Supreme Court ruling helps bloggers

The Supreme Court of Canada has just made a major ruling on defamation. Up to now, the law said that not only was the source of a defamatory comment liable to prosecution, so was anyone who transmitted the defamation. Thus, not only was Don Cherry at risk for his “pukes” comments of late, so was the CBC for broadcasting them, and any other media for further broadcasting them (and hence the apology, once the CBC lawyers put a legal gun to Cherry’s head, I presume). Anyway, the Supremes announced in a unanimous ruling that people who hyperlink in digital media are not liable to prosecution if they link to a defamatory statement. This is a wonderful admission of reality by the SCOC. There’s so much going on it’s impossible to track all the hyperlinking. Now, if they’d do the same and waive copyright permission for every quote used on the web…

“The internet cannot, in short, provide access to information without hyperlinks. Limiting their usefulness by subjecting them to the traditional publication rule would have the effect of seriously restricting the flow of information and, as a result, freedom of expression,” the ruling said. “The potential ‘chill’ in how the internet functions could be devastating, since primary article authors would unlikely want to risk liability for linking to another article over whose changeable content they have no control. “

CBC, Oct. 19 2011

Quebec wrestles with professional designation of journalists

In a bid to distinguish between amateur bloggers and professional journalists working for MSM, Quebec is pondering a licensing system that will give “professional” journalists that designation, and greater access to gov’t information than non-professionals. The National Post has come out against it, almost reflexively, and today the Globe and Mail takes its turn. One of the intriguing questions to come up with is whether the ability to speak French will be part of the licensing process. There are anglophone and ethnic media whose reporters may or may not speak French. Is this going to start another language war?

And the free flow of information would be subject to state control. Government advertising would be restricted (under one proposal) to those news organizations that meet accepted proportions of “professional” journalists. News organizations that don’t could be destroyed – including Internet start-ups that could one day become as large and powerful as the Huffington Post.

Aug. 27 2011

Copyright bill has a chance to pass

With a majority government in Ottawa, the long delayed Copyright Bill now has a chance to pass. Years in the making, it has been proposed three times and fallen three times due to elections caused by minority governments falling. More than about time; a Reuters report states that Canada joins Russia and China on the “priority watch list” put out by the US Trade Representative’s office.  The International Intellectual Property Alliance states “Canada stands virtually alone among developed economies in failing to bring its laws up to global minimum standards for the digital networked environment.” Google News: Canada among top pirates.

Another election, another dead copyright bill

In 1997, Canada promised its key trading partners that it would bring its copyright law into the digital age. Admittedly difficult to do (Google’s attempt to digitize all print media was slapped down by a US court last week, but still has more legal hurdles to breach), we are stuck with copyright laws that are still in Gutenberg era. Let’s see, 1997, we had this fancy new thing called the Internet, or the Information Superhighway, that seemed kind of interesting. Ipods, pads, tablets, Facebook, Youtube were all in the future. And since then, absolutely nothing. Barrie McKenna has a good screed in yesterday’s ROB about the futility of it all (would have posted yesterday, but computer/server/something went kablooey.)

ROB, March 28 2011

Yukon newspaper/CBC in legal fight to name/withhold source

A bit of a strange legal case before the Yukon Supreme Court, involving the right to withhold a source versus the obligation of revealing a source in a defamation case. Basically, The Yukon News is asking the territorial Supreme Court to make the CBC reveal the identities of sources who spoke to reporter Nancy Thomson as part of an investigative series that aired in 2004. It gets more complicated, and I’m not sure the recent SCOC ruling on protecting sources will work here. No doubt it will go to SCOC, assuming people can afford to pay the legal fees.

CBC, March 17 2011

CBC whacked over glacial response to FOI’s

Federal Information Commissioner gave CBC and Canada Post the worst grade — red alert — for the slowness, in not downright unresponsiveness, to the requests they receive for freedom of information. To its credit, CBC said it will address the issue, and commit more resources to handling the backlog. One thing that might help is if the Sun chain stops FOI’ing CBC to death, as part of its campaign to root out Liberals, leftists, McGovernites and comsymps* from the Mother Corporation.

Vancouver Sun, March 10 2010

* comsymps = communist sympathizers. Yes, we really talked like that during the Cold War. And don’t be surprised if a 24 hour Sun TV news channel brings the old terms back, including McGovernites, a reference to a liberal Democratic candidate who was crushed in the 1972 presidential campaign, and served as some weird political foe to US neocon Newt Gingrich in the 1990’s. Newt looks like he’s making a comeback; wonder if he’ll be hired as a commentator by Sun TV?

SCOC upholds media restrictions in courthouse

Judges across the country have been putting more and more restrictions on what journalists can cover, in part because of media excesses in shooting and reporting while a trial is on. They uphold a Quebec ruling that restricts them to specific spaces in courtrooms and uphold judges right to impose publication bans and ban on social media to cover trials. From recent rulings, they are siding with the right of a citizen to a fair trial over the right of media of free expression.

Postmedia, Jan. 29 2o11

Supremes ready to take on tech law in 2011: Geist

With pending federal legislation on copyright, access to information and privacy gummed up in a minority Parliament (several have already died on the order paper as elections were called (and there’s a good chance of a spring election this year), the Supreme Court has on its docket several potentially groundbreaking decisions. Trademark, access to government information and the liabilities of hyperlinking, which no blogger can do without, are all up for decisions this year. Professor Geist is an acknowledged expert on digital media law; it’s worth looking at his view of the year ahead, and I hope in future I don’t have to get his permission to link to articles he puts in the public domain.

Toronto Star, Jan. 9 2011

Digital media beginning to affect justice

Typically, when juries are sworn in they are directed by the judge not to speak about the case to anyone, even themselves, until it’s time for them to deliberate. And unlike American juries, they are directed to keep their reasoning private once a verdict has been rendered. Now, it’s coming out that some jurors are tweeting and facebooking their comments during the trial. Generally, this is enough to throw a trial. I can understand why kids don’t get they are sending stuff to the whole world, but adults should know better. Is digital making us morons? Or am I just getting old and cranky (this is a rhetorical question; no need to respond.)

Vancouver Sun, Jan. 7 2011

Ezra Levant loses libel case

A judge, we’re not sure from which court, has ruled Ezra Levant has defamed a lawyer for the Canadian Human Rights Commission; he was fined $25,o00 and ordered to take his comments off his web site. The judge cited Levant’s “reckless indifference” to accuracy in the case, and noted Levant’s actions don’t fall within the “responsible communications” guidelines of the Supreme Court, like checking for facts. The right has been tilting at human rights commissions for a couple of years, blithely indifferent to the fact that the commissions have to work within the law, and all their decisions are appealable to a true court, protecting citizens from careless decisions or personal crusades.

J-Source, November 23 2010


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