Letters Of The Law: The Year In Tech Law And Policy

The past 12 months in law and technology were exceptionally active, with legislative battles over privacy and copyright, near-continuous controversy at the CRTC, and an active Supreme Court of Canada docket. My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) takes a look back at 2011 from A to Z:

A is for the Amazon one-click patent, which is at the centre of a long running fight over the validity of business method patents in Canada.

B is for Baglow v. Smith, an Ontario Superior Court decision which ruled that comments on a blog should not necessarily give rise to a claim in defamation, when the person alleging defamation has a right of reply in the same blog.

C is for Century 21, which won a major case over Rogers Communications and its real estate search site Zoocasa. The case included important findings on online contracts, trespass, and copyright.

D is for the digital television transition, which finally occurred on August 31st.

E is for eHarmony, the online dating site that was the subject of a privacy commissioner investigation leading to changes to its customer data deletion practices.

F is for false news, which erupted as a controversy after the CRTC quietly proposed a significant change to the rules on false or misleading news broadcasts on radio or television.

G is for Adam Guerbuez, the Montreal-based spammer who mocked the government as it delayed finalizing anti-spam regulations that are needed to bring the law into effect.

H is for Hurt Locker lawsuits, which made their way to Canada with dozens of file sharing legal actions launched against individuals in Quebec.

I is for the iPod tax, which surprisingly emerged as an election issue during the spring campaign.

J is for Jon Newton, whose case on liability for hyperlinking led to a landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision against creating such liability.

K is for Jason Koblovsky, the founder of the Canadian Gamers Organization, which filed a complaint against Rogers Communications over interference with online games arising from its throttling practices.  

L is for Leon’s Furniture, which successfully argued that a vehicle licence number is not “personal information” within the context of Canadian privacy law because it is not about an individual.

M is for misleading advertising, which the Competition Bureau aggressively pursued in a claim against Bell. Bell agreed to pay $10 million, the maximum permitted under the Competition Act, and cover $100,000 in investigation expenses.

N is for Netflix, which fuelled a contentious regulatory battle at the CRTC on the implications of over-the-top video services.

O is for Open Media, the Vancouver-based advocacy group that spearheaded the fight against Internet provider usage based billing practices.

P is for Industry Minister Christian Paradis’s Penske File, the long-lost digital economy strategy that languished in 2011.

Q is for Telus Communications v. Queen, a case headed to the Supreme Court over the issue of whether police can use a general warrant to intercept SMS text messages.

R is for the Royal Bank of Canada, which was ordered to pay $4,500 for violating Canadian privacy laws in the disclosure of account information to a spouse embroiled in a bitter divorce proceeding.

S is for security breach disclosure legislation, which was re-introduced in Bill C-12.

T is for the twittering Treasury Board, which released Guidelines for External Use of Web 2.0, offering specific guidance on the use of social media and other Web 2.0 tools by government departments.

U is for Universal Music Canada, one of several major record labels to settle the largest copyright class action lawsuit in Canadian history. The labels agreed to pay more than $50 million to settle claims that they used sound recordings without paying the applicable royalties.

V is for vertical integration rules, which restrict the ability of newly converged broadcast and telecom companies to establish exclusive arrangements for popular content.

W is for the warrantless disclosure of customer information, one of the most troubling aspects of forthcoming lawful access legislation.

X is for Xplornet Communications, the satellite Internet provider that was the source of the longest running net neutrality complaint at the CRTC.

Y is for York University, one of dozens of Canadian universities that opted-out of the Access Copyright licence for copying materials on campus.

Z is for Zarek Taylor Grossman Hanrahan LLP, a law firm that was found to have violated Canadian privacy law by posting on its website a previous report of findings from the Privacy Commissioner of Canada along with a cover letter that identified the complainant.


  1. R.I.A.A. is for …
    R.eally I.ronic A.sinine A.nswer to this story:

    It is the double-standards & double-speak that I dislike most about the content industries and their proponents. That and their seemingly clueless approach to the issues facing creators and consumers.

    Nevertheless, this story was just a lovely little gift in my Christmas stocking 😉

    Merry Christmas Prof. Geist and good job presenting an side of these issues.

  2. Correction
    Merry Christmas Prof. Geist and good job presenting an (important) side of these issues.

  3. Surprise!
    “I is for the iPod tax, which surprisingly emerged as an election issue during the spring campaign’

    This was indeed a big surprise; it seems there’s a “gentleman’s agreement” between the big parties that certain subjects dear to our southern neighbours are not to be brought up in public debates – it’s better for everyone involved to keep this in the shade and away from public scrutiny.

    It’s going to be interesting next time what they will try and use to keep the Green Party out of the televised debates; aside from the usual, one of the big things they use to differentiate themselves is pressing for actual 21st century-style copyright reform (as opposed to tweaking an 1880s-based system) and Digital Age Privacy Rights.

  4. canada business directory says:

    nice article and haooy marry christmasCanada Business Directory

  5. ccc
    concentration, convergence and copyright.

    privacy, pirates and patronage

    our new overlords (true owners of cells, dvds, and personal info) are monetizing us as I speak.

    call me when it’s being given away free.

    pat donovan (have a seasonal, eh?)