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Consumer-related Copyright Issues on the Internet of Things – A study of connected objects available to Canadian consumers

The digital economy provides both benefits and challenges for consumers. Take for example the increasingly connected nature of everyday objects, a major technological development that we call the Internet of Things (IoT). This new reality could give rise to a number of public policy issues. For copyright policy, the heart of the matter is related to the software embedded in connected objects, software that is protected by copyright.

To help better understand the challenges posed by the IoT to copyright law, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada asked Option consommateurs (OC) to do a study of connected objects sold to Canadian consumers.

To highlight issues that could impact Canadian consumers in the years to come, OC analysed legal documentation, such as end-user license agreements, from a sample of 22 connected IoT products sold to Canadian consumers.

This analysis identifies a number of copyright related restrictions, and brings to light several issues beyond copyright that merit consideration, such as issues related to competition, data portability and privacy.

In its final report financed by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, OC makes a number of recommendations, including that the Government of Canada consider public policy options in relation to the following:

  • labeling standards to help consumers locate and understand the terms on which they acquire and use IoT products and services;
  • open standards and protocols to facilitate interoperability across platforms;
  • integrate data portability and related issues with ongoing discussions about reforms to privacy laws and other aspects of the Digital Charter; and
  • take seriously the relevant recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee for revisions to the Copyright Act.