lacking the “Secret Sauce” of Familiar Copyrighted Content

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A year ago, when I wrote about Dalian Wanda Chairman Wang Jianlin’s boast that he would “devour” Disney’s theme parks in China (“Mickey’s Adventures in China: Theme Park Wars and Copyright”), Wanda was riding high. From humble beginnings as a property developer in the Chinese city of Dalian, Wang had become China’s wealthiest man through building mega shopping centres, many of them anchored by large cinema complexes, and had gone on to expand abroad, buying AMC Cinemas for $2.6 billion in 2012 and Legendary Pictures for $3.5 billion in 2016. Wang’s hunger for entertainment assets (he was eyeing Paramount) created such a political backlash in the US that 18 members of Congress signed a letter to the US General Accounting Office urging that the mechanism used in the US to review foreign investments from a national security angle (the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS) consider investment from China in the entertainment sector as a possible “strategic threat”. Why? Because, according to these members of Congress, such investment could result in exerting foreign propaganda control over US media. As I wrote at the time, this was a xenophobic over-reaction, but it illustrates the reach of Wanda. Continue reading “Wanda’s Wannabe Theme Parks in China: Lacking the “Secret Sauce” of Familiar Copyrighted Content”

The Challenges facing Print Media: Is Copyright Reform part of the Answer?

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This year Canada is required to review and potentially update its copyright legislation. The passage of the Copyright Modernization Bill in 2012 included a statutory five year review. That formal review has not yet begun—it is scheduled to start in late fall—but in the meantime other work that could impact the review of copyright law is taking place. Among these are the cultural policy review that Heritage Minister Melanie Joly has committed to undertake, and a review on media industries, conducted by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. Continue reading “The Challenges facing Print Media: Is Copyright Reform part of the Answer?”

York University’s Appeal of the Access Copyright Case: A Further Waste of Public Funds

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On July 31 York University announced that it would appeal the Federal Court decision that had handed the university a legal rebuff and stern reprimand over its appropriation, without payment, of content from the repertoire of copyright collective Access Copyright. As I noted in an earlier blog, the Federal Court’s decision was a welcome restoration of some balance to copyright in Canada. Now York has appealed. This is unfortunate and a further waste of public funds. The university should have accepted the judgment, revised its procedures, and focussed on the business of educating students with material that respects authors through payment of fair compensation. Continue reading “York University’s Appeal of the Access Copyright Case: A Further Waste of Public Funds”

Google Seeks to Invalidate Canadian Supreme Court Decision through US Courts: Could Google be Surprised?

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Ha, told you so”, seems to be the reaction from anti-copyright circles to Google’s decision to seek a US court ruling to block enforcement (in the US) of a British Columbia court order, upheld on appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC), that requires Google to de-index from its search engines world-wide listings for a Canadian company that has been found guilty of intellectual property infringement by stealing trade secrets from a Canadian competitor and then passing off the copycat products as originals. Google is seeking relief from the Canadian order in its home bailiwick via the US District Court for Northern California on the basis that the order violates the First Amendment of the US Constitution, the Communications Decency Act and is against the principles of international comity. Continue reading “Google Seeks to Invalidate Canadian Supreme Court Decision through US Courts: Could Google be Surprised?”