York University Obtains Court Order For Bell & Rogers Subscriber Information

There has been considerable discussion in recent weeks regarding the prospect of court orders mandating ISPs or other intermediaries disclose identifying information about anonymous individuals (Google model case, Ottawa city hall blog).  Overlook, however, is a recent order obtained by York University requiring Bell and Rogers to disclose subscriber information.  Neither ISP opposed the order, which included some novel requirements in return for ordering the two companies to disclose the names of customers associated with particular IP addresses.  First, York University was required to pay the ISPs to compensate them for providing the information – Rogers gets $600, while Bell gets $300.  Second, the court added a condition that required notification of the customers identified by Bell and Rogers so that they could apply to the court to vary or vacate the order.  Despite constituting only three paragraphs, the order raises some very interesting issues including the questions about why a university would seek this order, the compensation to the ISPs, and the attempt to factor in a response from the identified subscribers. 


  1. civil order
    Just a quick comment as it is not clear why this order was obtained. But I’m more surprised at Dr. Geist lack of knowledge in this area. I thought he was a law professor? This is the order, it is supposed to be short, this is the document ordering bell and rogers in this case to provide York University with the names associated to IP adresses, most likely on their campus or in their student housing. Most likely the person is doing some illegal downloading and York is trying to figure out who’s account this is. The fact that this order is short Dr. Geist is that it is supposed to be short. The application and of course the evidence of the lawyers is what is used to get this order. Those would be much longer, this is simply the document used by the judge to order the companies to provide the information. This is Law 101, I would hope In addition, the payment is standard as Bell and Rogers will not do the necessary research for free. This is a civil not criminal case, so rogers and bell are not going to do this for free. Lastly, the hand written part has been added by the judge and simply gives the person who’s account is being looked at an opportunity to give their side of the story before the information is given to york…This is a good thing. They way they can provide a rationale as to why this information should not be disclosed to York.
    Stop trying to find a conspiracy in everything you look at Dr. Geist, it is getting a bit tiring…

  2. If it were a case of illegal downloading using university servers on the university network, York would hardly need subscriber info from Rogers or Bell (I always connected direct to the university network when I lived on (admittedly a different) campus. Frankly, it seems more likely that York U is looking for some strike-related payback. But that’s just a hunch on my part.

  3. Beat it, Cop Guy!
    Reading your comment is tiring!

  4. @Copguy
    Hey copguy…given the privacy concerns associated with an order such as this, one would expect there to be significantly more ground rules in terms of obtaining the information so I’m not sure how Dr. Geist’s observations are incorrect or don’t merit some discussion.

    Oh, and insulting his intelligence isn’t really a great way to win over people with your point. You might have had more credibility if your post wasn’t full of grammatical errors.

  5. Interesting
    So can I pay Bell or Rogers to give me the private info from a few IP’s without explaining why also?

    Where do I file? Seems a small price to pay.

  6. … Cop guy, I have to say, that’s a strange, strange response. Either you have trouble grasping the language and meaning of what was written, or you’re the one looking for a conspiracy with these posts. Your assumption, as someone pointed out, also fails “Tech 101”.

    Someone pointing out some interesting information/event and questions that spawn from that, is rational. Your response, is not.

  7. Paid reasonable costs?
    Of course, I suspect the tin foil hat crowd will read this and think Bell and Rogers are selling information attached to IP’s for $300 a pop. But really, it’s the courts awarding Bell and Rogers costs for doing all the leg work to find out which user was using that ip at a specific date and time and then associating it with a name and informing that person of this.

    Given that it’s a civil trial, I suspect it is due to:
    -Improper access of York U’s computer system
    -Some other fraud.

  8. None of York’s business
    “Most likely the person is doing some illegal downloading and York is trying to figure out who’s account this is.”

    If that person is using the Rogers and / or Bell network to do so it is none of York’s business. In fact, if that would be the case York wouldn’t even be aware of, anybody who could / would contest the downloading would have directly approached Rogers and / or Bell, not York as they could not know that the person would be in one of the Universities buildings.

    But keep trying to come up with an explaination.

  9. @ Michael
    There is NO illegal downloading – that’s what the CPCC is for.

