Columns Archive

Canadian Tech Law in 2005 From A to Z

Appeared in the Toronto Star on December 26, 2005 as Apple to Zundel, the Year in Tech Law

As 2005 comes to a close, my annual A to Z review of the year in Canadian law and technology reveals a remarkably busy twelve months.  From legislative proposals involving copyright, network surveillance, and Internet pharmacies to case law focused on popular consumer products such as the Apple iPod and the Lego brand of toy blocks, there were few dull moments this past year.

A is for the Apple iPod, which the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed in July would not be subject to the private copying levy when it declined to hear an appeal of a case involving copyright levies on digital audio players. In response to concerns that the decision rendered consumer copying of music from store-bought CDs to iPods unlawful, the Canadian Recording Industry Association undertook not to launch any lawsuits over such copying.

B is for Paul Bryan, a British Columbia resident who unsuccessfully challenged the constitutionality of the Canada Election Act’s prohibition on Internet disclosures of election results before polls close nationwide.  In December, the Supreme Court of Canada agreed to hear an appeal of the decision sometime in 2006.

C is for a handful of technology law bills introduced in 2005 in the House of Commons including Bill C-60 (digital copyright), Bill C-74 (lawful access), and Bill C-83 (Internet pharmacies).  All three bills died on the order paper with the late November election call.

D is for the do-not-call list, legislation which the Senate passed just minutes before closing down for the election.  Critics expressed skepticism about the bill’s effectiveness after lobby groups succeeded in obtaining a broad range of exceptions. 

E is for education and copyright, the source of a heated public relations battle between education groups and copyright collectives. The government had promised a fall public consultation on the issue that never materialized.

F is for file sharing litigation, which continued with CRIA’ s appeal of a lower court decision denying a demand to compel five ISPs to disclose the identity of 29 alleged file sharers. The Federal Court of Appeal affirmed the denial, though it opened the door to future lawsuits.

G is for the Gomery Report and the failed publication ban on Jean Brault’s testimony.  Within hours of his inquiry appearance, details on the testimony were posted on the Internet by a U.S. blogger.
H is for Harry Potter and the Raincoast Books injunction that ordered 13 purchasers to return their copies and prohibited reading the best seller before its official distribution date.

I for Internet telephony and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission May decision that left software-based services such as Skype unregulated, yet determined that incumbent telecommunications providers would be subject to regulatory oversight.  Several providers asked the government to review the decision.

J is for a threatened lawsuit by the Jehovah’ s Witnesses’ Watch Tower Society against a Toronto-based website owner who posted excerpts of religious texts online. The Society claims copyright and trademark infringement, arguing that the postings were meant to embarrass the Society.

K is for keystroke logging, an invasive technology that enables employers to track their employees’ computer use.  In June, Alberta Privacy Commissioner Frank established limits on the use of the technology after a library employee filed a complaint.
L is Lego, which lost a Supreme Court of Canada decision over whether it could use trademark law to stop Mega Blocks, a Canadian toy manufacturer, from replicating its toy building blocks.  The Canadian high court rejected Lego’s arguments, warning against over-protective intellectual property laws.

M is for Member of Parliament domain names, several of which were scooped up by a group opposed to same sex marriage legislation.  The development generated discussion in the House of Commons and also a new political awareness of the need to renew domain name registrations.

N is for the New York Post, which found itself on the losing end of a legal fight with former Vancouver Canucks General Manager Brian Burke.  Burke sued the Post for Internet defamation in the B.C. courts, which asserted jurisdiction over the matter despite the objections of the paper.

O is for Online Rights Canada, a new grassroots Canadian online civil liberties group formed in December by the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic and the U.S.-based Electronic Frontier Foundation.

P is for Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart, who was stunned to find herself on the front cover a national newsmagazine after a reporter was able to access her detailed phone and cellphone records from a U.S. online data broker.  The matter remains the subject of a cross-border investigation.

