Saturday, April 13, 2019

Here's how to (legally) watch Game of Thrones live in Canada

On April 12, 2019, Chandler Walter wrote Here's how to (legally) watch Game of Thrones live in Canada.

I've not been shy over the years stating that I believe that Bell Canada is the largest contributory copyright infringer in Canada.  By blocking or making extremely inconvenient legal options for accessing streaming content in Canada, Bell's business practices have induced far more infringement than ISOHunt or any other the other alleged copyright villains ever have. You can abuse exclusive licenses to force audiences back in time to legacy cable television, or you can provide people legitimate options to pay for streaming content, but you can't do both.

This final season is the first year I'll be watching Game of Thrones when it is released, as this is the first year that Bell Canada has allowed Canadians to do so legally.  While Bell's Crave streaming service is inferior to all of the digital native streaming services like Netflix, Google YouTube/Play, or Amazon Prime video, it is at least legal streaming of content that Bell and it's analog-media partners have otherwise been blocking.

This year I gave up trying to watch the Arrow-verse (Arrow, Flash, Legends, Supergirl) as it is released, as I got tired of fighting with Canadian broadcasters.  While this is great scripted television made in Vancouver, I'll  wait until these show are available on digital native services.

While in the past it was legitimate to say "content is king", in the digital era of abundance this is now "convenience is king".  If Canadian producers want to have viewers and get paid, they need to make things convenient for people to access and pay.  Given how long they wish to delay the inevitable, that means not offering exclusive licensing deals to analog-era broadcasters or BDUs (cable companies).

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Imperialism of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

Whether it is SNC-Lavalin, CGI IncBCE Inc. (which owns Bell Canada) , or CBC, there is always a lot of flag-waving from lobbiests and defenders when these corporation are doing or saying things that corporations with different addresses of their headquarters would never get away with.

CBC President Catherine Tait's attempt to flag-wave recently went as far as to claim digital native companies were imperalists.

The problem with her analogy is that when it comes to post-convergence digital communications policy, it is representatives of analog-era companies like the CBC that are the foreign entities. Protecting the interests of Canadians from this imperalism is why I have called for a shift of funding away from the CBC to Canadian creators.

We need to put the policies which the CBC and Bell promote in a proper context.

Taxing Internet connectivity, or digital media distribution companies, to subsidize analog-era broadcasting is about as legitimate as putting a tax on salt in India.  While it is obvious why the foreign interests want natives to subsidize them, it should be recognized immediately as wrong.

Modern media distribution companies like Amazon and Netflix started with distribution of physical media: books in the case of Amazon (quickly moving to digital distribution with CD's and DVDs), and DVD's in the case of Netflix.  At that point nobody suggested that these content distribution companies should be subject to broadcast policy.  It is still the case that nobody suggests that Walmart, Costco, Best Buy, or the hundreds of other companies involved in the distribution of digital content on physical media should be thought of as if they had anything in common with broadcasters.

As these digital native content distributors added online distribution to their offerings, nothing changed that has anything to do with broadcasting and yet the analog-era broadcasters have been on the offensieve against digital natives for as long as Internet bandwidth has been sufficient to stream video.

You might ask why we haven't had digital native companies that are also headquartered in Canada.  To understand why this hasn't happened you only need to look at decades of successful flag-waving misdirection campaigns from the analog-era broadcasters and BDUs (cable/satellite/etc companies).  In 2002 they convinced parliament to pass a bill that would disallow a "new media retransmitter" the same exceptions to copyright which enable analog-era cable companies to exist.  If  iCraveTV and JumpTV had instead been appropriately embraced as the innovators that Canada desprarately needed, we would have had domestic new media companies long before Netflix launched in 2008.  Other than the additional bandwidth that currently exists today, what iCraveTV and JumpTV attempted to offer with their IPTV service wasn't technologically different to Bell Fibe TV.  What was different is that Bell is constantly able to get away with activities which would be considered illegal if other companies did it.

When Bell and the CBC make any complaints about Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Google (Play/YouTube) in Canada, we need to remember that it was the imperalist lobbying from Bell and CBC which blocked Canadian digital native companies from forming.   If we are to facilitate Canadian companies in this marketplace we need to provide assurances and incentives to protect digital natives from the imperalist broadcasters and BDUs.

I can only hope that blindly protecting the activities of Bell and CBC will eventually be as politically toxic as blindly protecting SNC-Lavalin has become.

Feels like Timothy Denton's Blog is relevant.

