• - 2022-06-06 -

    Voltage Holdings, LLC V Doe#1 et al, 2022 FC 827, saw the first time a plaintiff in a Canadian copyright filesharing action sought a motion for default judgment against dozens of defendants. Voltage is no stranger to copyright litigation. The American film production company has been the plaintiff in numerous copyright infringement lawsuits around the world. These cases concern unauthorized online sharing of Voltage’s films by unidentified defendants. Voltage often opts to sue internet subscribers who were suspected to have unauthorized copies of Voltage’s films shared through their home networks, even if the subscriber and the person who shared the unauthorized copies were not necessarily one and the same.

    In this case as in others, Voltage had taken no steps to identify the alleged direct infringers. Instead, the defendants were internet subscribers that Voltage found using their IP addresses, through information provided to them by ISPs via a Norwich order. These defendants had not responded to Voltage’s previous communications regarding the alleged infringements and had filed no defense. Voltage sought to obtain statutory damages for infringement through a default judgment.

  • - 2022-06-02 -

    CIPPIC is supporting a petition (filed by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre and the National Pensioners Federation) urging the Governor in Council to reverse the CRTC's approval of a controversial merger between Shaw and Rogers. The merger would eliminate a major competitor while substantially increasing Rogers' market power in a communications ecosystem that is already deeply concentrated.

    CIPPIC's supporting submission particularly highlighted the need to consider the inter-connected nature of communications competition. A conglomerated Rogers will not only be able to wield significant national market power in cable distribution, but also in home Internet and wireless. The loss of Shaw as a mobile competitor will be especially difficult to replace and will remove a key impediment on Rogers' market power.

    The merger will harm customers in mobile, home Internet and cable and will undermine service innovation. The CRTC's decision to approve the broadcasting elements of the merger should be reversed.

    Image source: Mike Lawrence, "Monopoly Key", Flickr, November 19, 2017, CC-BY 2.0

  • - 2022-05-30 -

    As the last few remaining NHL teams battle their way towards the Stanley Cup finals, the Federal Court has ordered Canadian ISPs to begin blocking NHL game streams accused of violating copyright Friday. While Canadian courts have previously recognized the availability of static website blocking (despite CIPPIC's objection), this order is the first of its kind in Canada, as we argued in our intervention. It implements a sophisticated system that relies on a private company to identify allegedly unauthorized streams using automated assessment tools and report these to Canadian ISPs for real-time blocking, and represents the next step and the never-ending expansion of remedies demanded by copyright holders in Canada.

    The order adopts a number of safeguards. It will only operate during the remainder of the playoffs, where there are fewer games to monitor and less opportunities for over-blocking. The Court also ordered an independent expert to audit the website blocking initiative. The independent audit will provide critical evidence that will be critical when courts are later asked to extend this remedy. Specifically, if Rogers, Bell, and the other media companies who applied for this order wish to extend its application beyond the 2022 playoff season, the independent audit will need to establish that collateral blocking of legitimate content was minimal and that the blocking was effective in actually increasing legitimate subscriptions rather than simply driving customers to other forms of infringement or adoption of VPN services.

    Image source: Stanislav Lvovsky, "Censored", Flickr, September 28, 2015, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

  • - 2022-05-02 -

    CIPPIC, working with the eQuality Project, has filed a motion in the Supreme Court of Canada to intervene in the appeal of R. v. Downes, 2022 BCCA 8, a British Columbia Court of Appeal decision, where a coach was charged under the voyeurism provisions of the Criminal Code for surreptitiously taking photographs of pre-teens in their underwear in a sports facility's change room. The majority of the Court Appeal overturned the conviction, ruling that the photographs were not taken in "places in which a person could reasonably be expected to be nude".

    CIPPIC will be arguing that the voyeurism provisions ought to be interpreted by framing them within the broader context of the privacy and equality rights of voyeurism targets, including women, children, and members of other equality-seeking communities.

  • - 2021-09-28 -

    CIPPIC has submitted feedback to the Department of Canadian Heritage concerning the proposed legislation to address “harmful content” online. The public consultation was launched right before the federal election was called with a deadline to submit right after the end of the election, causing civil society and academic experts to request a delay  to the submission deadline. No deferral was ultimately granted.

    In its submission, CIPPIC calls on the Department of Canadian Heritage to reconsider its approach to addressing activity that occurs online, given that the current approach jeopardizes claims that Canada is a global leader of human rights. The submission focuses on problems relating to the law’s scope of application, its demand that platforms block unlawful content within 24 hours of being flagged, as well as alarming requirements for online service providers to proactively monitor and filter content as well as report information on users to law enforcement.