    We are NOT America and Canadian’s would do well to remember this.

  10. Darryl Moore says:

    Ummm Gregg, the media levy only covers music. If you are downloading other copyrighted works without the copyright owners permission, then the law is being broken. Whether it is the downloader or the uploader is another debate and reasonable arguments can be made on both sides, but it is definately against the law.

    I suspect Anon is right and there is some sort of illegal network access to York’s network from these to ISP networks.

    Frankly I think this is pretty much as it should be. York had to provide evidence to a judge sufficient to convince him to produce the order. The plaintiff had to cover costs, and the defendant had to be informed prior to the plaintiff so that he had the opportunity to appeal to block the information release.

    The only question in my mind is whether the defendant has access to all the evidence that was used against him to produce the order.

  11. Gregg, let me add to Darryl’s comment that there was a legal opinion referred to in this blog a few weeks ago that the recordable media levy download “exemption” applies only to copyrighted music that was saved to levied media. Music which is saved onto non-levied media, such as an MP3 player, hard disk, DVD, would not be exempted according to this opinion. Since software companies, book and video publishers are not recipients of the levy money, arguably saving that stuff even to levied media may not be legal.

  12. Kevin Kindred says:

    I’ve been involved in a handful of civil cases involving disclosure of CNA (customer name & address) associated with an IP address. In my (somewhat limited) experience, courts and counsel have not adopted one consistent practice when it comes to this issue. The issue of costs is interesting, I’m sure the practice is all over the palace as to that issue.

    The issue of customer notification is even more interesting, and one I’ve often wondered about. How does a judge purport to balance the privacy interests of a third party who, by the very nature of the application, can’t be there to represent their own interests (no one knows who they are.) This could be a malicious hacker, or a worker who needs their anonymity protected to keep their job. Any range of possible scenarios. Balancing the interests is, in most jurisdictions anyway, clearly part of the test to be applied, but how can the judge understand the interests at play with an unrepresented party?

    The order to serve the customer confuses me. Are they served by Rogers before their identity is revealed to the applicant, or by the applicant afterwards? Those are dramatically different situations in terms of protecting their privacy interests.

  13. Steve Wobbly says:

    Kevin, it doesn’t sound as though Bell or Rogers would even have to reveal to the customers that they had coughed up their identities at any point – is that what you are wondering?

    There are a lot of reasons I can see York wanting to do this, but all speculative. That, I think, is what is most frustrating. I would tend to think it would be more a way of addressing security concerns than anything else- for example, a bomb threat, or hate speech, DOS attacks, and so on. Given the political climate on campus (Israeli/Palestinian tensions, etc) at York, this seems like an area in which York would have the most immediate legal concerns. That said, it is unclear to me why York would require IPs, as this seems a job better suited to the police. Again, I would speculate that they are thinking about student code of conduct violations.

    On the other hand, if students have been using York server space to remotely access file sharing programs, then York might be doing it as a response to copyright concerns.

  14. Not downloading – dirty tricks and labour relations
    Contrary to what all the posters have mentioned about downloading, this is more likely a labour issue. York went to court not long ago to obtain access to a Gmail account used by a dissident faculty group (iirc) that was challenging their views on the strike and other issues. I am not privy to all the details, but I was a member of the union that was on strike this year, and in short the York Admin is not shy to use dirty tricks to get its way – including seeking access to ‘private’ information like a 3rd party email accounts, or your ISP records … what a despicable school.

  15. unacceptable, either way
    As a student and employee at York, I really don’t think this should be allowed to go unchallenged. York is a publicly accountable institution and should have to publicly account for exactly what information it is looking for any why. The order says that “any other persons affected” by the order may apply to intervene in it: I think either the students’ unions or labour unions at York should do so (since York’s ability/attempt to obtain this information affects our privacy and security). If York is frivolously trying to mine for information for some trivial or malicious purpose, whichever administrator is spearheading such an effort at York ought to be exposed and punished. If they’re seeking the information for some legitimate purpose, then it affects all of us at York and they have an obligation to explain to us as members of the York community what they are looking for and why. Does anyone know how one would apply to intervene and put a stop to what York is doing here? (or force York administration to provide further information/explanation for their actions?)