There appears to be an SNC-Lavalin-style relationship of telcos to government that needs further exploring and, if necessary, expunging.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Re: Bell Media and BBC Worldwide North America Sign Exclusive Multi-Platform Deal for DOCTOR WHO

The following was sent to the contacts listed on the Bell Media press release from 2016.

Ever since this deal it has been harder to legally stream Doctor Who in Canada. While previously offered episodes, it is now locked down and requires login via a legacy cable package. While Crave is mentioned for previous seasons after they were taken off of Netflix, a Crave subscription (even the add-on package) doesn't enable legal streaming of new episodes.

Bell finally folded HBO Canada into Crave to make that content available for legal streaming, and clearly it needs to do the same with SPACE rather than driving people away from legal streaming options.

I have been paying for the full seasons of Doctor Who through Google Play. Episodes are often late and in the case of the latest episode from New Years it didn't show up at all. I found the Google Play option on my own, and Space has been unwilling to even disclose this legal streaming option when asked multiple times. All legal options for Canadians should be advertised clearly on the website!

With the exclusive license comes a responsibility for Bell to protect Doctor Who copyright in Canada. You have been doing a horrible job and have been inducing infringement.

See also:

Monday, December 31, 2018

Goodbye 2018

I turned 50 at the end of March. I was very reflective around that time, starting to think about a future that might include retirement and pondering if I was currently where I wanted to be.

Adjusting to my new employer starting in April hasn't always been easy, as I continue to struggle with different ideas about where priorities should be when time is limited.  Over the years at Canadiana several projects were started without clear plans for completion or ongoing maintenance, and technological debt has built up.

Early in April my mother had a heart attack. Her birthday was April 14'th, and we didn't know if family was getting together for a birthday or a funeral.  When she managed to survive she was told she only had weeks or months to live - that it was unlikely she would see another Christmas.

My mother's health has been declining for years, and life became harder for her after my father's death in 2009.  Decembers had already been particularly hard for her since my sister died in 1989.

Relationships with parents have different stages, if you are lucky enough to experience all of them.  In the early years after you are born your parents take care of you, then there is a stage when everyone is adult and you care for each other, and in later years the roles reverse as the child takes care of the parent until their death.

While I have been doing my best to help my mother since my father's death, the relationship became much stronger since April.  While I wasn't able to travel to Sudbury in April, I was with her for 2 weeks in May and a week each month after.

As emotional as it was to become closer to someone I knew was near death, I am thankful I allocated the time.  I considered all the time since the heart attack to be extra visiting time, and extra time to help her get her affairs in order and be as ready for the next stage as one could become.

My mother died on August 19.

This December has been different.  For obviously reasons I have been doing a lot of reminiscing -- and the memories are fond memories.  I've been posting pictures from various Decembers on Facebook, including some from before I was born as I now have all the photographs my mother kept.

Over the summer I became closer to my mother's 4 sisters.  My mother has two sisters living near Sudbury who had already been helping her, and who continued to help me help my mother over the summer.  We continue to have family conversations with a closeness that I didn't have with them before this year.

I also had many other friends of mine and Rina's helping, including bringing me to their cottages for "canoe therapy" several times over the summer and into the fall. When times are hard you really appreciate these friendships.

The CRKN offices close between Christmas and New Years. This is different from past jobs and when I was self employed, and I realised that it hasn't been since university that I had this time completely off.  My management helped me through the summer by looking for ways to enable me to be with my mother for many weeks over the summer without having to buy vacation days.

I don't know what 2019 will bring, but as the stress of the last year winds down I'm hopeful.

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year.

Monday, April 30, 2018

My new job at the Canadian Research Knowledge Network (CRKN)

I started my new job at CRKN on Tuesday the 3'rd of April.  I sit at the same desk in the same cubicle as I did at Canadiana the week before, and have the same job title, but there are many differences in how I'll be doing my work.

See: CRKN and Merge as Combined Organization

One difference is how much interaction with members and the larger GLAM community will be part of my job.  Beyond system administration and software work, I will be participating on CRKN, CARL, LAC and other committees and working groups. It is now assumed that technical staff attend ACCESS each year (I had only been to one so far).  I believe we will have many other connections with our counterparts at other institutions at conferences throughout the year, as well as working on joint projects.

The primary committee advising CRKN's board about what the technical team will be working on is the Preservation and Access Committee.  The committee hasn't been launched yet, and is at the stage of collecting nominations for members until May 14.


This is the first posting that I'm using the CRKN label, and the last one I'll be using the label.  If you want to read past work related articles, please click on that tag.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Protecting copyright with blockchain?