  • - 2021-09-20 -

    Titled Innovation and Balance, CIPPIC's submission to the Government of Canada consultation on Copyright and Artificial Intelligence and IoT offers a set of cautious and balanced recommendations for maintaining Canada's copyright framework in the face of new technologies. CIPPIC's articling students Yuan Stevens and Liwah Keller, supported by a team of CIPPIC interns, took the lead in drafting CIPPIC's submissions.

  • - 2021-07-30 -

    The Supreme Court of Canada today released its decision in York University v. Access Copyright, 2021 SCC 32.  The case addressed two issues: whether Access Copyright’s Copyright Board tariff is mandatory, and whether copying by York pursuant to its Guidelines constitutes fair dealing.  Both courts below had ruled the tariff not mandatory and the Guidelines unfair.

    In a unanimous decision penned by Justice Abella (in her last case on the bench), the Court found that the tariff was not mandatory and so was unenforceable against York, and in light of the absence of any real legal issue between York and Access Copyright, that it would be inappropriate to decide the fair dealing issue. 

    However, the Court cautioned that this result should not “should not be construed as endorsing the reasoning of” the courts below, citing “some significant jurisprudential problems with those aspects of their judgments that warrant comment.”  The Court went on to “correct” those “errors” [para. 87-88]

    Highlights of that analysis include:

  • - 2021-04-26 -

    supreme court of canada
    "supreme court of canada" by jacob earl is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    CIPPIC has filed its intervener factum in the Supreme Court in York University v Access Copyright, SCC No, 39222, an important case addressing the scope of educational fair dealing. CIPPIC argues that a purposive interpretation of fair dealing that embodies Charter values:/p>

    • recognizes that copyright is right to exclude, not simply be paid;
    • identifies the relevant perspective as that of the ultimate user;
    • recognizes universities’ unique role as cradles of authorship and innovation; 
    • appreciates educational institutions' role in society where truth is contested; and
    • appreciates that intermediaries and commercial actors are aspects of marketplaces that facilitate the socially beneficial exercise of both owners’ and users’ rights.

    David Fewer acted for CIPPIC.  CIPPIC was supported by a broad team of students, including articling student Bo Kruk and interns Sarah Crothers, Tina Dekker, Matthew Akl, and research assistant Courtney Wong.

    The hearing of this appeal is currently set for May 21, 2021.

  • - 2021-04-21 -

    In yet another of a long string of missed opportunities and short-sighted half measures, the CRTC has announced its regulatory solution for Canada's chronic cell phone market debacle. In adopting a regime that replicates, rather than overcomes, the most problematic features of Canada’s mobile landscape, the Commission’s regulatory solution offers slim hopes for Canada’s cell phone market.

    As anyone with a phone plan is aware, world-high mobile prices have plagued Canadians for years. Yet Canada’s dominant national providers (TELUS, Bell and Rogers) have persistently denied this reality through lobbying efforts, regulatory filings, and even active misdirection. It is therefore encouraging that the CRTC’s recent decision finally and definitively confirms the nature and scope of Canada’s pricing woes.

    The decision also correctly identifies several endemic problems in mobile competition that have caused this state of affairs: market entry is difficult, as upfront costs are high, spectrum is inherently limited, and dominant providers enjoy a substantial head start. As a result of these conditions, several stuttering attempts over the years to instill price discipline from new competitors have failed to make any meaningful headway into the national providers’ dominant market presence and globally high revenues. In response, the Commission adopts a two-tiered regime. First, in an attempt to provide more competition, it obligates dominant providers to let competitors operate 'virtually', without the need to build their own networks (the MVNO mandate). Second, to provide some relief for Canadians who simply cannot afford mobile data connectivity, dominant providers will be obligated to offer lower cost plans.

    Each component promises, in theory, to address long-standing problems in Canada's cell phone landscape, but both fall short in the implementation. The MVNO regime is crafted narrowly, and is only available to a small number of existing comptitors. The low-cost plans imposed by the CRTC will help some customers in some regions, but mostly replicate plans already offered by some regional competitors, and do so on outdated 3G technology.

    Cross-posted & paired with a post by Erin Knight at Image Source: Georg Arthur Pfleuger, @knurpselknie, "Facetime between mother and son", Unsplash, June 20, 2020

  • - 2021-04-01 -

    CIPPIC’s submission (The Public's Domain) to the government consultation on copyright term extension places the public domain at the heart of Canada’s copyright system.  Given the costs of term extension to Canada’s copyright ecosystem, CIPPIC argues for a form of term extension that offers something back in the form of a registry of works.  Copyright is rare among forms of intellectual property in that protection arises automatically without the need to declare one’s rights.  This means that copyright lacks a functional registry akin to the Patent Registry or the Trademarks Registry.  A Copyright Registry would provide Canadians with greater notice of both protected content and content soon to join the public domain.

    CIPPIC articling student Bo Kruk co-authored the submission with David Fewer and with research assistance from CIPPIC interne Nadine Eltawdy.