Five challenges we face on digital rights for the Internet in 2016


David Christopher
David Christopher

by David Christopher

• What a year 2015 has been! In the space of just 12 months, with the support of our amazing community and partners around the globe, OpenMedia fought to ensure people everywhere have affordable access to an Internet that is surveillance and censorship-free.

Highlights include winning a historic fight at the U.S. FCC for Net Neutrality, pushing back hard against an EU plan to copyright “snippets” and helping rally hundreds of thousands against C-51, Canada’s reckless surveillance bill.

Looking ahead, one thing is clear: challenges to our digital rights are set to intensify. Out-of-touch government bureaucracies and unaccountable conglomerates threaten to further undermine the free and open Internet we love.

Here are five big challenges we will face in 2016:

1. The final text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership revealed a serious threat to Internet freedom. It will force participating nations to import draconian US-style copyright rules, while also undermining data privacy, robbing the public domain and inducing Internet providers to censor websites. With TPP members due to sign the deal on February 4, we’ll need to ramp up the public pressure against what amounts to an Internet censorship plan. Speak out at

2. In Canada, the unpopular Bill C-51 proved to be one of the most controversial issues in the recent federal election. With over 300,000 speaking up against it, pressure is intensifying on the new Liberal government to repeal the bill. That’s why we’re asking Prime Minister Trudeau to sit down with OpenMedia, privacy experts and civic society representatives to discuss how best to address this. Join this call at

3. The European Commission’s recently released copyright framework threatens to place “snippets” – the brief explanatory extracts that often accompany a hyperlink – under copyright, a proposal that would severely restrict our ability to access and share information online. The Commission will introduce legislation within the next six months and we’ll need to ensure Internet users’ voices get heard, especially at the European Parliament, which will need to approve any legislation. Learn more at

4. The future of affordability and choice in Canada’s Internet sector is on the line. Telecom giant Bell is trying to overturn hard-won customer choice rules that will ensure Canadians can obtain ultra-fast fibre Internet from indie ISPs. As soon as we heard about Bell’s plan, the OpenMedia community swung into action to tell the new government to reject Bell’s price-gouging scheme. We’ve just submitted a hard-hitting, in-depth policy brief to the federal government, but we’ll need to keep up the pressure to ensure they listen. Add your voice

5. 2015 will perhaps best be remembered as the year pro-Internet advocates secured strong Net Neutrality rules at the FCC that prohibited attempts by telecom conglomerates to consign some of our favourite websites to an Internet slow lane. Sadly, telecom giants haven’t let up in their attempts to overturn these important customer protections. They’ve gone to court and are even trying to strong-arm Congress into undermining the rules. We’ll need to stay vigilant to ensure the new rules are safeguarded. Learn more at

Yup, it’s going to be a busy year! Keep in touch with all the latest at

David Christopher is the communications manager for OpenMedia, a community-based organization that safeguards the possibilities of the open Internet.

Canadians to Trudeau: Let’s talk C-51!


David Christopher
David Christopher

by David Christopher

• As the dust settles after the recent federal election, the priorities of Canada’s new Liberal majority government are becoming clear. Early signs show the government intends to pursue an ambitious agenda: there are nearly 300 items on the to-do lists Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has assigned to members of his Cabinet.

Near the top of Trudeau’s list is, of course, tackling the mess left by the previous government when it comes to Bill C-51, the reckless spying bill that has prompted nationwide street protests and a 300,000-strong repeal campaign.

In his mandate letters to incoming Public Safety and Justice Ministers Ralph Goodale and Jody Wilson-Raybould, Trudeau made it clear C-51 is a top priority, instructing them to: “Work to repeal… the problematic elements of Bill C-51 and introduce new legislation that strengthens accountability with respect to national security and better balances collective security with rights and freedoms.”

Now let’s be clear about one thing: this is progress and it would never have happened without so many everyday Canadians standing up and calling for change. It’s always inspiring to see what’s possible when Canadians work together.