I've been reading articles discussing how blockchain can be used to "protect" the interests of copyright and patent holders.  While I agree this technology would be helpful, we need to recognise that this is a philosophy of "protection" that is the opposite to technological measures such as encrypted media.

Blockchain provides a decentralised database technology, ensuring that records that have been added can't be faked, removed, etc without detection. While blockchain provides a level of authenticity and immutability.of the data not seen before, we are still talking about an enhanced database technology.

I've discussed the flaw in copyright law a few times, which is the outdated interpretation of Berne Article 5 used to claim that there can never be formalities with copyright such as registration.

Blockchain would be a great technology to use, along with modernisation of copyright law, to solve problems ranging from the orphaned works problem to the "not available for sale" problem which I believe is the root cause of a majority of copyright infringement.

Without the modernisation of copyright law, these technologies won't be all that helpful.  The technology would only provide a small benefit for copyright holders who are already visible, while the major problems in copyright law are with works where the copyright holders and licensing options have been kept hidden.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Budget 2018 Investment in Canadian Content a missed opportunity

I checked Federal Budget 2018 for new support of Canadian content creators.  What I found under the title of "INVESTING IN CANADIAN CONTENT" (Chapter 4) is disappointing, as it is media creation that continues the conflict of interest tie with the broadcast sector.

The CMF receives funding contributions from the Government of Canada, but it advertises as also receiving "contributions" from Canada’s cable, satellite and IPTV distributors (Broadcast Distribution Undertakings, or BDUs). 

CMF contributions are mandated by the CRTC, shouldn't be thought of as donations, and BDUs shouldn't be "thanked" for actually paying what they owe. CMF contributions should be thought of as a highly justifiable tax on BDUs as compensation to the public for the right-of-way and other privileges which BDUs have been granted by multiple levels of governments.  The CMF contributions page should only list the Government of Canada, with special taxes collected from BDUs being earmarked for small-screen content creation.

The problem with this money being seen as coming from BDUs is that the BDUs then believe they "own" this content and should have the right to deny this content being available from competing legal streaming services.

As discussed in my recent CRTC submission opposing "site" blocking, the business practices of the BDUs do not support the interests of content creators, and are all too often a form of contributory infringement.  A condition of CMF funding should be that the results be made available via legal streaming, at least simultaneously with any broadcast.  I am not suggesting that the content be free, but that all Canadians be given the right to pay without also needing to subscribe to any BDU or access via broadcasting.

While I welcome stable arts and cultural funding from any level of government, I do not consider an increase in funding of the CMF to be an example.  The appearance of a tie to BDUs ties that federal money to the ongoing battles that the BDUs are having with legal streaming services.  This prolongs the current instability.  The fact that (un)Fairplay contains a few vocal stockholm syndrome victims (creator groups who incorrectly believe the BDUs and broadcasters support their interests) suggests that this will continue to be a problem.

While I support the new STEM money for granting councils, it is unfortunate I didn't see new money for arts.  There is only a small mention under "Supporting Canada’s Official Languages".


I found no reference to the CBC, suggesting the federal contribution and policy surrounding the CBC is unchanged.

This is also unfortunate, as instead of the CBC being part of the solution to the problematic tie between the cultural industries and historic distributors, the CBC has continued to be part of the problem.

The CBC decided to sign onto the BDU's (un)Fairplay coalition.  While it might be nice to think of the CBC as creators who are only stockholm syndrome victims, I believe they are acting as a commercial broadcaster who sees the inevitable move away from broadcasting and BDUs as a threat.

I've proposed that the CBC be split up, with government funding only offered to content creation.  This splitting up would effectively be an increase in cultural sector funding, as the private sector broadcasting arm will fade away as broadcasting is replaced with streaming.  Having a more competitive private sector distribution market needing to bid on programming also drives up the cost of higher quality content, meaning more money for the content creators.


Intellectual Property


This term appears in the budget a few times. While there is a focus on patents, copyright policies can help or hinder the interests of the arts and cultural sectors.  Proposed legal clinics and increased literacy might help artists and other creators to harness (rather than be fearful of) new distribution mechanisms and technologies.

While an "intellectual property marketplace" was mentioned in the context of public sector-owned intellectual property, this is needed in the private sector as well.  I mentioned in my CRTC submission how hard it is for Canadian fans to find content on legal streaming services, and the need for public disclosure of exclusive content distribution licenses. An expansion on the concept of an "intellectual property marketplace" could go a long way to solving this problem with a publicly searchable database of private sector arts and culture.  This licensing transparency and creation of a functioning marketplace isn't something that can be left to the existing private sector distributors who have conflicting interests, and requires government intervention at least during the transition.