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 email@example.com or online at www.michaelgeist.ca.