The Information Policy Blog

The (unofficial) blog of the BCLA Information Policy Committee

Category Archives: Uncategorized

Elizabeth Denham and Terms & Conditions May Apply – #MDD2013

Media Democracy Days 2013 was this past weekend in Vancouver and I was glad to be able to attend. In the IPC we’d talked a couple of months ago about trying to get together a screening of the film Terms & Conditions May Apply, and were happily pre-empted from that by the Media Democracy Project showing the movie at the Cinematheque on Friday night. Thanks

Before showing the movie though, Elizabeth Denham talked to the audience about her role as Information and Privacy Commissioner for the province of BC. It was a good talk, which highlighted some of the important reasons citizens should be concerned about their lack of privacy and how their rights are being protected.

Her main themes were transparency and accountability and how those principles are necessary for a democratic government to function. “Sunlight is the best disinfectant” was one of the phrases she used. This led into a discussion of how every scandal one can think of in government has an Access to Information angle to it. It’s the perception of secrecy by those people in power that messes everything up, because an informed citizenry knows you shouldn’t just rely on the goodwill of the folks making up whatever government is in power at any given time.

One of the things she discussed was how new democracies are so much better at enshrining laws about transparency and privacy regulation than older, more established democracies. When a country makes a constitution now, privacy rights are clearly seen as fundamental and get strong wording to protect them (in theory – she didn’t provide any specific examples).

The biggest concern Denham had for the future was the complacency of our citizens on privacy and transparency issues. keep these issues of privacy in the front of people’s minds. Even though no Canadian Snowden has dropped a bunch of CSEC powerpoint presentations in our laps there should still be a deep concern about the systematic collection of our personal data. Denham encouraged the audience to advocate and politicize this issue, and really, that’s something that librarians have every opportunity to do.

There is a real divide out there between people who have the technical knowledge to deal with privacy invasions and the people without that knowledge. We are out there working with people and their information habits every day. We need to be using the goodwill we create to try to correct the imbalance between what corporations and governments know about us and what we know about them. Denham talked about how important it was to pull back the curtain enshrouding these secret decisions.

The movie

Terms & Conditions May Apply is a movie about the things we agree to when we click through End User Licensing Agreements and how much information we are giving away to be used against us later. There were interviews with people from the EFF and the ACLU as well as with people held on pre-crime charges and the British guy who was banned from entering the US because he tweeted about how he was ready to go destroy America.

The movie was completed before Snowden and his big revelations about the NSA, but there was an added-on postscript mentioning it and how much that plays into the rest of the film.

It was a good documentary. If you’ve been immersing yourself in these types of issues there wasn’t a lot of really new stuff, but there was an ambush interview of Mark Zuckerberg, which was done well and used effectively. The weirdest part was that they had Orson Scott Card talking for a few sentences. Thankfully, it wasn’t about his thoughts on homosexuality, but it was a little weird.


BCCLA Sues Canadian Government to Stop Illegal Spying

Canada’s CSEC agency isn’t as well known as its American counterpart, the NSA, but the Snowden leaks have brought them into the spotlight for their spying efforts. This spying has many questionable aspects, including economic espionage on Brazil, but even more concerning (if you’re Canadian) is how little we know about their spying on Canadians.

Not everyone is content to assume that things can’t be that bad in Canada. The BC Civil Liberties Association has launched a lawsuit against the Canadian government because of CSEC’s unaccountable illegal spying. This is a huge precedent-setting deal.

OpenMedia is organizing the public awareness campaign around this, as they’ve done with the stop online spying initiative (which the IPC is proud to remind you BCLA has signed onto).

There is loads of information on their sites for you to familiarize yourself with the issues, and to support these people who are fighting the legal fight for our rights to live unsurveilled.

Watch this space for more of what librarians specifically can do to help (and feel free to make suggestions here, on Twitter or wherever else you feel moved to).

BCLA Campaign – Let Your MP Know How Important Libraries Are!

October is Library Month, and this year we’re asking you – yes, YOU! – to help us remind our government just how important libraries are to the civic and intellectual life of this country.

In response to the unprecedented and deeply troubling changes to Federal information policy in recent months, the IPC has organised a letter writing campaign to help you let your MP know how you feel about the issues – LAC, the closure of Federal libraries, the cancellation of the National Archival Development Program; the list goes on. There’s plenty to write about!

We’ve prepared a number of resources to help you get started, because nobody should feel that writing to their elected representatives is beyond their means or that they don’t have the power to make a difference.

To find out more, and to get involved, please check out the campaign website.

Thank you all in advance for supporting Canada’s libraries in this challenging time; it’s difficult to overstate what’s at stake. Please share widely.

A bit of perspective…

…Well, things are a bit rough with copyright in Canada, all the more so since it’s emerged that the TPP is likely to just erase all progress made under C-11 (more on this later), but it’s always good to keep things in perspective.

