As the creative industries continued to grow economically in importance in 2014, so have the stakes in copyright litigation. Increasingly, the courts have been challenged to resolve complex disputes arising from new uses of works and other subject matter brought about by innovations in technology. While content is often a core and indispensable element of new and innovative services, products or offerings, frequently parties dispute whether the use requires permission and payment to rights holders or can be engaged in without permission or payment. This post reviews some of the highlights of the court battles of 2014 in Canada and other Commonwealth countries, the United States and the European Union.
A divided Supreme Court ruled that individuals cannot be secure that their most personal information will be protected from warrantless searches when arrested. In a 4 to 3 ruling, in R v Fearon, the Court held that if a person is lawfully arrested, a search is conducted that is incidental to the arrest, the search is tailored to its purpose, and the police take detailed notes, police may search the person’s cell phone.
Blocking orders against web sites and services that engage in or enable copyright infringement are common in the European Union. BitTorrent sites like The Pirate Bay are a frequent target of such orders. See, Keeping The Pirate Bays at Bay: using blocking orders to curtail infringements; Blocking orders against ISPs legal in the EU: UPC Telekabel Wien.
In the landmark ruling in Google Spain SL, Google Inc. v Agencia Española de Protección de Datos, Mario Costeja González (case no. C-131/12, May 13, 2014), the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) recognized that search engines are controllers of the personal information they process. As such, they have the obligation, in appropriate cases, to de-list links to personal information in their search results.
The Gonzales decision left open questions about the scope of the duty and the criteria to be used in determining what links must be delisted, something which Google, data protection authorities, and others had disagreed about. The Article 29 Data Protection Working Party has now released a Guideline addressing these controversial issues.
To prove copyright infringement, the claimant has the onus of proving two things: first the alleged infringer created his or her work by copying from the copyright owner’s work (copying in fact); second, that all or a substantial part of the original work was copied (illicit copying). The analytical steps in each inquiry have been considered in numerous cases. For example, the Supreme Court of Canada reviewed the steps a Canadian court should follow in establishing illicit copying in a “altered copying” case in Cinar Corporation v. Robinson, 2013 SCC 73 (summarized here).
The computer program provisions in Canada’s anti-spam law (CASL) are very hard to apply in practice. One of the most difficult interpretive challenges involves determining what the phrase “install or cause to be installed” means. CASL only applies where a person installs or causes to be installed a program on someone else’s computer. The CRTC released a Guideline that attempts to clarify what CASL means by that phrase. In information sessions last week to IT.Can and ITAC members, Dana-Lynn Wood and Lynne Perrault of the CRTC attempted to provide even further guidance on this issue. However, after fielding a series of questions on the issue, they agreed the issue was still unclear and that it was necessary for them to give further consideration to the issue.
I have argued many times on this blog that Canada’s anti-spam law (CASL) would not survive a Charter challenge. It’s “ban all” approach to regulating commercial speech, with limited exceptions, cannot be justified. Professor Emir Crowne, Associate Professor, University of Windsor, Faculty of Law, just published a paper together with Stephanie Provato agreeing with this opinion, Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation: A Constitutional Analysis, 31 J. Marshall J. Info. Tech. & Privacy L. 1.
The abstract of the article says the following:
The Supreme Court released a landmark decision earlier this week in the case Bhasin v. Hrynew, 2014 SCC 71. The case is a very important one for all lawyers involved in negotiating, advising on, and enforcing contracts. This includes IT lawyers who are regularly engaged in complex tech transactions.
The decision establishes two new common principles that will apply to all contracts. First, there is a new “general organizing principle of good faith contractual performance”. Second, as a manifestation of this principle, there is a further common law duty of parties to a contract “to act honestly in the performance of contractual obligations”.
This week has been eventful on the CASL front with the CRTC providing guidance on how it is likely to interpret CASL’s computer program provisions. Monday evening the CRTC published a new guideline on the interpretation of CASL. This was followed by a presentation given to IT.Can members by Andy Kaplan Myrth of Industry Canada and Dana-Lynn Wood and Lynne Perrault of the CRTC. The presentation was a follow-up to an earlier IT.Can meeting where the CRTC asked for and received a list of questions for which guidance is being sought by the public. This information session was part of a cross country tour by the CRTC to provide information to the public about CASL.