Canadian law students gear up to fight the record biz

I got some e-mail the other day from Andy Kaplan-Myrth, a law student at
the University of Ottawa. Andy wrote to
tell me that The Information Technology Law
at his university and the University of Windsor's IP/IT society “have launched a
project that aims to bring together from across Canada law students and
practitioners interested in helping people who are targeted” by the record

Just as the Recording Industry
Association of America
has sued individuals in the U.S. it believes are
illegally trading music files, the Canadian
Recording Industry Association
has threatened to sue file traders
in Canada. CRIA, if you ask its representatives, is a bit evasive on
details. U.S. law, for example, is significantly different than Canadian
law. There is no Canadian version of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act.
Moreover, the Copyright Board of Canada has ruled that it is perfectly legal
to make a single copy for personal use of a recording you own. In the U.S.,
any and all copying is illegal. So: We don't know what statutes CRIA will
cite if and when it sues Canadian file traders.

CRIA is also very quiet
when it comes to deciding when to file these lawsuits.
But whenever it happens, some Canadian law students plan to stand up for the
defendants through the the Canadian
File-sharing Legal Information Network

“CanFLI is meant to be a public advocacy project,” Kaplan-Myrth says,
“,collecting and making available information that can help ordinary people
who are sued by CRIA. At this point, CanFLI is agnostic on questions of
digital copyright reform and the likes. Rather, we want to make sure
Canadians get due process, can find lawyers who want to take on these cases,
and are informed about Canadian copyright law and Canadian procedure.”
An admirable mission that we hope makes it a little bit more of a fair fight when one of those most poweful industries in the world goes after its customers.

Wi-fi in Canada

Folks who read this blog are (I hope) already up to speed on the wonders of wi-fi. But not everyone is so hip as you and I, dear reader. So we must spread the news, evangelize for all things high-speed and wireless. Happily, I have a great big soapbox for just this use called CTV National News, watched, I'm told, by as many as a million Canadians each evening. So, before Christmas, I whipped up an item for the newscast that could tell all those who had not yet heard that Wi-Fi was sure to be the Next Big Thing. Mind you, in one minutes and 50 seconds, there's not much more you could do other than sketch out some broad strokes and, with any luck, get viewers interested in this thing called Wi-Fi. The piece finally aired on Sunday night last. The link to watch the piece is under the Related Video section right here. It features Mark Wolinsky, co-CEO of hotspot provider Spotnik Mobile and Kirk Moir, CEO, of InMotion Technology, a provider of in-vehicle Wi-Fi access.

Newspapers are where it's at: Publisher

I tend to agree with Mr Honderich here. Whether on the Web or on dead trees,
a top newspaper brand is a reference point or a hub for other media,
electronic media, broadcast media, new media, and alternative media. In
other words, newspapers still have a powerful agenda-setting role that all
the indie media outlets, blogs and alternative journals in the world don't
seem to be able to change.
What all those alternatives do that is new, though, is challenge the agenda
of those media hubs, those top newspaper brands.

Newspapers Thriving in Electronic Era
Newspapers are becoming the sole mass medium, particularly for advertising, as television becomes more and more fragmented, claims Toronto Star publisher John Honderich.

The young and the newsless

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has an article trying to explain why those aged 18 to 30 are tuning out the mainstream media. “Kids don't “even vaguely connect to guys like Peter Jennings and Dan Rather,” says the producer of Dennis Miller's CNBC show. “If you're 18, who are you going to trust? Dan Rather or Jon Stewart?” I'd like to see someone explain the connection between this disconnected, newsless group and their pathetic voting records. Prior to the vote in Iowa, Howard Dean was seen as someone who was energizing the party and attracting a whole new group of young voters, people who had never even voted in an election before, let alone participated in a political movement. And yet, when it came down to it, the traditional political machinery (particularly unions who could deliver voters by the busload) was able to get voters out, to the benefit of the more traditional candidates, Kerry and Edwards. So why don't young people, who are crying for change in so many alternative media vote? Has no one explained to them that bad governments are elected by good citizens who don't vote?

