Law prohibiting election misinformation struck down


A key section of Canada’s elections law designed to curb misinformation during elections has been struck down and declared unconstitutional.

In a 15-page decision, Ontario Superior Court Justice Breese Davies ruled that the section is an unjustifiable restriction on Canadians’ right to free speech.

While the federal government had asked the court to suspend the ruling for 12 months, Davies ruled that it takes effect immediately.

CBC declines to turn over Panama Papers data to CRA


The Canada Revenue Agency has formally asked the CBC to hand over offshore tax-haven data from the massive Panama Papers leak, but the news organization is refusing. The commissioner of the agency, Andrew Treusch, sent an email on Friday to the president of the CBC asking for the data, saying the agency wants to begin work immediately on reviewing the information. CBC spokesman Chuck Thompson said the corporation rebuffed a similar request from the CRA in 2013 for another massive cache of tax-haven data — and will do so again “Simply stated, CBC News does not reveal its sources and we’re not about to start now as a result of this request,” he said. Earlier this year, the Panama Papers were made available electronically to CBC News and other select news organizations around the world, and stories about the contents began to appear this month. The blockbuster revelations are having serious political repercussions in some countries, while others are looking at ways to stop the wealthy from stashing cash offshore to avoid paying taxes.

After Supreme Court decision, Ottawa must fix flaws in Canada’s copyright system


Policy makers have long struggled to strike a fair balance in crafting rules to address allegations of copyright infringement on the internet. Copyright owners want the right to pursue damages and stop infringement, internet subscribers want their privacy and freedom of expression rights preserved in the face of unproven allegations, and internet providers want to maintain their neutrality by resolving the disputes expeditiously and inexpensively.

The Canadian Copyright Review in the Age of Technological Disruption

The Canadian government launched its much-anticipated copyright review last week, asking the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology to conduct a study on the issue that is likely to run for much of 2018. My Globe and Mail op-ed notes that while the timelines suggest that major changes will have to wait until after the next election, the report will be the foundation for future reforms to Canadian copyright law.
The instruction letter to the committee from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains and Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly points to the challenges of copyright, which invariably engages a wide range of stakeholders with differing perspectives.
Indeed, Mr. Bains and Ms. Joly note in their letter that “this diversity of viewpoints is because copyright affects a wide range of industries, works, and uses: from telecom and tech companies, to scientific institutions, and academia, from photographs, music, and books, to augmented reality content; and from museums, art galleries, and brick and mortar stores, to machine-readable data, and beyond.” Reconciling such a broad range of interests with a law that affects all Canadians is exceptionally difficult.

Quebec’s Bill 74 puts us all on a slippery slope toward Internet censorship


Internet censorship. Website block lists. Stiff financial penalties for Internet providers who allow their customers to view sites forbidden by the government. This may the stuff of day-to-day life in authoritarian regimes, but it’s certainly not the sort of thing you’d expect to see here in Canada. Sadly, an extreme new law recently passed in Quebec means all of this could soon be the reality right here at home.

You can Google it: Supreme Court of Canada grants leave to appeal global injunction


The Supreme Court of Canada has granted leave to hear an important case respecting the ability of Canadian courts to enjoin the behaviour of organizations with respect to their operations outside of Canada. On February 18, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada granted Google Inc. leave to appeal the judgment of the British Columbia Court of Appeal in Equustek Solutions Inc. v. Google Inc., in which the BCCA upheld an interlocutory injunction prohibiting Google from including specific websites in its search results worldwide. The plaintiff’s request for the injunction against Google arose from a lawsuit in which the plaintiff alleged that the defendant was passing off its goods as those of the plaintiff. After the plaintiff commenced the proceeding, the defendant left BC while still selling the knock-off goods over the internet, relying on search results to reach customers.  The plaintiff alleged that it lacked an effective way of stopping the defendant’s conduct, and sought an interlocutory injunction prohibiting Google from displaying the defendants’ websites in its search results anywhere in the world.  The Supreme Court of British Columbia deemed the injunction necessary to ensure that the orders against the defendants were effective, and granted the injunction. Google appealed, arguing that the injunction represented an impermissible exercise of extra-territorial jurisdiction; improperly ensnared an innocent third-party (Google); and exceeded the Court’s jurisdiction.  Google also argued that the injunction violated Google and the public’s right to freedom of expression.

