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The Letters of the Law: 2010 in Tech Law from A to Z

Appeared in the Toronto Star on December 28, 2010 as The Year in Tech Law and Policy

The past twelve months in law and technology were exceptionally active, with the passage of anti-spam legislation, record penalties for violating the do-not-call list, and relentless lobbying on new Canadian copyright legislation. A look back at 2010 from A to Z:

A is for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, which concluded in October with a watered-down treaty after the U.S. caved on several controversial Internet issues.

B is for Black v. Breeden, an Ontario Court of Appeal ruling involving postings on the Hollinger International, Inc. website that Conrad Black claimed were defamatory.

C is for Crookes v. Newton, the high-profile Supreme Court case that addressed the liability hyperlinks between websites.
D is for the do-not-call list, which gained new life when the CRTC pressured Bell into paying $1.3 million for multiple violations of the list rules.

E is for the Electronic Commerce Protection Act, the initial name of Canada’s anti-spam legislation that received royal assent in December, six years after a task force recommended new Canadian spam laws.

F is for Facebook, which settled several privacy complaints with the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

G is Adam Guerbuez, a Montreal-based spammer who was ordered by a Quebec court to pay Facebook $1,068.928,721.46 arising from a U.S. anti-spam judgment.

H is Howard Maker, the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services.  The CRTC renewed the CCTS mandate in November, requiring all telecom providers to become members.

I for Internet service providers, who emerged victorious in a federal court case that addressed the question of whether they are “broadcasters” according to the Broadcasting Act. The court ruled they are not.

J is for Donna Jodhan, who won a website accessibility lawsuit that will force the federal government to make key websites accessible to the visually impaired.

K is for Internet keywords, the subject of a B.C. case involving questions about trademarks in the context of Internet keyword ads.

L is for the return of lawful access legislation, which was re-introduced for the third time in November.
M is for Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore, the co-author of Bill C-32, the copyright reform bill.

N is for Netflix, which launched a Canadian movie download service in 2010.

O is for Orascom, a major backer of Wind Mobile, one of the new wireless services that attracted tens of thousands of new customers.

P is for Pridgen v. University of Calgary, a case in which an Alberta court ruled the University violated two students’ Charter rights when it sanctioned them for posting critical comments about a professor on Facebook.

Q is for the Queen v. Gomboc, the Supreme Court decision that ruled there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in data on electricity usage.

R is for Randall v. Nubodys Fitness Centres, a federal court decision that set an exceptionally high bar for awarding damages under Canadian privacy legislation.
S is for State Farm, which challenged the constitutionality of Canadian privacy law.

T is for the $45 per student tariff that Access Copyright, a copyright collective, proposed for Canadian universities.  The Universities largely rejected the plan, setting the stage for a Copyright Board of Canada showdown in 2011.

U is for usage based billing, an Internet provider practice that generated many complaints to the CRTC.

V is for vertical integration, which emerged as the key concern after Bell and Shaw bought up two leading Canadian broadcasters. The CRTC is scheduled to conduct hearings on the issue in June 2011.

W is for Wikileaks, which was alternately lauded or vilified for making thousands of previously secret government cables available online.

X is for the X on online ballots, which were used in several municipal elections in 2010.

Y is for director Tony Young, one of hundreds of film directors whose work was made openly available on the National Film Board’s website.

Z is for Federal court judge Russell Zinn, who ordered TransUnion, a credit agency, to pay a man $5,000 for violating Canadian privacy law.

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

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