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Logic Board: Bye, Bye, BlackBerry


Photo by Eric Leamen

Logic Board is a recurring column that examines the biggest news stories and controversies in the technology industry with a rational, logical eye.

Earlier this week, BlackBerry announced that it had accepted a conditional buyout offer from Toronto-based Fairfax Financial, valuing the company at $4.7 billion and effectively putting an end to one of the longest and hardest falls any tech company has ever taken.

I’ve seen a number of different sentiments expressed over this news. Those in the tech industry are none too surprised that BlackBerry as we once knew it is going away. Some users are disappointed at the news that BlackBerry will retreat from the consumer market, instead choosing to focus on the only markets it has left: enterprise and government. Others are curious what value Fairfax Chief Executive Prem Watsa sees in BlackBerry, which reported an operating loss of nearly $1 billion in the last quarter Continue reading

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I am Canadian, a reply to Bell’s open letter


Bell began its life in Canada as a branch plant of an American company; in a strange twist of fate, it’s now a descendant of National Bell Telephone – Verizon – which is contemplating (re)entering the Canadian market. And they leveraged this relationship to get an early leg up on the competition – using patents owned by its American parent, Bell quickly monopolized the market for Canadian telephone services, a monopoly it used to funnel profits back to the States.

Klass knocks Bell down a peg in this wonderful response to CEO George Cope’s Open Letter to Canadians. For our American readers, you may not have heard that Verizon Wireless is rumored to be entering the Canadian wireless market. As a Canadian, I welcome any competition with the hope that Verizon could put pressure on our incumbents to lower plan prices and offer better value to Canadian consumers. Our major carriers – Bell, Rogers, and Telus – have begun a nationwide advertising campaign complaining about Verizon’s “unfair” entry into our country. While Verizon can capitalize on certain “loopholes” meant for new, small wireless carriers (such as WIND and Mobilicity, two small Canadian carriers apparently targeted for acquisition by Verizon), the bottom line is that we need more competition in Canada. Wireless prices in our country are too high and offer little value for the price – many “base level” smartphone plans in the $50 range include tiny 150 megabyte data allotments. Our Big Three are simply trying to protect their own interests. It’s time for change.

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SOPA Outside The U.S.: What it Means for The Rest of The World

If you’ve been online today, you have no doubt come to discover that one of your favorite sites has gone offline – blacked out in protest of two controversial pieces of legislation known as SOPA and PIPA that are currently working their way through the United States Congress and Senate. SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, and PIPA, the Protect-IP Act, were proposed as a measure to thwart the growing online piracy problem. But make no mistake: while combatting piracy is a good thing, SOPA and PIPA are not. They are fundamentally flawed.

The premise is this: the American entertainment industry wants the ability to shut down foreign sites dedicated to piracy, those that supply illegal downloads of movies, TV shows, music, and the like. Sounds alright so far: piracy is illegal, and it should be stopped. Now here’s where the controversy comes in. To go about this, the United States Government will have to take measures within its own borders, as they can not act outside of their jurisdiction. To begin, PIPA would give the U.S. Government the ability to demand that ISP’s block infringing domain names (DNS blocking), so that American citizens would be unable to access sites promoting piracy, or those so much as accused of promoting piracy. Secondly, the government would take action against American-based sites that “promote” piracy in the form of links or other ties to these infringing sites. This is censorship. Blocking sites that the government and the media companies don’t like. It starts with piracy, but censorship is a slippery slope, and the language used in these pieces of legislation is vague, almost as if it were created to be abused. In addition, the government would be able to force U.S. based advertisers and payment providers to cancel the accounts of these foreign piracy websites.

To those of us who live outside of the United States, SOPA and PIPA may not seem like a threat. But what we need to realize is that SOPA and PIPA will affect us, and while this starts in the United States, it will spread.

This subtitle has been censored.
PIPA and SOPA will not stop piracy. There are ways around DNS blocking, and piracy will persist. In truth, the entertainment companies already have the power to fight piracy. They can get a video taken off of YouTube. They can sue companies using their intellectual property without permission. SOPA and PIPA were created to give the media companies the ability to target and take-down previously untouchable foreign piracy sites by blocking their domain and cutting off their revenue. But it includes loopholes that, when abused (consciously or not), would allow the government to effectively censor the internet. This effect would be far-reaching, and would have global ramifications.

Say goodbye to your favourite sites.
To an uninformed judge, social networks like YouTube, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and SoundCloud might seem like they support piracy due to the amount of copyrighted content that appears on their respective websites. And under SOPA, a website is responsible for any content its users upload, and the government could block any site that contains even one infringing link. Sites such as these would constantly have to worry about the content their users are uploading, posting, and sharing. This is a huge legal burden to carry, and social networks and other similar online sharing services would find it impossible to exist with laws like SOPA and PIPA in place. Those of us outside the U.S. would have to say goodbye to our favorite sites.

Attacking foreign competition.
SOPA and PIPA were designed to allow American media companies to attack foreign websites that “infringe copyright”. However, it is no stretch to imagine that American media companies will target international competition, abuse the limits of SOPA and PIPA by claiming copyright infringement, and get these sites blocked from the internet. With no American business coming in, and payments from America blocked, these foreign companies will suffer, having never violated any domestic or international law.

Monkey see, monkey do.
Don’t think this will stop in America; there are equally large and powerful entertainment companies around the globe. If the United States can pass internet censorship laws like SOPA and PIPA, intellectual property protection will become a major part of U.S. foreign policy, and you better believe other countries will follow suit. The internet will look different in every country, and free expression online will cease to exist. Think about how much closer together the world is now that we can all communicate online? Now imagine if that went away? There are government’s out there that will abuse this power far worse than the United States would.

In short, SOPA and PIPA will do a lot of damage to the internet, both in the United States and abroad. We need to stop this, and we can make a difference. Do your part and fight for a free and equal internet!