However, given the complexity of Bill C-51 and the multitude of security and privacy issues it raises, Canadians should necessarily be consulted before any reform package is introduced.

To date, the proposed reforms the Liberals have floated in the media leave key issues unaddressed. And the new government, while indicating it wants to keep parts of the controversial bill, has yet to identify which parts these are, let alone make a case for keeping them.

That’s why a diverse range of organizations and experts recently teamed up to send Prime Minister Trudeau a joint letter urging him to launch a full public consultation as the best way to ensure that the many problems with C-51 are effectively addressed. This letter recommends a straightforward three-step approach to consultation.

Firstly, the government should issue a Position Statement setting out the government’s rationale for C-51, including an assessment of the impact on civil liberties and an explanation for why these are justified.

Secondly, the government should hold a national online consultation process to ensure all Canadians can have their voices heard and acted on before new legislation is tabled.

Thirdly, the government should hold a public consultation with civil society groups, academics, businesses and other stakeholders on the basis of the government’s position statement and plans to move forward.

At the time of writing, we’ve yet to hear back, but there are grounds for encouragement. At his swearing-in, Prime Minister Trudeau emphasized he sees transparency, openness and accountability as being at the heart of his new government. And it’s clear that C-51 is a real chance for the government to show it practises what it preaches.

It’s also obvious where Canadians stand – they want a seat at the table! After months of being ignored by the previous government, there’s a lot of pent-up energy out there. In just over a week, for example, over 10,000 Canadians used an OpenMedia tool to email Justin Trudeau to ask him to sit down and talk.

Readers can add their voice to this call at – and with the government seemingly open to a fresh approach, it’s never been more important to ensure your voice is heard.

David Christopher is the communications manager for OpenMedia (, a community-based organization that safeguards the possibilities of the open Internet.

The TPP and Internet censorship

Trudeau’s first big test as Prime Minister


Meghan• Do you squeeze oranges expecting apple juice? Of course not. So Canadians shouldn’t be surprised when an undemocratic process like the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations yields an undemocratic result.

On October 5, just two weeks before the recent federal election, beaming Trade Ministers from the 12 TPP countries gathered in Atlanta to announce they had completed negotiations on the largest and most secretive trade agreement in modern history.

Now, the TPP looks like it’s becoming the first major test for the new Liberal government. Although the previous government signed Canada on to the deal, it must still be approved by the recently elected new Parliament.

Despite the fact that negotiations were ongoing for over three years, most Canadians knew nothing about the agreement and the announcement from Atlanta came as big news. Even those of us that have been following the process closely have little information on the TPP’s contents. Of its 29 chapters, we have only seen three – and only because they were leaked and published by Wikileaks.

So here we are, being told by political leaders that we must be a part of this agreement, as there is “simply too much to gain for Canada.” But if we have so much to gain, why did the previous government wait until the last possible moment to pitch us the plan and then keep it under wraps throughout the recent election?

The few who have read the leaked texts know exactly why: Canadians would never accept the TPP if we knew what was being negotiated on our behalf.

Despite vowing to release the full text before the election, Trade Minister Ed Fast reneged on his promise only days later, leaving Canadians without an opportunity to judge for themselves if the trumped-up benefits of the TPP are truly genuine.

For an example of just how bad the TPP is for Canadians, let’s take a look at the Intellectual Property (IP) chapter. For years, digital rights experts the world over have been calling it “one of the worst global threats to the Internet.”

The previous government assured Canadians the TPP’s changes to copyright law are “fully consistent with Canadian law and policy.” But only days after the announcement by Trade Ministers, the final version of the IP chapter was leaked and it’s even worse than we could have imagined.

We now know Canadians will see copyright terms extended by 20 years, robbing the public domain and snatching what experts estimate will be hundreds of millions of dollars out of our pockets every year.

And that’s not all: vaguely worded clauses will mean increased Internet censorship complete with content takedowns and website blocking. You could even have your computer seized and destroyed just for ripping your favourite CD onto your computer. Under the TPP, will we even really own what we buy?

