A couple of interesting posts from Michael Geist (michaelgeist.ca, I’m posting from work again) in recent days have illuminated a few issues pertinent to Canadian internet policy.
First, I learned (since I don’t listen to CBC’s online radio) that the CBC has taken a shortsighted decision to use Windows Media to stream its content. The reason for using WM (besides some technical issues outlined on the CBC’s blog) seems to be the ability to implement DRM on those streams, as opposed to mp3 streams, for example. This fails the CBC’s mandate to be accessible to all Canadians because it restricts availability to Windows users only. I would much rather the CBC simply refuse to play any content from any licensor that requires DRMed streams. This would also force it to play more independent content, which would do much more to promote Canadian content because, as Geist points out, most new Canadian content is coming out of independent labels. To me, it seems like a choice between acquiescing to the demands of large foreign labels at the expense of promoting Canadian content, and is inappropriate for a publicly funded institution like the CBC.
Second, unlike in the United States, there exists little protection for websites that host third party content, such as comments, against allegations of defamatory content. This negatively impacts freedom of speech by allowing certain parties to compel ISPs or website owners to remove content that is questionably defamatory. It also puts the legal resposibility for such content on those who did not create the content, which, as a matter of principle, is repugnant; rather like going after MySpace for facilitating the activities of sexual predators instead of going after the sexual predators themselves. The fear is that this omission from Canadian law curtails legitimate criticism and will force websites and ISPs to stifle free speech on their internet properties over untenable legal threats.