Q is for Quebec v. Produits Metalliques CMP, a February Quebec court case that held a company liable for failing to provide a French version of its website. The court ruled that French language laws can be broadly interpreted to cover online content and that the company had ignored the law for seven years despite repeated requests to comply.

R is for Sony BMG’s Rootkit, a copy-control technology that was inserted into dozens of CDs and then secretly installed in more than 500,000 computers worldwide.  Sony recalled millions of CDs after a security researcher discovered that the technology posed a significant security risk.

S is for the Spam Task Force, which released its final report in May.  The report called on the government to introduce tough anti-spam legislation backed by significant new financial penalties.

T is for the Telecommunications Policy Review Panel, which conducted a comprehensive review of Canadian telecommunications law.  The Panel is scheduled to release its report early next year.

U is for a University Affairs editorial published by National Science Advisor Arthur Carty that promoted a "culture of sharing" within the scientific community. Carty urged funding agencies to embrace open access models to better ensure that scientific results becomes widely disseminated.

V is for the Voices for Change website, which was blocked by Telus during a contentious labour dispute.  The Telus blockage also eliminated access to more than 600 additional websites that shared the same IP address.

W is for the Washington Post, which successfully appealed a lower court decision involving a defamation claim over an article first published in mid-1990s.  The plaintiff argued that Ontario was a suitable jurisdiction to hear the case since the article remained available online.

X is for XM Radio, one of three successful bidders for satellite radio licenses.  The CRTC decision, including the establishment of media-specific Canadian content requirements, led to a flurry of lobbying activity as the government briefly contemplated asking the Commission to re-consider its decision.

Y is for Yukon as well as other northern Canadian communities that stand to benefit from a broadband initiative unveiled in the fall.  The initiative seeks to provide high-speed Internet access to dozens of remote towns and villages.

Z is for Ernst Zundel, who was deported to Germany in February following a lengthy battle over Internet hate content.

Michael Geist holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law. He can reached at or online at


  1. J…/ Heading
    Toronto-based Website Owner…re postings were meant to embarrass the Society….
    This would have to be tongue in cheek surely!!

    The Watchtower magazine could be said to have embarrassed many religious organizations over the years, and some continuely so. Its alright to throw other oranizations into the fan, but never throw the Watchtower into the fan because we might get splattered and that would be embarrassing.
    Isn’t there a scriptural principle that says, do unto others as you want them to do to you.
    This means the Watchtower is no longer going to embarrass others…are they now going to play by these rules, you can not expect to be credible and have it both ways…!

  2. J………
    Re….Toronto. based Website……postings were meant to embarrass the Society.

    The quotes site was all about quoting Watchtower literature wasn’t it.With no commentary.Freedom of the press allows people to be informed. Is this a freedom the Watchtower wants to suppress,by closing down a site publishing their own quotes. Is’nt the Watchtower proud of its publication going back to 1879.If you dont inform people of these quotes you are setting up many other people to become just like the Toronto-based web site owner.Why did he set up the quotes site?? He was not fully informed about what he was getting into!! So his motivation was to inform people of these quotes without commentary.You wrote them,and they are out there in the public domain, shouldn’t people be informed??
    You quote other organizations and you also put your own commentary in also.Lets not get too touchy, we all make mistakes.

  3. J………………./Heading
    Closing down a site that quotes your history.Dosen’t show much confidence in that history.

  4. J…..
    Re:- Toronto based website…postings were meant to embarrass the Society.

    The Watchtower Society have printed many publications over the years. These have been understood to be spiritual food at the right time. For the Society to admit embarrassment over this quotes site.[Their Quotes].Puts their spiritual food at the right time into question.

    It,s rather like being invited to a meal and many of the guests come down with food poisoning, this results in embarrassment for the chef.As he is responsible for the food and preparation.