The trend here is clear: to replace Canada’s balanced copyright rules with a much harsher, US style approach. The fact is that secretive, closed negotiations only benefit those who have a seat at the table. Throughout the negotiations, TPP officials went out of their way to avoid engaging in genuine, citizen stakeholder engagement.

Canadians must demand that our new incoming government reject the TPP’s Internet censorship plan. Frankly, the juice just isn’t worth the squeeze.

Meghan Sali is Free Expression campaigner with OpenMedia, a community-based organization that safeguards the possibilities of the open Internet.

Tell your candidates to take a stand for a free and open Internet

INDEPENDENT MEDIA by David Christopher

David Christopher
David Christopher

“It’s the economy, stupid!” That well-known political aphorism was first coined over 20 years ago by James Carville, a senior advisor to Bill Clinton.

The saying may be decades old, but it’s still applicable to our current federal election. “Who can save the economy?” blares a Maclean’s headline. “The economy is the most critical ballot-box issue facing Canadian voters,” intones the Globe and Mail, organizer of the recent leaders’ debate on – you guessed it – the economy.

Voters seem to agree. Users of CBC’s popular Vote Compass tool prioritized “the economy” far above other issues.Yet very little attention is being paid to the critical role our digital infrastructure plays in growing our wider economy. Ten years of failed government policies have left Canadians with a national digital deficit and a stark digital divide. And Canadians are paying the price; 44% of our lowest income households have no Internet access and over 30% don’t have a mobile phone.

Our sky-high Internet and wireless prices are a serious annoyance for middle-and high-income Canadians, but for low-income Canadians, they make Internet access literally unaffordable, sidelining millions of people from our digital future.

This government’s track record has left Canada falling behind. Their eagerly awaited Digital Canada 150 strategy, which was supposed to present a strong vision for the Internet, was a serious letdown. The strategy delayed the rollout of even 5 Mbps broadband across Canada for another four years, pushing the target to 2019, instead of 2015. Even by 2019, the government has only promised 98% coverage, leaving 700,000 Canadians behind.

It’s clear Canadians are feeling frustrated. OpenMedia community member Nic De Groot summed it up perfectly, “Canada: providing third world Internet service at first world price since the Internet began. It is tradition.”

It’s no wonder leading innovators and entrepreneurs are speaking out and calling for real action to fix our broken telecom market. These business people are at the leading edge of Canada’s digital economy and know first-hand the economic costs of government failures. Compounding these concerns is the government’s irresponsible approach to online privacy. Scandals about the activities of Canada’s spy agency (CSE) have undermined international confidence in our digital security. And the recent passage of Bill C-51 has many Canadian business leaders – including the heads of Slack, Hootsuite, and Shopify – warning how the legislation will “change Canada’s business climate for the worse.”

We need ambition. We need investment. We need privacy safeguards. And we need Canadians’ priorities to be taken seriously. That’s why OpenMedia recently launched a crowdsourced pro-Internet action plan – see – that aims to ensure, quite simply, that every Canadian has affordable access to world-class, surveillance-free Internet.

The election is on October 19 and it’s never been more important for Canadians to speak up and demand politicians listen when it comes to our digital economy. Please visit and use our tool to message your local candidates and tell them to take a stand for a free and open Internet.

This election will shape our digital future for the coming decades. We don’t have a moment to lose.

David Christopher is communications manager for OpenMedia, a community-based group that works to safeguard the possibilities of the open Internet.

Vote for Canada’s digital future

Vote for Canada’s digital future
PIn the 2015 election, join OpenMedia’s pledge drive
and help shape positive change



portrait of Laura Tribe

• This election, Canadians can’t afford to be caught up in the soundbites, quibbles and petty pandering our politicians are increasingly levelling at each other – Trudeau’s hair? Mulcair’s smile? Harper’s suit?

There’s a much bigger issue up for debate: what do we want our country to look like five or 10 years from now?

This election, Canadians need to focus on what really matters: what the next leader of this country is going to do to build a Canada that represents all Canadians and help us return to our place as a leader in communications and technological innovation.

