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The Letters of the Law: The Year in Tech Law and Policy

Appeared in the Toronto Star on Saturday, December 21, 2013 as Letters of The Law: The Year in Tech Law and Policy

With Edward Snowden and the great wireless war of 2013 leading the way, law and technology issues garnered headlines all year long. A look back at 2013 from A to Z:

A is for, a Canadian domain name that was the subject of two dispute claims in 2013. The popular doll company relied on a quirk in the policy that permitted a follow-up complaint after its first case was rejected.

B is for Bell TV, which a federal court ordered to pay $20,000 for violating the privacy of a customer. The case arose when Bell TV surreptitiously obtained permission to run a credit check by including it as a term in its rental agreement without telling the customer.

C is for the Competition Bureau of Canada, which launched an investigation into alleged anti-competitive practices by search giant Google.

D is for Distributel, an independent Internet provider that successfully defeated demands that it disclose the identities of some its subscribers in a mass copyright lawsuit. After Distributel contested the request, the rights holder dropped the suit.

E is for the Electronic Commerce Protection Regulations, the long-delayed anti-spam law rules. The regulations were finalized in December, paving the way for the law to take effect next year.

F is for Kevin Fearon, whose robbery arrest has sparked a privacy case that is headed to the Supreme Court of Canada. Police searched Fearon’s cellphone without a warrant, claiming that the phone was not password protected. The Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that the search was lawful.
G is for gorgonzola, one of several cheeses that will be subject to new geographical indications rules as part of the Canada – European Union trade agreement.

H is for Héritage, the digitization project that generated considerable controversy following revelations that some Library of Canada materials might initially be placed behind a paywall.

I is for isoHunt, the notorious Canadian-based torrent search site that shut down after a U.S. court ruled that it violated copyright law.
J is for Justice Ministers Robert Nicholson and Peter MacKay. After Nicholson promised that any new Criminal Code reforms would not include lawful access provisions, MacKay promptly reneged on the commitment by inserting many such powers in a cyber-bullying bill.

K is for Kickstarter, the online crowdsource funding website. The Ontario Securities Commission worked on establishing the legal rules for crowdsourced funding.

L is for dot-land, one of the new top-level domains that were added to the Internet’s root this year with hundreds more to follow in the months ahead.

M is for Industry Minister James Moore, who led the government’s effort to enact anti-counterfeiting legislation.

N is for the Nike shoes that were at the centre of dispute between eBay and a Quebec-based seller. The court sided with the seller, rejecting the validity of some terms in eBay’s online contract. 

O is for the national open access policy being developed by Canada’s federal research granting agencies.

P is for pick-and-pay pricing for television channels, which the federal government promised to pursue in its Speech from the Throne.

Q is for the Queen v. Vu, a Supreme Court of Canada decision in which the court affirmed the privacy value of metadata.

R is for roaming fee regulation, which the government announced it would pursue to protect new entrants seeking to offer national access to wireless services.

S is for Edward Snowden and Aaron Swartz. Snowden’s months-long leaks of surveillance information generated a global debate on privacy and surveillance, while Swartz’s tragic suicide raised awareness of open access and overly aggressive copyright enforcement.

T is for the Trans Pacific Partnership, a massive trade agreement currently being negotiated by a dozen countries including Canada.

U is for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401, which successfully challenged the constitutionality of Alberta’s privacy legislation at the Supreme Court of Canada.

V is for Verizon, the U.S. telecom giant, whose potential entry to Canada sparked a massive lobbying and advertising campaign on the state of wireless services.
W is for the wireless code of conduct, which effectively limited consumer wireless contracts to two years.

X is for the anonymous defendants who were served through email in a defamation lawsuit launched by former Toronto Maple Leafs president Brian Burke.

Y is for York University, which was sued by Access Copyright for copyright infringement due its reliance on a widely accepted policy on fair dealing.

Z is for Zyprexa, one of two invalidated patents that sit at the heart of a $500 million lawsuit filed by pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly against the Government of Canada.

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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