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Technology and the Law in 2014: 14 Questions in Need of Answers

Appeared in the Toronto Star on December 28, 2013 as Questions in Need of Answers

The coming year is likely to be a very significant one for law and technology. As the year unfolds, here are 14 questions (along with possible answers) that will go a long way to determining the path of Canadian technology law policy.

1.    Will the government finally unveil a national digital strategy?

The long-promised national digital strategy could become a reality in 2014 after years of inaction. Industry Minister James Moore is on the verge of clearing out the lingering policy issues he inherited and may be ready to set his own path on a digital strategy.

2.    Will the wireless spectrum auction be judged a failure?

The contentious wireless spectrum auction should take place early in 2014, but with few, if any, new competitors, the auction seems destined to do little more than entrench the status quo.

3.    Whose roaming regulations will come first: the government’s or CRTC’s?

Both the government and the CRTC have embarked on domestic wireless roaming initiatives that should come to fruition in 2014. The government plans to amend the law to address wholesale roaming pricing that hurts smaller players, while the CRTC is engaged in a fact-finding exercise on roaming that could lead to new regulations.

4.    What else will the government do to address wireless competition?

With the government spending millions to promote the competitive shortcomings of the Canadian wireless market, addressing roaming pricing is likely only the start with the possibility of a fully regulated wholesale market that could facilitate more competition.

5.    Who will be the next Privacy Commissioner of Canada?

The search is currently underway for the next Privacy Commissioner of Canada. Given the privacy reform delays and the mounting concern over surveillance, the next commissioner will immediately be placed on the hotseat.

6.    Will the Snowden surveillance revelations reverberate in Canada?

Public concern over ubiquitous surveillance has mounted in recent months with the steady stream of Snowden leaks. The Canadian government has said little to date, but silence may not be an option for much longer should there be further disclosures about Canadian involvement in global surveillance activities.

7.    How will the government handle Bill C-13, the lawful access bill?

The return of lawful access legislation – now framed as a cyber-bullying bill – has met with criticism from all sides of the political spectrum. The government may seek to diffuse the concern by sending the bill to committee for review after first reading, thereby signaling its willingness to entertain amendments.

8.    How will the government unbundle television channels?

The government’s commitment to a pick-and-pay model for cable and satellite television services will emerge as a hot issue in the coming year with some broadcast distributers opposing the pro-consumer plan. While there is little doubt the government will stick with the policy, there is no clear-cut implementation plan.

9.    What policy changes will result from the CRTC’s television “conversation”?

The CRTC has embarked on a national conversation on television, but the outcome remains unknown. Removal of foreign investment restrictions and simultaneous substitution policies are possible changes that would shake up in the market.

10.    How will Alberta fix its privacy law?

The Supreme Court of Canada has given Alberta one year to amend its privacy law, which it recently ruled is unconstitutional. The Alberta reforms may serve as a model for other provinces and the federal law.

11.    What is the future of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)?

Canada’s participation in the TPP negotiations could have major ramifications for domestic intellectual property and e-commerce law. The TPP talks stalled late last year, but U.S. pressure to conclude a deal could soon lead to dramatic changes to Canadian law.

12.    What is in the fine print of the Canada – European Union trade deal?

The Canada – EU trade agreement negotiations may have concluded, but the actual text remains a secret. Its release this year will finally allow for detailed analysis of costs and benefits of the proposed agreement.

13.    Will Eli Lilly terminate its $500 million lawsuit against Canada?

Eli Lilly, which is suing the federal government for $500 million due to two invalidated patents, seems to hope that the threat of litigation will generate momentum for patent law reform. There is no sign that the government will cave to the pressure.

14.    Will the federal court order TekSavvy to disclose the identity of thousands of subscribers?

The biggest current copyright case before the courts is the attempt to force TekSavvy, a leading independent Internet provider, to disclose the identity of thousands of subscribers accused of unauthorized downloading. Depending on the outcome, the decision could open the door to copycat litigation.

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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