We live in the digital information age, but our policies, practices and infrastructure are not keeping up. Yes, many of us are more connected than ever, but it is at the expense of both our finances and our privacy rights.

Our digital economy is under threat. Over 150 businesses have said the undermining of digital security and privacy will negatively impact their ability to do business in Canada. Many others have called for action to fix our broken telecom market. Do we really want to drive our local businesses out of town by failing to provide the digital infrastructure, security and privacy safeguards they require to operate in a global market?

Sadly, that will be the reality if we carry on with the current government’s failed policies. To take one example, the government has been promising for years to lower cell phone prices. They even launched a flashy website on the taxpayer’s dime to trumpet this policy.

But the end result was failure: the government’s official Wall Report recently concluded we’re still moving in the wrong direction. With cell phone costs increasing at over three times the rate of inflation, Canadians are still paying among the highest prices in the industrialized world.

Elections can be petty, tedious and exhausting. But they can also be exciting. This is our chance to discuss the big issues – the changes we want to see in Canada. We don’t have to be caught up in the petty minutiae of politics. Instead, we can take a step back and dream about what we really want our future to look like and see which politicians are really listening.

Put simply, this election represents our best chance to shape Canada’s digital future. It’s our chance to lower cell phone prices, repeal Bill C-51, reject Internet censorship and deliver affordable world-class Internet service for all Canadians.

This election, take some time to think about what you want your Canada to look like.

OpenMedia is currently hosting a pledge drive to encourage Canadians to vote for Canada’s Digital Future this election. We have listened to hundreds of thousands of Canadians and turned your crowdsourced recommendations into positive action plans to safeguard our privacy, encourage affordable access to Internet services and protect our free expression.

But beyond these policies and detailed recommendations, I’d like to encourage you to take some time to step aside from the partisan politics and the Canada we live in now and imagine the digital future you envision for Canada. And also imagine how we can make this happen.

This election, I’m going to be voting for Canada’s Digital Future. Will you join me?

You can learn more and add your voice at

Laura Tribe is Digital Rights Specialist for OpenMedia, a community-based organization that safeguards the possibilities of the open Internet.

Erasing internet links

Process should be fair, transparent and independent

INDEPENDENT MEDIA by David Christopher

Author David Christopher• You don’t have to look far these days to discover new threats to the free and open Internet we all rely on. Recently, OpenMedia has helped fight off a costly new ‘Link Tax,’ mobilized supporters against a reckless spying law and ran high-impact bus ads against the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s Internet censorship plan.

Over the past year, however, a new threat has arisen from an unusual source. In May 2014, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that Mario Costeja González had the right to have links to a 1998 Spanish newspaper article about him removed from search engines. This type of right has become known as the “right to be forgotten.”

This ruling set a precedent that, in the EU, means any citizen can now request to have links to articles about them removed from search engines. This may sound like a fairly non-threatening development, but it’s one that could drastically change how people share, communicate and access information online.

Let’s look a little closer at why this European approach is so problematic.

Firstly, the “right to be forgotten’ in and of itself is not a bad thing. It simply amounts to the right to withdraw consent, which is at the core of most data protection regimes. For example, I have the right to withdraw my consent for Facebook to display my profile image. However, when it comes to removing links to information that is publicly available about me, things get a lot more complex. What if I were a politician or businessman seeking to cover up unsavoury stories about my past? Should I really be allowed to censor the Internet by forcing Google to remove any links to my previous nefarious activities?

Secondly, the European approach places all the onus on intermediaries like Google and Facebook to censor content by removing links. This is putting the cart before the horse; interfering in the technology that makes the web work is not the answer. Let’s say a website publishes an article falsely accusing you of being a thief. In such a case, the onus should be on the website to remove it, not on search engines that merely link to it.

Thirdly, the European model allows for no independent judicial involvement. Getting links censored is as simple as filling out a webform on Google’s website. Again, this means web companies getting involved in monitoring and interfering in the free flow of information online.