Intellectual property biggest issue for Canada in TPP, says Doer


Despite all the ink spilled over what the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal would mean for Canada’s supply management system and auto sector, it was intellectual property that presented the “biggest issue” for Canada, says the country’s ambassador to the United States.

Gary Doer told an Economic Club audience Dec. 2 that intellectual property—which includes issues like copyright protection for books and music, extended drug patents and trademark law—was not only the biggest issue for Canada and its peers at the negotiating table, but in getting to the table as well.

Canada’s previous federal government made a series of changes to its intellectual property laws in the years prior to signing the deal, such as those in the 2012 Copyright Modernization Act and the copyright changes in the 2015 budget. The budget the year prior also committed Canada to signing onto five international intellectual property treaties, including the Madrid Protocol on trademarks.

Experts including Michael Geist, who holds the Canada Research Chair on internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa, and Gowlings’ Robert MacDonald, and Canadian Chamber of Commerce president Perrin Beatty told Embassy at the time that signing those treaties would help Canada get in line with its international trading partners in Europe and the TPP zone.

The intellectual property chapter of the TPP includes 11 sections, 83 articles and six annexes. Many of the those provisions align with Canada’s current intellectual property laws, but implementing the TPP would require Canada’s government to make a handful of changes as well, with implications for the pharmaceutical and music industries and the general public.

How the TPP Will Affect Your Digital Rights

The Internet is a diverse ecosystem of private and public stakeholders. By excluding a large sector of communities—like security researchers, artists, libraries, and user rights groups—trade negotiators skewed the priorities of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) towards major tech companies and copyright industries that have a strong interest in maintaining and expanding their monopolies of digital services and content. Negotiated in secret for several years with overwhelming influence from powerful multinational corporate interests, it’s no wonder that its provisions do little to nothing to protect our rights online or our autonomy over our own devices. For example, everything in the TPP that increases corporate rights and interests is binding, whereas every provision that is meant to protect the public interest is non-binding and is susceptible to get bulldozed by efforts to protect corporations. Below is a list of communities who were excluded from the TPP deliberation process, and some of the main ways that the TPP’s copyright and digital policy provisions will negatively impact them.

Quebec To Mandate ISP Website Blocking

The Government of Quebec has introduced new legislation that requires Internet service providers to block access to unlicensed online gambling sites. The provisions are contained in an omnibus bill implementing elements of the government’s spring budget, which included a promise to establish website blocking requirements. The bill provides that “an Internet service provider may not give access to an online gambling site whose operation is not authorized under Québec law.” The government’s lottery commission will establish the list of banned websites:
“The Société des loteries du Québec shall oversee the accessibility of online gambling. It shall draw up a list of unauthorized online gambling sites and provide the list to the Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux, which shall send it to Internet service providers by registered mail.“
According to the law:
“An Internet service provider that receives the list of unauthorized online gambling sites in accordance with section 260.35 shall, within 30 days after receiving the list, block access to those sites.“
The mandated blocking legislation is unprecedented in Canada and will surely be subject to legal challenge.  To date, the federal government has worked to support a private sector initiative to block access to child pornography images, but the law on child pornography (which bans viewing such materials) is different from this form of website blocking. As I noted earlier this year, the Quebec government apparently views this initiative as a revenue enhancing measure because it wants to direct gamblers to its own Espacejeux, the Loto-Québec run online gaming site.

Peeple Rating App Won’t Back Down

Julia Cordray’s lowest point came at 5 a.m. on a weekend in early October, while browsing the comments on a YouTube video posted to promote her mobile-phone app, Peeple. The commenter had posted her Calgary address, phone number and email address, suggesting this information might be useful to anyone interested in killing her. And, worryingly, a lot of people had been taking to the Internet to voice their desire to do just that. What kind of crazy person goes online and threatens somebody who hasn’t even done anything? A few days earlier, on Sept. 30, Cordray became the target of one of the waves of mass outrage that periodically sweep social media.