    For the Society to be embarrassed and request the courts to close down the quotes site.Many ask! Was this good spiritual food or was it contaminated? Over what period of time have these quotes effected people? People have a right to know and be informed. The embarrassment shows you are not comfortable about what you have authorized to be written.

  5. J............/Heading says:

    Beating up a fellow slave is serious business.
    Read Matthew 24:48-51.And why are you beating him?
    Because he quotes your words!!!

    Your actions can be seen as an act of a bully.Not the actions of a Christian.Please Matthew Chapter 5:43-48.

  6. J…heading.. postings where ment to embarrass the Society.
    It is all very well for the Watchtower Society to claim embarrassment about their own writings.

    However spare a thought for those members who have faithfully delivered these writings to their neighbourhood. Lets say a young family in a small counrty community. Delivering Watchtower publications claiming the end would come in 1914. The effort they put in, concerned for their neighbours, preaching what the Watchtower Society claimed would happen in 1914.

    The end did not come. Now think of the embarrassment this family is feeling.

    They continue even so taking Watchtower publications to their neighbours. Now the Watchtower is saying the end will come in 1925.
    1925 arrives,the end has not come. Once again
    consider the embarrassment of this family in their community. Now feeling they have lied to their neighbours. What they were given to say did not come true.

    Now the parents are aging yet still faithfully taking Watchtower publications to their neighbours,this time about 1975. Nothing happens when 1975 arrives. Consider their embarrassment in their small country community.

    The families intent towards their community is one of concern for their well being and is to be commended.

    Their embarrassment has been caused by what the Watchtower Society has printed about these dates. The Watchtowers embarrassment is of their own making.The families embarrassment has come from following the Watchtower.

    Now lets say this family leaves the Watchtower Society. Because they feel they have been missled, but remain loyal to God and his Word the Holy Bible.

    The Watchtower Societies policy is to shun those that leave them. So this family is shunned by the Watchtower community.

    The families neighbourhood take them into the local community and respect their Christian influence in the community.

    Who really is embarrassed now? And what are they embarrassed about?

    Matthew 6:43 to 48. Says this… Jesus words… not the Watchtowers.
    “You have heard that it was said, “Love your friends, hate your enemies.” But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,so that you may become the sons of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun to shine on bad and good people alike,and gives rain to those who do good and to those who do evil. Why should God reward you if you love only the people who love you? Even the tax collectors do that! And if you speak only to your friends, have you done anything out of the ordinary? Even the pagans do that! You must be perfect just as your Father in heaven is perfect!”

    If the Watchtower concentrated more on following Jesus words and less on their own ideas, there would be less embarrassment for all.

    Now who is embarrassing who?

  7. J … heading.
    The end result does not justify the means. How you travel life’s roadway each day is important.

    Jesus words above are the way of a Christian , a disciple of Christ. As Jesus also said, if you keep my commandments you really are my disciples.

    The means you use to attain your goal is the measure of a Christian.

  8. J………. heading. Re:- Toronto based website…postings where meant to embarras the Society.
    When people make an investment and later find out they were not fully advised, it is reasonable they will inform others so they are informed before making the same decision. This Toronto website has helped many to look at Watchtower literature printed by the Governing Body of the Watchtower over the years.

    What the Watchtower has to realize is, God,s Name is involved here. What they printed in many publications about what was going to happen in 1914. 1925. and 1975. These dates failed to bring the expectations printed by the Watchtower. As you claim to be witnesses of God. The witness you gave approved by your governing body, printed in your literature and distributed worldwide proved to be in error. Thus wrongly influencing many people.

    How do you think GOD thinks of your error? Taking his NAME and printing information about what he is going to do and putting dates when it would happen with much detail as to what he would do. Would you be
    impressed if an employee of yours presumed to know your mind on matters that where none of your business to know.

    Is it any wonder why many question the Watchtower Society and the information they put out into the public domain. Your history show any reasonable person needs to know, so why close down a site that quotes your literature.