To get an idea of the potential dangers, we need look no further than Russia where the authoritarian government has just passed its own version of the “right to be forgotten.” Under Russia’s new law, links can be removed simply for linking to “unverified information.” The law even allows politicians and oligarchs to request the removal of vast swathes of negative information about their activities.

There should be a transparent, independent, judicial process that individuals can avail themselves of when they wish to have content about them removed from the Internet and the onus to remove such content should be placed on the host, not on intermediaries like Google or Facebook.

Do you think companies, politicians and others should be able censor web content without a judicial process? Let us know in the comments! And learn more about our growing international campaign to Save The Link at

David Christopher is Communications Manager with OpenMedia, a community-based organization that safeguards the possibilities of the open Internet.

Push needed for wireless reform


by David Christopher

Author David Christopher
David Christopher

• Canadians pay some of the highest prices for cell phone service in the industrialized world.

Confirmation of this recently arrived in the form of the 2015 Wall Report, an official price comparison analysis jointly commissioned by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) and Industry Canada.

The report was bad news all-round for long suffering Canadian telecom users. Key findings include:

1. Wireless prices are increasing across the board, with the cost of a standard 1GB monthly cell phone plan increasing by 7%, over three times the rate of inflation, which is 2.3%.

2. New entrants, like Wind Mobile, are offering rates up to 50% cheaper than the Big Three incumbents (Bell, Rogers, Telus). Sadly, however, the Big Three is still blocking Canadians from accessing these more affordable alternatives.

3. For moderate-to-high usage plans, average Canadian prices remain amongst the most expensive of the countries surveyed, placing Canada at the back of the pack.

4. Broadband prices, especially for speeds over 15 Mbps, “are at the high end of the group of surveyed countries” with a standard 16-40 Mbps service costing a whopping 64% more in Canada than in the UK.

Canada is going backwards when it comes to getting a grip on spiralling telecom prices. These sky-high prices are not only unacceptable, but top business leaders have warned they are holding back our entire economy.

From Stephen Harper on down, the government has staked its reputation on reducing cell phone prices. Although Industry Minister James Moore has taken some positive steps forward, they have clearly been nowhere near enough to ensure Canadians finally get the lower prices and greater choice they deserve.

In previous years, the government went out of its way to herald the Wall Report, issuing press releases and cherry-picking statistics in an attempt to paint the numbers in the best possible light.

This year, the report was so unequivocally bad it looks like the government did its best to bury the news. Not a single release was issued and the government’s communications strategy consisted entirely of a single tweet from the CRTC.

Of course, our OpenMedia team swung into action when the report was released, issuing a hard-hitting media release and reaching out to key journalists to alert them to the news. Incredibly, we heard from a number of top telecom journalists that the first they’d heard of the report was from our release, meaning the government failed to take even the most basic steps to publicize a report that, after all, costs a substantial amount of taxpayer dollars to produce.

Thankfully, the government was unable to completely bury the story – the report received solid coverage on CBC News and other outlets – and Canadians are now aware of just how badly the government’s policies have failed.

It’s clear the government’s piecemeal approach to wireless reform is simply not working. We need a much more ambitious approach to dismantle Big Telecom’s monopoly and create a level playing field for desperately needed independent providers.

With an election just around the corner, now is a great time for everyone to speak out and call for change.

Growing numbers of Canadians have had enough of paying ridiculous rates for a basic everyday service and are speaking out at

David Christopher is Communications Manager for OpenMedia

Internet future on the line


The Internet has revolutionized the way we interact with the world around us. It enables us to transcend our physical restrictions and travel the world and we can access and ingest research, art, culture and knowledge that, in the past, would have been stored in libraries and other physical archives, inaccessible to many.

MeghanDue to its interconnected nature, the Internet also allows us to contextualize all of these bits of knowledge in relation to each other; it is the only human invention with the capacity to store unfathomable volumes of data and the ability to call up any individual piece and look at it next to another in a fraction of a second.

