A federal court judge has fined Vortek Systems, a Montreal-based electronics retailer, nearly one million dollars for failing to pay the private copying levy. The company was ordered to turn over the unpaid levy amounts ($1.65 million plus interest) along with a penalty of just over $900,000. Vortek denied that […]
Archive for March, 2006
Rob Hyndman has a great posting on the CRTC’s Commercial Radio Review. With more than a hundred groups and individuals commenting so far (the overwhelming majority of which are not posted online, at least for now), I get the sense that the May hearings will be pure theatre with each […]
Earlier this week, I wrote an article on the role of government and Internet connectivity. The NY Times runs a pair of stories today on the South Korean experience with active government involvement in technology. With the country a world leader in cellphone technology and people able to watch reasonable […]
The UK Court, Queen’s Bench division issued an important decision on the liability of Internet service providers late last week. Unlike the U.S., which established statutory immunity for intermediaries where they simply provide the forum for publication, Commonwealth countries such as the UK, Canada, and Australia still rely on common law principles leaving some question about the standard of liability for intermediaries for allegedly defamatory content posted on their sites.
Bunt v. Tilley involved an attempt to hold AOL, Tiscali, and British Telecom liable for allegedly defamatory postings. The claimant relied on the Godfrey v. Demon Internet case to argue that the court could hold the ISPs liable. That case has generated concern among ISPs in Canada as it does hold out the prospect for liability. The court was clearly uncomfortable with that decision, however, issuing a decision that was generally sympathetic to the ISPs.
In particular, the court concluded that "an ISP which performs no more than a passive role in facilitating postings on the internet cannot be deemed to be a publisher at common law." That is the good news as it provides some comfort to ISPs who can rely on this case to argue that they are not liable for doing nothing more than hosting content.
My weekly Law Bytes column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) picks up on Toronto Hydro’s announcement last week of its plans to blanket the City of Toronto with wireless Internet access. I note that the announcement has sparked an important debate about the appropriate role for governments and public institutions in providing Internet connectivity, which comes on the heels of the CRTC’s recent decision to distribute $652 million to major telecommunications providers such as Bell and Telus to help defray the costs of implementing high-speed connectivity in rural Canadian communities.
These developments place the spotlight squarely on a critical question for new Conservative Industry Minister Maxime Bernier – what, if anything, should government do about Internet connectivity?
The starting position for a Conservative government might well be to argue that government has a very limited role to play here, concluding that this is strictly a marketplace issue and that the private sector has plenty of incentives to develop networks for consumer use.
Given the Web’s importance, I argue that government cannot adopt a hands-off approach, though it must recognize that its role differs in the urban and rural markets.