Columns Archive

H is for Hackers: An A to Z Guide to Cyberlaw in 1999

With a new millennium nearly upon us, I offer an A to Z look back at this year in cyberlaw in Canada:

A is for Air Miles, which inadvertently placed the private data of thousands of its users on the Internet.

B is for Gregory Barrett, an Ontario man who had the dubious distinction of being the first person in the world charged with criminal libel arising from Web activity. The case is scheduled for trial early in 2000.

C is for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, which, to the relief of many, ruled in May that it would not regulate the Internet (for now).

D is for Desktop Technologies, a Pennsylvania-based company that sued Colorworks Reproduction and Design, a Vancouver company, for the domain name The Canadian company won the lawsuit but subsequently filed for bankruptcy.

E is for eBay, the popular on-line auction site that spurred a lawsuit by a Red Deer, Alta., woman over the sale of damaged Barbie dolls.

F is for filters, which can be used to censor or block on-line content. Great if you're a concerned parent, but more troubling if used in public spaces such as libraries, the scene of several debates on the issue across Canada this past year.

G is for the Guidelines on Consumer Protection in E-Commerce released in early November.

H is for hackers, who grabbed headlines year-round by repeatedly breaking into government Web sites.

I is for, the upstart Toronto-based Webcaster that infuriated broadcasters in Canada and the United States by offering live Internet broadcasts of numerous television stations.

J is for Jean-Pierre Bazinet, the 20-year-old Ottawa native who faced demands from Universal Studios to remove any links from his site to that of the movie company. He eventually complied, leaving many to question the legal status of Web linking.

K is for John Kostiuk, the B.C. defendant in an Internet libel suit that proved to be the country's first major legal pronouncement on Internet jurisdiction.

L is for labour actions, of which there were many involving the Internet. The most important may well have been a decision by the Canadian Industrial Relations Board which ruled that CITY-TV's Internet workers were entitled to join the union representing the company's "traditional" broadcast workers.

M is for metatags, which fuelled a dispute between on-line bookselling rivals Chapters Online Inc. and Indigo Online Inc. When Indigo learned that Chapters had placed the term Indigo within its metatags — the hidden words or phrases in Web sites that are picked up by search engines — it threatened legal action. Chapters quickly relented and removed the term from its site.

N is for netiquette, which an Ontario judge ruled carried legal weight in a spam decision handed down over the summer.

O is for on-line gambling, which a Mohawk tribe announced it would launch next year.

P is for privacy legislation, which changed from Bill C-54 to Bill C-6 and then stalled in the Senate late in the year, setting the stage for further parliamentary battles on the issue in 2000.

Q is for Quebec language requirements, imposed on an English-only site maintained by Quebec photographer Mike Calomiris.

R is for Michael Rudder, the losing party in Canada's first clickwrap (a type of Internet contract) case. At issue was the validity of the Microsoft Network's service contract. In October, an Ontario court ruled that customers were bound by the terms of the contract when they clicked the "I Accept" icon.

S is for spam legislation, which the federal government rejected as unnecessary.

T is for Tariff 22, the Copyright Board of Canada's long-awaited decision on Internet royalties.

U is for the Uniform Electronic Commerce Act, which passed through the Uniform Law Conference of Canada process and now awaits enactment at the provincial level. Saskatchewan took the lead in this regard by proposing E-commerce legislation in mid-December.

V is for Shaine Virani, a B.C. resident being sued for libel for distributing an E-mail message to four people.

W is for the World Stock Exchange, the target of an Alberta Securities Commission hearing into on-line securities violations occurring offshore.

X is for anonymity (as in X marks the spot), which Canadian software maker Zero-Knowledge Systems claimed it could provide through its Freedom browser.

Y is for the Yellow Pages, which Bell Actimedia sought to defend in bringing a trademark infringement action over the domain name .

Z is for Ernst Zundel, whose on-line hate speech case brought by the Human Rights Commission was stayed by a federal court.

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