But lobbyists for old media conglomerates have a plan to restrict where we travel online, by censoring links across the Internet. The new regulations envisioned by their scheme would restrict our right to link to content and services of our choosing. If these new censorship powers are put into place, it will fundamentally change the way we use the Web.

We’re barrelling toward a key moment. The results of the series of votes on copyright policy initiated at the end of May by legislators in the European Parliament have the potential to usher in new link censorship schemes that will affect Internet users not just in Europe, but right across the globe.

Julia Reda MEP was assigned by the EU Parliament to produce a report on the issue of copyright reform for the modern age and she has put forward a positive roadmap to foster a more connected future. Sadly, other MEPs with backing from old media lobbyists have proposed amendments that contain dangerous link censorship powers.

Reda’s report will soon be voted on by the entire Parliament and we’ll have a chance to defeat these backwards proposals and send a message to those advancing them: hands off our Internet!

Reda’s proposal basically calls for the EU to support the right to link, noting that linking is a “fundamental building block of the Internet.” Yet extreme amendments from pro-censorship MEPs have turned Reda’s initiative on its head by mandating that websites monitor user activity, filter content and even verify and “moderate” free expression. What’s worse, these proposals envision new restrictions on our right to link as a way for old media publishers to protect their outdated business model.

With these link censorship rules in place, websites, blogs and online services would need to spy on their readers, unilaterally assess the legality of expression and censor content, all at the behest of some of today’s legacy media giants. This runs completely counter to free expression and access to knowledge.

And because the Internet we know and love is interconnected – an ecosystem – the actions taken in one corner of the net can’t help but affect what happens elsewhere. You might not live in Europe, but some of your favourite websites and services do. And when those services are affected by these backwards proposals, you will be too.

That’s why it’s so important that digital rights activists stand up for the principles that govern the Internet as a whole and not just when the debate is happening in their backyard.

With the revolutionary technology we have on offer, the whole Internet is your backyard. And unless you want that to change, we’re going to have to speak out now to Save the Link. Find out more at

Meghan Sali is OpenMedia’s lead campaigner on free expression


Feds ready to ram through Bill C-51

Independent Media

by David Christopher

Author David Christopher

Over 200,000 Canadians have united to Reject Fear and Stop Bill C-51, but will the government listen?

It’s rare in Canadian politics to see intense public interest in government legislative proposals, let alone to see Canadians take to the streets in the tens of thousands to protest a piece of legislation by name.

Yet that’s exactly what has happened in the case of Bill C-51, which critics, including the Globe and Mail’s editorial team, say will undermine basic democratic values and lead to the creation of a “secret police force” in Canada.

In the space of a few short months since Bill C-51 was announced, hundreds of thousands of people have taken action to stop it: signing petitions, writing letters to local newspapers, phoning and writing their Member of Parliament and hitting the streets in nationwide demonstrations in over 70 communities across Canada.

It’s not hard to see why so many people are concerned. Canada’s top privacy and security experts warn this legislation will undermine democratic rights Canadians have enjoyed for generations. For example, according to professors Craig Forcese and Kent Roach, who have conducted a detailed legal analysis of the legislation, Bill C-51 will:

1) Undermine Canadians’ privacy by allowing widespread information disclosures among government agencies and by giving the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) access to personal information held by up to 17 government departments. Even Stephen Harper has admitted these kind of dragnet surveillance measures are ineffective.

2) Chill free speech online by criminalizing what is loosely defined as the promotion of “terrorism offences in general,” showing “reckless disregard” for whether a particular post may encourage a violent act. As Forcese and Roach point out in their testimony to the Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence, “The new speech crime in our view violates freedom of expression because it reaches well beyond the sort of speech that threatens actual violence.”

3) Dramatically expand the powers of CSIS, without any commensurate increase in oversight or review measures. The legislation even allows CSIS to obtain a warrant permitting them to break the law and contravene the Charter Rights of Canadians. Under C-51, such warrants would be granted in a secret hearing, with no representation from the target of such measures and with no right of appeal.