    (and kudos to Dr. Geist for alerting us to this!)

  16. To find out why York filed the motion and the evidence they used ==> Call the Supreme Court Toronto Registry and ask for a copy of the motion record of the applicant with respect to the August 4, 2009 Order of J. Strathy in Court File No. cv-09-380995 (Note portions or all of this may have been found confidential by the Court and if so will not be made available).

  17. Very unlikely to be filesharing
    I don’t go to York, but if their system is similar to U of T or some other schools I’ve seen, you will need to login with your student/faculty account to access their computers and networks. And, without a login, in a networking environment, administrators could easily track down from where on their network an Internet connection is being misused. So, it is very unlikely to be from the inside if they have to ask Roger/Bell, and therefore shouldn’t be a filesharing or network abuse issue.

    The possibilities were mentioned. It could be as LifeOnQueen or inquire said, or it could simply be a stupid person trying to hack into York’s network (they have to be stupid to try if they can’t cover their tracks). I find the latter more likely, but with the world as it is today (think Telus censoring websites during their strike), I wouldn’t completely rule out the possibility of a more malicious intention on York’s part.

    I guess the main concern is how hard it is for someone to get personal information from these companies about another person, and without their knowledge/consent, and for what purposes it will be used.

  18. To Anon-K
    You wrote in part: “Music which is saved onto non-levied media, such as an MP3 player, hard disk, DVD, would not be exempted according to this opinion.”

    All blank media, except the iPod, has the levy on it.

    We pay this tax on cassettes (audio and VHS), DVD R/RW, CD R/RW, Zip drives, EVERYTHING!

    Doubt it? Go into a London Drugs and they will be happy to supply you with a chart saying what the tax is on and how much.

    No, THEY appear to be the only ones charging this levy. I have personally confirmed Loblaws and assiciate companies (Real Canadian Superstore), Wal-Mart and The Source do not charge this.

    Best Buy was recently busted, but still appear to be absorbing the costs themselves to be competitive.

    Staple/Office Depot and Future Shop refuse to comment, but their prices make it impossible for them to be charging it (With a $0.21 tax on each CD and they’re selling a stack of 100 for $15 to compete with Wal-Mart during sales…. duh).

    Oh, and to both you and Darryl, an archive/backup copy of software is allowed.

  19. Current Tarriffs
    Gregg’s information is partially incorrect. The levy on blank media is applied to
    Audio cassettes of 40 minutes or more in length 24¢
    CD-R, CD-RW, CD-R Audio, CD-RW Audio and MiniDisc 29¢

    There is no levy on VHS tapes, MP3 players, USB mass storage devices, or any other blank media.

    He is correct in stating there is no prohibition on downloading music. Specifically, it is permitted to make a copy of a sound recording for private use. There is no mention in the act of how the original is to be obtained. The act recognizes that copies will be made and compensates copyright owners through a levy on blank media. Note that the act applies only to sound recordings.

    The relevant section of the Copyright Act ( states:

    80. (1) Subject to subsection (2), the act of reproducing all or any substantial part of

    (a) a musical work embodied in a sound recording,

    (b) a performer’s performance of a musical work embodied in a sound recording, or

    (c) a sound recording in which a musical work, or a performer’s performance of a musical work, is embodied

    onto an audio recording medium for the private use of the person who makes the copy does not constitute an infringement of the copyright in the musical work, the performer’s performance or the sound recording.


    (2) Subsection (1) does not apply if the act described in that subsection is done for the purpose of doing any of the following in relation to any of the things referred to in paragraphs (1)(a) to (c):

    (a) selling or renting out, or by way of trade exposing or offering for sale or rental;

    (b) distributing, whether or not for the purpose of trade;

    (c) communicating to the public by telecommunication; or

    (d) performing, or causing to be performed, in public.

  20. Then I will stand corrected….
    Simple as that.

  21. Craig Fletcher says:

    Answers revealed
    According to one of the people in quiestion, the order was made so that York could continue to quash the dissent of its employees under the guise of protecting against slander: