There's a good piece in the Toronto Star that reviews a number of ways in which the agendas of law enforcement and corporate interests are combining, and conspiring, to make the internet a very different place than it is today.
Notwithstanding the Internet's remarkable potential, there are dark clouds on the horizon. There are some who see a very different Internet. Theirs is an Internet with ubiquitous surveillance featuring real-time capabilities to monitor online activities. It is an Internet that views third party applications such as Vonage's Voice-over-IP service as parasitic. It is an Internet in which virtually all content should come at a price, even when that content has been made freely available. It is an Internet that would seek to cut off subscriber access based on mere allegations of wrongdoing, without due process or oversight from a judge or jury.
This disturbing vision of the Internet is not fantasy. It is based on real policy proposals being considered by the Canadian government today.
Leading the way is the federal government's "lawful access" initiative. While the term lawful access sounds innocuous, the program, which dates back to 2002, represents law enforcement's desire to re-make Canada's networks to allow for lawful interception of private communications.
If lawful access becomes reality, Canada's telecommunications service providers (TSPs) will be required to refit their networks to allow for real-time interception of communications, to have the capability of simultaneously intercepting multiple transmissions, and to provide detailed subscriber information to law enforcement authorities without a court order within 72 hours.
Emphasis added. So what's the difference between this and allowing a wire tap without a court order?
The Minister of Industry, together with Liza Frulla, his Canadian Heritage counterpart, are also reportedly about to finalize new rules that may reshape the availability of Internet content to educational institutions. Acting on the recommendation of a parliamentary committee that was chaired by Toronto MP Sarmite Bulte, the government may soon unveil a new "extended license" that would require schools to pay millions of dollars for content that is currently freely available on the Internet.
While the committee recommendation excluded payment for content that is publicly available, it adopted the narrowest possible definition of publicly available, limiting it to only those works that are not technologically or password protected and which contain an explicit notice that the material can be used without prior payment or permission.
Allow me to quote myself. I wrote this when the idea for this "extended license" first surfaced.
The committee is so intent on ensuring and enforcing the monopolization of content that it would do so even in circumstances where the creators themselves want the content freely distributed and without the expectation of payment. The control mechanism for its own sake has become more important than the rights and intentions of the owners, which is what copyright is supposed to protect. By taking "the narrowest possible definition" they ensure the commercialization of the content and of the internet. Commercialization becomes the default position and the public domain be damned because there's no balance here between the rights of copyright owners and the rights of the public.
There's big money in the education market. This is legislation by lobby group.
And then there's this:
Moreover, those same ministers are also contemplating a new system that would allow content owners to file a complaint with an ISP if one of their subscribers has allegedly posted infringing content. Canada's rules for child pornography still require a court order before content is removed, yet if the Canadian Recording Industry Association and other well-funded interests get their way, the ISP will respond to a mere allegation of copyright infringement by "kicking the subscriber off the system."
With Canada conceivably ready to adopt rules that make it far easier to remove an allegedly infringing song than to remove dangerous child pornography from a new fee-based, surveillance-ready, packet preferenced Internet, it is difficult to overstate how out of touch our Internet policy process has become. Is this really what we want our Internet to be?
The Star article has more. I've just reproduced the most obvious pieces of insanity here. And none of these proposals are new but it seems like they're inching their way towards becoming legislation.