We could, for example, be staring down the barrel of this charming legislation from Panama, which would create a sort of extra-judicial copyright SWAT team with the discretionary power to levy fines in excess of CAD 100k whenever they feel like it…and keep all the fine money for themselves!

So, y’know, things could always be worse…

Access Copyright: “Post-Secondary Tariff Update”

What was that Žižek phrase? “First as tragedy, then as farce”? Sounds about right for describing the latest bizarre communication from Access Copyright, which bears a more-than-superficial resemblance to an adolescent cry for attention. The sentiment of the LIS community in reaction to this notice was perhaps best captured on twitter, where the hashtag #laughataccesscopyright trended for a few hours yesterday.

Referencing a recent spate of Supreme Court decisions which would seem to substantially do away with Access Copyright’s entire business model, one commentator aptly observed that “Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt”.

Now it’s a matter of waiting to see how the Copyright Board – and the Model Licence non-signatories – react.

Forthcoming IPC Virtual Salon: At the Intersection of Freedom of Information Legislation and 21st Century Libraries

Recording (Collaborate format) now available at

Now live! Join us at

Update: registration is now available, at:

Mark your calendar! This free IPC Virtual Webinar will be held on Friday, September 28, at noon PST. Registration details forthcoming soon. Details about the session and presenter:

Title: At the Intersection of Freedom of Information Legislation and 21st Century Libraries

In 1965 roughly 0.4% of the world’s population had a right to access information held by their governments. By the end of 2012, almost 80% of the world’s seven billion people will have such a right.

Recently Suzanne Legault, the Information Commissioner of Canada, announced a public consultation on the modernization of the Access to Information Act. This initiative marks the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of our federal freedom of information legislation. The recently adopted Code of Ethics of the International Federation of Library Associations (August 2012) recognizes the contribution that Canadian librarians and libraries can make to this consultation.

The timing seems right for librarians to discuss “What might be at the intersection of freedom of information legislation and 21st century libraries?”

In this presentation, Mark Weiler, (PhD, Simon Fraser University; MLIS candidate at the University of Western Ontario) will highlight the essential features of freedom of information legislation, challenge popular myths about using access laws (Myth: only journalists use it; Fact: businesses are the number one users of federal FOI legislation), provide examples of how to use access laws, and present concrete suggestions about how libraries and librarians might bring the benefits of FOI legislation to their communities.

ACTA is dead, IFLA & CLA advocate for fair copyright in the Trans Pacific Partnership, US calls for fair use in TPP


The European Parliament has overwhelmingly rejected the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), effectively killing ACT. Details from Michael Geist’s blog:

Falkvinge, founder of the first Pirate Party, describes the victory thus:
Today at 12:56, the European Parliament decided whether ACTA would be ultimately rejected or whether it would drag on into uncertainty. In a crushing 478-to-39 vote, the Parliament decided to reject ACTA once and for all. This means that the deceptive treaty is now dead globally.
– and links this victory to the huge anti-SOPA backlash.

VICTORY! ACTA suffers final, humiliating defeat in European Parliament


IFLA and 9 other library associations (including CLA) have issued a statement expressing concern at the Trans Pacific Partnership Intellectual Property Chapter:

The US has called for a fair use provision in the Trans Pacific Partnership – links and strategic comments thanks to Michael Geist:

CLA Press Release on Copyright Modernization Act

The Canadian Library Association has just issued a press release on the Copyright Modernization Act which just received royal assent.

IPC in the July 2012 BCLA Browser

The July 2012 BLCA Browser has just been released! Of particular interest for IPC:

Another awesome Browser! Here are direct links to the info policy committee related items:

Joseph Haigh’s Info Policy News: Access Copyright, Library and Archives Canada, and more:

News & Features – from the IPC – SLAIS Partnership:

Devin Soper – Bill C-11: a guide for academic instructors

Anna Christine Hurrell – Open access policies on scholarly publishing in the university context

Shannon Mills – Censorship issues in school libraries


Carla Graebner Round-up: 2012 Annual Gathering of Librarians Interested in Government and Legal Information

Many of the other articles are very interesting from an info policy perspective too!


Heather Morrison
Co-Chair, Information Policy Committee
IPC blog:
Twitter: @BCLA_InfoPolicy

Caledon Institute of Social Policy saves welfare incomes and poverty profile

Thanks to the Caledon Institute of Social Policy for picking up some of the important social data dropped by the Harper government

The following excerpt from the announcement is a useful analysis of what we have lost:

Saving Welfare Incomes and Poverty Profile


Ken Battle and Sherri Torjman, June 2012


Information is under attack in Ottawa.  The controversial decision in 2010 to axe the long-form Census grabbed media headlines and sparked a whirlwind of opposition from a wide range of social and economic organizations and researchers across Canada.

One of the more insidious results of cutting the long-form Census is that other incredibly important surveys – including the Labour Force Survey and Survey of Household Spending upon which the Consumer Price Index is based – no longer have available the gold standard that the complete Census provided in order to calibrate their estimates.

Key social statistics are gone or have been disappeared.