Canada tops in per capita Internet use

Canada, the United States and South Korea have the highest proportions of Internet users among  13 countries surveyed by pollster Ipsos-Reid.  Canada led the way with 71 per cent of adults surveyed reporting they had gone online at least once in the 30 days prior to the survey.  Canada's estimated Internet population is 16 million people. South Korea was second with 70 per cent of its adult population online. The U.S. was third with 68 per cent of adults online.

Politics and the Web — in Canada

A lot of those “Smart People” listed over there on the right have talked a lot on their blogs about Howard Dean, the U.S. Democratic primaries, and blogs. We're just starting to do the same thing here in Canada as the race to lead the new Conservative Party of Canada heats up. My Globe and Mail article this morning is a first stab at that. In it, I asked some Web design and communications experts to take a look at the site for, in alphabetical order, Tony Clement, Stephen Harper, and the latest entrant  in the race Belinda Stronach. They are each very different sites and Belinda's is the only one with a blog.

Conrad Black, ex-media baron

Conrad Black agreed to sell his stake today in Hollinger Inc., the Toronto-based holding company whose sole significant asset is a controlling stake in Hollinger International Inc. of Chicago. Hollinger International is the operating company which controls the The Daily Telegraph, the Jerusalem Post, the Chicago Sun-Times, and other papers.
Today's decision by Lord Black to sell caps a remarkable weekend of events. On Friday, Hollinger International — which is controlled by Black — sues Black and his associates alleging that $200-million (U.S.) was “usurped” from the company. Then on Saturday, Hollinger International fires Black from his job as non-executive vice-chairman.
Lots of ink to be spilled on this in tomorrow's papers. Dan Gillmor believes Conrad Black could be an all-time corporate malefactor.
I've got a piece on this on tonight's CTV National News and the plan tonight is that I'll be on Canada AM shortly after 8 am (9 am in Atlantic Canada andn 9:30 am in Nfld but 8 am everywhere else in Canada) talking about this. My colleagues at our online unit have a story on this up here.

Absolutely remarkable!! — Hollinger International fires Black and sues him!

Remarkable developments in the Conrad Black saga late this evening —
Today, the Globe and Mail and the Post had front page stories — front page !! —
about a judge basically ordering Black out of the kitchen while a special
independent committee ofHollinger International Inc. directors looked over
the books. Hollinger International Inc., everyone will remember, owns the
Daily Telegraph, the Sun-Times, the Jerusalem Post and other newspapers. The controlling shareholder of Hollinger International Inc., which is based in
Chicago, is Hollinger Inc. of Toronto. Black is the controlling shareholder
of Hollinger Inc. So, in essence, Black holds all the marbles when it comes
to Hollinger International Inc.
And yet, late this evening, Hollinger International's executive committee fired (!!!) Blackas its non-executive chairman.
Moreoever, Black is being sued by his own company (!!!) which alleges that Black and David Radler (and companies they control, including Hollinger Inc.) “diverted and usurped” more than $200-million in Hollinger International assets.
The stories are hitting the wires now.
This scandal could swamp Martha Stewart.

HUMOUR: Investment tips for 2004

This was passed my way by one of CTV's business editors:
2004 could be the year to get in on the ground floor of these mergers, sure
to be big money-makers:

  • Hale Business Systems, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Fuller Brush, and W. R. Grace
    Co. will merge and become: Hale, Mary, Fuller, Grace.

  • Polygram Records, Warner Bros., and Zesta Crackers join forces and
    become: Poly, Warner Cracker.

  • 3M will merge with Goodyear and issue forth as: MMMGood.
  • Zippo Manufacturing, Audi Motors, Dofasco, and Dakota Mining will merge
    and become: ZipAudiDoDa.

