Crystal Ball Gazing at the Year Ahead in Tech Law and Policy

Given that few would have predicted that Internet protests last year would have led to the defeat or delay of legislation in the United States (the Stop Online Piracy Act) and Canada (Internet surveillance legislation) as well as spell the end for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement in Europe, a new round of predictions for what lies ahead amounts to little more than guesswork. With that caveat in mind, my weekly technology law column (homepage version, Toronto Star version) provides a month-by-month look at what 2013 may have in store for technology law and policy.

January. The government opens the New Year by releasing proposed anti-spam regulations with promise that the long-delayed law will take effect by 2014.  The regulations leave no one satisfied as they water down the law with a host of new exceptions and exclusions that limit requirements for businesses to obtain consent before sending unsolicited marketing materials.

February.  The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission conducts a high profile hearing on the creation of a binding wireless code of conduct. The resulting code extends far beyond the initial expectations of the major carriers with new transparency requirements, restrictions on contractual terms, and obligations to unlock cellphones once a contract has concluded.

March. Thousands of Canadians begin receiving letters alleging copyright infringement from file sharing activities with demands to settle the claims for $1,500.  Rights holders do not sue those that refuse to settle, however, effectively acknowledging that a court would be unlikely to award much more than the $100 minimum now found in the Copyright Act.

April. Canada and the European Union conclude a comprehensive trade agreement as the Canadian government caves to European pressure on pharmaceutical patent reform. The changes are expected to add billions to provincial health care costs.

May. Industry Minister Christian Paradis unveils the long-awaited digital economy strategy with a plan to make Canada a global leader that can boast of universal, affordable access to high-speed Internet services. (just kidding – the proverbial Penske file will remain unfinished in 2013).

June. The copyright world gathers in Geneva as the World Intellectual Property Organization concludes negotiations on a treaty to enhance access for the visually impaired. The U.S. and E.U. offer continued resistance to the treaty with Canada largely silent throughout the diplomatic talks.

July. The government hits the reset button with prorogation and a cabinet shuffle. The change effectively kills both Bill C-12 (privacy reform) and C-30 (Internet surveillance).

August. The CRTC announces plans to revisit the issue of new media regulation during a fall hearing. Despite ongoing pressure for regulation of online video services such as Netflix, the Commission retains the exemption for the regulation of new media services.

September.  Industry Canada moves forward with its overdue spectrum auction. The auction rules frustrate incumbents and new entrants alike, with both claiming that they are unable to amass sufficient spectrum to offer new, competitive wireless services.

October. The deadline for concluding the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations comes and goes without an agreement. Participating countries, including Canada, maintain there has been “good progress” in the talks, but leaks suggest a growing divide over U.S. demands related to intellectual property and investor protections.

November. The University of Toronto and Western University, the first two Canadian universities to sign an agreement with Access Copyright in 2011, announce that they will not be renewing those licences as of 2014. The universities cite reliance on fair dealing as the reason for the decision.

December. The Supreme Court of Canada releases its decision in United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 401 v. Alberta (Attorney General), a case involving the constitutionality of privacy legislation that was argued before the court in June 2013. The court upholds the constitutionality of the Alberta privacy legislation, but sends a clear message that there are instances where privacy protections must be limited to avoid impeding free speech rights.


  1. >Rights holders do not sue those that refuse to settle,

    I wonder if the judge in the Teksavvy case is going to be made to understand this rather salient point and decide that giving Voltage names and numbers of alleged copyright violators would be pointless?

    If I ran a law firm I would offer for a discount rate a form reply letter to anyone who gets a Voltage extortion demand. It would be pretty funny if the trolls got the 2,000 exact same letter on the exact same day telling them that the accused parties look forward to a court date for Voltage to prove their claims.

    Which would be a string of numbers created by one computer program, passed on to another party and then sold to a third.

    Not much of a smoking gun, not even a dribbley water-pistol.

  2. Wait a minute
    Isn’t the march prediction a tacit admission that the troll is likely getting the information they seek?

  3. trolls in March
    the trolls already know they will get FA except from people who aren’t willing to call there bluff.
    the make a leaving off of people who live in fear and panic only.

  4. Isn’t the march prediction a tacit admission that the troll is likely getting the information they seek?
    They probably are unless the judge is really convinced by CIPPIC (if they’re allowed to make an argument) that Voltage is a bad-faith player. I’m not a lawyer but I suspect judges are really reluctant to shut a case down before it starts by not letting the accuser confront the defense.

    There is also a precedent set that the judge would be going right against if he refused to hand over the names and numbers.

    But we’ll find out soon enough!

  5. James Plotkin says:

    The WIPO treaty for the visually impaired is long over due. Any idea what kind of rights it will address? What will it say about circumvention of DRM?

  6. Art Schwartz says:

    The Law and the USA
    AS a Canadian resident in the USA I have come to the conclusion that the organization with the most gold, ie, lawyers, wins. Look at the financial services (sic) industry- the congress legislates regulation,the industry raises its fees and hires more law firms to overcome the regs; they can always outlawyer the people, and do it with he peoples money. Depressing, ain’t it? Canada will catch up in time.

  7. Privacy in the Era of Big Data
    Hello All,

    Larry Downe’s latest book was published today, free pdf is available here. His last works were great.