Three Strikes…unintended consequences for Canadians?

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This week, representatives from various nations will gather in Guadalajara, Mexico to discuss the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA.

ACTA is an agreement being negotiated by several countries, including Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, United Arab Emirates, and the United States. The main objective of ACTA is to put “in place international standards for enforcing intellectual property rights in order to fight more efficiently the growing problems of counterfeiting and piracy.”

One of the intents of the agreement is to stop illegal file sharing on the Internet.

There are, of course, convincing arguments to be made for addressing illegal file sharing. The Canadian Record Industry Association (CRIA) – the organization that represents the interests of the Canadian sound recording industry – claims file sharing in Canada costs the industry $100 million annually, and the RCMP has stated that they are powerless to stop it. The recording industry internationally has noted important drops in income, jobs, and new artists signed, and has attributed this to illegal file sharing.

Some aspects of ACTA, including lack of transparency and secrecy surrounding its negotiation, have raised the ire of many people. A contentious item expected to be on the table is the so-called “three strikes” approach to piracy.

There are many flavours of the three strikes scheme, but the concept is that suspected illegal file-sharers would be met with graduated responses from their Internet Service Provider (ISP).  They would first be sent a warning email, then a letter if they continue. The final strike would result in an appearance before a judge or tribunal.  The judge or tribunal could impose a fine, or suspend their access to the Internet for a period of time.

The idea of a three strikes law is gaining traction in many countries. France has recently adopted the loi Création et Internet which imposes such a three-strikes regime.  Britain’s government is considering the Digital Economy Bill which may include similar provisions.  New Zealand has been considering such a regime since 2008.

It’s not the only route to follow, however.  Other countries, such as Spain, have opted to not go down the disconnection path, but rather attempt to penalise websites that permit illegal file sharing. Germany, home to the world’s most popular ccTLD (.DE), has decided not to go down the three strikes road, reasoning that the approach would be at odds with the country’s privacy laws.

What are some of the implications of taking such an approach?

Imagine that your 14-year-old son downloads music illegally. Your entire household could potentially be kicked off the Internet for an extended period of time. This means no access to banking online, no access to government services, no email, no access to work for many.  As we move more and more to a digital-based economy, what are the consequences of penalising possibly thousands of average people by denying them access to the Internet?

I think we also need to consider the effect such a prescriptive, top down approach to regulate the Internet would have. The Internet is, by its very nature, generative, creative and organic.  To start imposing measures such as this could challenge the very ‘spirit’ with which it was created. It’s also this creative and organic nature that would present one of the biggest challenges to such a law: put up a barrier on the Internet such as monitoring traffic for illegal downloads, and there’ll be legions of people looking for – and finding – ways around it.

Finally, the costs of monitoring for illegal activity and enforcing these rules will no doubt add costs for ISPs, which in turn will be passed on to the consumer. We need to be careful about doing anything that may have the unintended consequence of raising the price for Internet access in a country that already has some of the most expensive access in the world.

CIRA’s vision for Canadians is to have minimal barriers to get online, where they have the opportunity to participate in an Internet that is a generative, creative and organic environment for the benefit of all.  Let’s make sure we don’t do anything that ends up having unintended negative consequences.

With regard to the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, what do you think Canada needs to consider?

.CA Registry Rewrite

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We’re making some pretty significant changes here at CIRA. In fact, we’re rewriting our registry system which will make the registration process easier for Canadians and ensure a reliable, robust and secure registry for many years.

I’m going to be blogging about the rewrite in the future, and we’re going to be sending out more information soon. In the meantime, Computer World Canada published an article on CIRA’s .CA registry rewrite the other day.

CIRA and Social Media

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At CIRA, we’ve recently taken some pretty significant steps into the social media world. It started with this blog. Now we’ve got a presence on SlideShare, YouTube, Faceboook, Twitter (including my account and CIRANews), and LinkedIn.

We’re also looking at ways to make our website more interactive and we’re working on a policy to help guide the CIRA team in how they engage in social media as a representative of the organization.

Throughout the process of developing our social media activities, I’ve learned a few things that I’d like to share with you:

1. If you’re reading this blog you’re likely web-savvy and wired in. CIRA is, at its core, a technology-centred organization – the fact is, we exist because the Internet exists. You’d think social media would be a pretty easy fit for us. However, it’s really pushing some of us out of our comfort zone – which is ultimately a good thing.

Regardless, it has become clear to me that adding social media to our communications toolbox involves a lot more than just signing up for a bunch of free services.  It involves a shift in the way we approach marketing and communications, customer service and – to some degree – it is changing our corporate culture. Personally, I find some of the debates on issues like privacy and the separation of the personal versus professional self fascinating.

2. Social media is not about technology. It’s about relationships and it’s about having conversations. That’s why comments are enabled on this blog, and that’s why you’ll find me on Twitter.

Humans are social beings. In some ways,  I see the rise in social media as a return to the way business used to be done. People generally don’t want to deal with a large, nameless company. There was a time (and, relatively speaking, not that long ago), when you likely knew most of the people you did business with. You knew the town baker, your mechanic, the grocery store owner,  and so on. Somewhere along the way, we lost that to big name, faceless organizations.

I think social media is giving us the opportunity to get a little bit of that back. GM runs a great blog penned by their leadership. We can follow any number of people representing organizations on Twitter, or become a part of a group on Facebook and discuss common interests on the group’s wall. In some way,  I think social media allows us the opportunity to get to know the people behind the organization.

3. Many of the tools are free, but you need to make investments to be able to use them. We’ve got Twitter accounts and Facebook groups, and we even subscribe to a service that monitors social media for us – all free or pretty low cost.  However,  it takes time to set up and use these tools,  to engage with people and to monitor for the topics we need to know about. We’ve hired a Communications Manager to help us navigate this world and we’ve invested in some technology and services to help us engage better.  It costs time and a bit of money,  but I believe that if you want to really connect with people,  you need to make those investments.

I invite you to join in the conversation on our networks, comment on this blog or listen to what we have to say.

Disponible en français sur demande.

CIRA’s Nomination Committee

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CIRA is the organization that manages the dot-ca domain space on behalf of all Canadians.

It’s a big job, and it’s our Board of Directors who set the policies and strategies that steer our work. For that reason, we need to ensure the Board membership provides the diverse set of skills and professional expertise that the organization requires.  Additionally, it is important that we adequately reflect the geographical, gender, linguistic, and cultural make-up of Canada.

One of the mechanisms we use to ensure that diversity is through our Nomination Committee.  This committee carries out a critical role in determining a diverse roster of qualified candidates for CIRA’s Board of Directors elections. It’s also a great opportunity for Canadians to get involved in helping set the direction of the Internet in Canada. We’re currently accepting applications to serve on the 2010 Nomination Committee, and will be doing so until 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time on January 22, 2010.

I invite you to apply to be a member of CIRA’s Nomination Committee. For more information, please visit the Nomination Committee web page.

Disponible en français sur demande.

Happy New Year

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In my last posting I highlighted some of the issues I think will be hot for 2010.  A friend and colleague, Mathieu Weill, reminded me of a good one that I did not cover: “It is the Internet, so expect the unexpected!”  I probably should have made that my number one choice.

In the spirit of being ready for the New Year, there are a few things we should all be doing to keep our social media and technology houses in order and I think this article does a pretty good job in reminding us all of some of the things we should be doing personally – particularly number eight.  Enjoy.

Disponible en français sur demande.