  • FedEx is expected to join its major competitor, UPS, and become: FedUP.
  • Fairchild Electronics and Honeywell Computers will become: Fairwell

  • Grey Poupon and Docker Pants are expected to become: Poupon Pants.
  • Knotts Berry Farm and the National Organization of Women will become:
    Knott NOW!

Mitigating media concentration

I've been participating on the listserv of the Canadian Association of Journalists for many
years now. I've found it a great place to argue about stuff. Here's
something I posted recently in a debate that started off with one
listmember's question about the health of public broadcasters in Canada. One
response to that question contained a line that the CBC helps “mitigate media concentration” in
Cannada. That's an observation I took issue with:

My wife grew up in Nipigon, Ontario, a small pulp mill town on Lake
Superior's north shore. I grew up in Guelph, a university town in southern
Ontario. When we were kids, during the 1960s and 1970s, there was precisely
one television station in both Nipigon and Guelph that came in over the air
— CBC. I suspect it was like that across the country. If you turned on the
TV, you turned on CBC. In fact, you turned on CBC and listened to
journalists in Toronto tell you what was going on in your world, even if you
lived 1500 km away in Nipigon.

CBC wasn't mitigating any problem of ownership concentation then; it
was the problem.

Now, my children are growing up with three national television networks,
which find their way into the vast majority of homes in Canada. And where
only one is available, you can bet it will be CBC, as that is that
broadcaster's mandate. If anything, the private networks are mitigating
CBC's media dominance.

In addition to three national network television news programs, my children
can subscribe to cable (available in almost every urban setting in Canada
and, where it isn't, can choose — choose, I said, choose! — from satellite
dish companies) where you can find not only two 24-hour Canadian news and
current affairs networks but also current affairs programming produced for
and by Canada's aboriginal people. There's also ROBTV, TSN, SportsNet, and
MuchMusic, and StarTV for those who like current affairs of a particular

Didn't have that kind of diversity and choice when I was growing up, I can
tell you. Nope: It was the CBC or nothin' was on.

My children can also choose between two national newspapers, both of which,
thanks to advances in printing press technology, contain significant amounts
of news and information written by journalists in my region about my region.
Just had one when I was growing up and all you got in it was news from
Ottawa or Toronto, no matter where you lived in the country.

And the Internet — full of instant chats, photo blogs, e-mail, and Web
pages means they'll always have alternative sources to complement their
traditional media consumption.

So it seems to me impossible to say Canadians do not have a much more
diverse and rich media environment than it did when the Kent Commission was
holding its meetings and I was building tree forts in my backyard.

And it also seems a bit much to say the CBC, the country's single largest
newsgathering organization and which is still the only news provider in many
markets it serves, is helping to mitigate a problem when all these other
media assets sprang up largely to mitigate the problem that was CBC.

I say all this as an employee of a private network who nonetheless is a fan
of CBC and believes the federal government should give it more money and
strengthen its role.

As I continue to argue: We are blessed in Canada — as they are not in the
U.S. — with an independent, professional, award-winning group of
journalists who can exist and do their work largely without funds from ad
sales but which do rely on politicians for their money. This would be the
CBC but Balint should also be reminded of the great current affairs
programming that TVO does in Ontario. There
is another group of journalists who do similarly excellent work. Their bills
are paid through the sale of ads but (by and large) they rely on no
government support. Together, these groups — publicly funded journalists
and privately funded journalists can be a nice balance and foil to each

What we should be doing is trying to strengthen the independence of both
kinds of those organizations. CBC should be given more money and it should
be doled out in a way that reduces the impact a capricious and spiteful
politician could have on the Corp.. Similarly, private sector media
organizations should be given the ability to become stronger as well. The
simplest way to do this would be to remove ownership restrictions on certain
private sector media assets. If the Times
of London
and The Daily
can flourish and fulfill their “national” editorial missions
even when owned by an Australian and a (nominal)
, surely The Globe and
or the National Post
could continue to be just as 'Canadian” if owned by someone who is not a