Thursday, December 13, 2007

Ontario government gives LSIFs one more year

In its 2007 Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review, the Ontario government announced that it will extend the LSIF tax credit one more year to 2011. The current 15% credit will now continue until 2009 before the credit is reduced 5% each year, vanishing entirely for the 2012 tax year.

The government is also boosting to $7,500 the amount that you can invest in an LSIF and qualify for the tax credit, up from the current $5,000. It says this "will provide an estimated $38 million in additional financial support to the industry over three years."

That may be an optimistic figure, but it's a bit of a reprieve for the LSIF industry. They must see that as a good sign since hardly anyone took up their cause during the election, and Roger Martin's Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity in its recent annual report [PDF] implored the government not to back down on the phase-out of the tax credit (and even to speed it up).

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Government delays onerous IP legislation ... for now

Responding to a wave of protest from across the country, the federal government has decided not to introduce its U.S.-DMCA-styled legislation -- at least not today.

The legislation was a product of some intense lobbying, particularly from the U.S. This would be the country that gave us NTP vs RIM and which recently fined a woman US$220,000 for having 24 songs in a shared folder on her computer. Yes, they're now lecturing Canada on our IP laws, trying to keep the 21st century at bay for as long as possible under the guise of being anti-theft. This lobby even managed to get the Ontario Chamber of Commerce to endorse its position.

Fortunately, the pro-legislation lobby has been overwhelmed over the last few days by critics, which include many high-profile members of Canada's high-tech community. It's a story that's been gaining momentum in the media as the outrage has built throughout the country.

It's way too early to think of this as a victory -- the legislation could still be introduced later this week or some other time soon.

Meanwhile, Michael Geist's Facebook group, Fair Copyright for Canada, has now grown to more than 15,000 members, including several names that will be familiar to people in Waterloo tech circles.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Hamilton chamber gets it right

Kudos to the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce for doing what the Greater K-W Chamber should have done but didn't. Michael Geist reports that the Hamilton Chamber has dissociated itself from the Ontario Chamber of Commerce's call for far-reaching and onerous new intellectual property legislation -- a call that was largely based on dubious claims and fabricated data.

Unfortunately, it's looking like the federal government is about to introduce U.S.-DMCA-style legislation to Canada. Like the PR pros they are, lobbyists for these additional laws like to refer to "piracy" and "counterfeiting" -- who would defend activities with those labels? (Johnny Depp fans, maybe.) For people who only read headlines and lead paragraphs, intellectual property protection sounds like something to support. It's only when you go deeper that you see the oppressive measures some lobbyists are championing. Michael Geist's blog is a great resource if you want to dig deeper, and the Facebook group he created -- Fair Copyright for Canada -- has links to other blogs and websites with informative content.

On a related subject ... Matthew Ingram writes that the Songwriters Association of Canada is asking the government to pass legislation that would tax everyone in Canada $60 a year per Internet account, with this money somehow to be split between music "creators and rights holders." In return, there would be no threat of legal action against people sharing music for personal use in Canada as P2P file sharing would be explicitly permitted.

On the one hand, I suppose I can commend the SAC's efforts to create an environment where P2P filesharing is an accepted practice while, at the same time, artists are compensated for their work. But they quickly lose my support -- a mandatory, government-collected $60 a year charge to every Internet account is not the way to go about achieving those goals.

And it was disappointing to see bogus statistics yet again being quoted to support this position. The SAC even provides footnotes, but in this case it just makes it easier to see how weak its "facts" are. One line that grabbed my attention said that "Virtually every song ever recorded is available through P2P file sharing (more than 79 million recordings)." A careful reading of the footnotes revealed that both claims in that sentence are misrepresentations of the cited source material (which, in one case, seems only to be one person's off-the-cuff commentary). And those aren't even the worst examples. Just more made-up statistics and phoney facts that will no doubt be repeated many times.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Chamber's counterfeiting gaffe

It was disappointing to see the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce's misguided endorsement of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce "Protection of Intellectual Property" [PDF] report, issued this morning.

Protection of IP might sound like something non-contentious, but this report is filled with misrepresentation and fabrication and makes the OCC look like a stooge for the copyright lobby.

Chambers of commerce usually like to make themselves out to be champions of smaller government, but the OCC is lobbying for significant increases in government power and bureaucracy, along with additional layers of legislation -- all in response to a problem it defines with made-up statistics.

As Michael Geist writes, "With today's report, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce has done little more than embarrass itself and its members."

Can Windsor use a non-snub to energize a focus on innovation?

OMG, did you hear? There's a new $100 million "Innovation SuperCorridor" initiative from the province introduced in the budget...