So it’s no surprise that Canadians are worried. What is unprecedented, however, is the sheer number of Canadians taking part in the campaign to stop the bill. My organization, OpenMedia, has been campaigning on privacy issues for years, but in all our time, we’ve never seen a public outpouring quite like this.

Our joint efforts are clearly having an impact: public opinion has swung dramatically against Bill C-51 since it was announced and support has plummeted, with a recent Forum Research poll finding that 56 percent of Canadians now oppose Bill C-51, with just 33 percent in favour. The business community, civic society groups and principled conservatives have all spoken out.

Sadly, there’s no sign that the government is listening. At the time of writing [end of April], the government seems determined to use its majority to ram the legislation through the Commons in the coming weeks.

Even more worrying is that this reckless, dangerous and ineffective legislation will further undermine Canadians’ privacy rights – rights that have already been seriously damaged by the government’s Bill C-13 passed late last year and by the government’s failure to address the mass surveillance activities of its CSE intelligence agency.

This government has left Canadians with a stark privacy deficit and we will all need to work together to address it. We need a coordinated plan to roll back mass surveillance and restore our traditional privacy and democratic rights.

You can learn more about how we plan to do so by joining the Protect our Privacy coalition at

David Christopher is communications manager with OpenMedia, a community-based organization that works to safeguard the possibilities of the open Internet.

Copyright trolls could be on their way



by Meghan Sali and Steve Anderson

portrait of Meghan Sali
Meghan Sali

• Canada’s system of copyright enforcement is internationally recognized as a next-generation approach – striking a balance between the rights of artists and creators and those of Internet users. Our system is designed to protect people from false claims of infringement and needless takedowns of legitimate online speech.

We have cause to be proud of this made-in-Canada solution that was won after a lengthy consultation and which only came fully into force this past January. The system is known as “notice-and-notice” and obliges an Internet Service Provider (ISP) to deliver notices alleging copyright infringement to its customers.

Compared with the US’ system, the advantages of the Canadian approach are clear. In the US’ “notice-and-takedown” system, content is removed by the host when a notice is received and, in most cases, before any decision is made by any court.

Unfortunately, when copyright law is misused, it can have such chilling effects on free speech that it acts as a form of censorship. Under copyright regimes that allow for takedown provisions, examples of this are increasing.The law is already being abused by big US media firms, which are sending huge volumes of notices to Canadians through their ISPs. In many cases, these notices contain information that misrepresents Canadian law, such as demanding settlements or threatening disconnection from the Internet – all on the basis of alleged infringement associated with an IP address, not a person.

Canadians have been calling on Industry Minister James Moore to fix the rules and implement a template system for notices to standardize the process. Minister Moore should also ensure Canadians receive accurate information about the possible legal ramifications of the notice, in the context of our domestic laws.

Steve Anderson
Steve Anderson

But what does all this have to do with Canada’s Digital Privacy Act, Bill S-4? This Bill aims to amend Canada’s privacy laws and implement much needed regulations around security breach disclosure requirements.

On the whole, the Bill has been welcomed by experts, except for one glaring flaw: the Bill expands the voluntary warrantless disclosures of personal information – not to law enforcement agencies, but rather to other private companies, and without the consent or even the knowledge of the person whose private information is being shared.

Under S-4, these voluntary disclosures are allowed where there is an investigation into a contract breach or alleged legal violation. While this may appear reasonable, it is a massively broad scope. Consider the dozens of contracts an individual signs every year without even reading them –especially the Terms of Service agreements.

Most grievously, S-4 would render the Canadian notice-and-notice system impotent, as ISPs would be empowered, with legal immunity, to disclose personal information about their customers to copyright trolls, without the customer’s knowledge or consent.

The new system is already being exploited by US media firms; any extension of powers for ISPs to voluntarily make warrantless disclosures of private information would expose Canadians to great risk and undermine our domestic, democratic process.

Canadians are calling for James Moore to take action on this at

Meghan Sali is Campaigns Coordinator for Free Expression with Steve Anderson is the executive director.