IT.CAN Newsletter/Bulletin
February 16, 2017/16 février 2017

Canadian court issues takedown order against Romanian website operator

Decision seen as a first “right to be forgotten” case in Canada

The Federal Court of Canada recently released a very interesting decision in A.T. v. Globe24h.com, which is being reported as a first step towards a Canadian “right to be forgotten.” The decision includes an order that purports to tell a non-Canadian what information can be published on the internet globally.

The Applicant, identified only as A.T., registered a complaint with the Privacy Commissioner of Canada that a Romanian website was hosting and making available an Alberta Labour Board decision that he did not want to be associated with. An internet search of his name would turn up this decision, hosted by Globe24h.com. Though the decision remained on the Alberta tribunal’s website, the tribunal had taken steps to make sure it was not indexed through search engines. A.T. wanted it taken down.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) had previously investigated a number of complaints against the Romanian website and issued a finding. Essentially, the OPC had found that the site scraped decisions from Canadian legal, courts and tribunal websites and made them searchable on the internet. Most of these tribunals and courts made these records available online, but restricted them from being indexed and fully searchable, as was the case with the Alberta tribunal.

The OPC concluded that the business model of the site was essentially extortionate. Globe24h would promptly take down or redact decisions – presumably those not favourable to individuals – if the individual paid a processing fee. If the person did not pay the fee, the taking down or redacting would take months.

The OPC had found this was a violation of Canada's Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.

In the case before the Federal Court, only the complainant and the OPC appeared. As an uncontested hearing, the record is one-sided and there was not a complete, adversarial analysis of all the issues to be considered. It does appear that the Court generally accepted the arguments put forward by the OPC, including the evidence of the dialogue that OPC had with Globe24h.

The Court relied on, among other authorities, the Equustek v. Google decision from the British Columbia Court of Appeal, which was appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada and in which a decision is pending, to support its ability to issue a mandatory order against an entity with no presence in Canada. This decision may be reversed.

The Court concluded that because the original case was available online, but not indexed, removing these cases from Globe24h would not have any real impact regarding access to the publicly-available decisions. And because the site's purpose was concluded to be mostly mercenary, it could not take advantage of the exclusion given to exclusively journalistic reports. In fact, the Court determined that the website's approach was not "appropriate" for the purposes of s. 5(3) of PIPEDA, which reads:

Appropriate purposes

(3) An organization may collect, use or disclose personal information only for purposes that a reasonable person would consider are appropriate in the circumstances.

Here is the judge's reasoning on that point:

[75] I agree with the OPCC that a reasonable person would not consider the respondent to have a bona fide business interest. In making this argument, the Commissioner relies on the Canadian Judicial Council’s (CJC) Model Policy for Access to Court Records in Canada (Model Policy) and the OPCC’s own guidance document to federal administrative tribunals. The CJC Model Policy discourages decisions that are published online to be indexed by search engines as this would prevent information from being available when the purpose of the search is not to find court records. The policy recognizes that a balance must be struck between the open courts principle and increasing online access to court records where the privacy and security of participants in judicial proceedings will be at issue.

[76] The CJC has struck a balance by advising courts to prevent judgments from being discovered unintentionally through search engines. To this end, the CJC has recommended that judgments published online should not be indexed by search engines. The OPCC notes that CanLII and other court and tribunal websites generally follow the CJC’s Model Policy and prevent their decisions from being indexed by search engines through web robot exclusion protocols and other means. Indeed, the Federal Court has taken such measures to prevent our decisions from being indexed. That does not bar anyone from visiting the Federal Court website and conducting a name search. But it does prevent the cases from being listed in a casual web search. The respondent’s actions result in needless exposure of sensitive personal information of participants in the justice system via search engines.

The Court agreed with the OPC's submissions that the “journalism” exemption doesn't apply in the case either. In doing so, the Court followed the reasoning of the Alberta Court of Appeal in United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 401 v Alberta (Attorney General), 2012 ABCA 130, which was affirmed on other grounds by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2013 SCC 62.

[67] The respondent has claimed in communications with the OPCC that his purposes in operating Globe24h.com should be considered exclusively journalistic. Should the Court accept that claim, Part 1 of PIPEDA does not apply to his activities because the personal information collected, used or disclosed falls under the exception provided by paragraph 4(2)(c) of PIPEDA.

[68] The “journalistic” purpose exception is not defined in PIPEDA and it has not received substantive treatment in the jurisprudence. The OPCC submits that the Canadian Association of Journalists has suggested that an activity should qualify as journalism only where its purpose is to (1) inform the community on issues the community values, (2) it involves an element of original production, and (3) it involves a “self-conscious discipline calculated to provide an accurate and fair description of facts, opinion and debate at play within a situation ”. Those criteria appear to be a reasonable framework for defining the exception. None of them would apply to what the respondent has done.

[69] The Alberta Court of Appeal interpreted similar statutory language in Alberta’s Personal Information Protection Act, SA 2003, c P-6.5: United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 401 v Alberta (Attorney General), 2012 ABCA 130 (CanLII), [2012] AJ No 427, aff’d 2013 SCC 62 (CanLII), [2013] 3 SCR 733 [United Food]. Specifically, in considering the adjective “journalistic”, the Court of Appeal noted that “it is unreasonable to think that the Legislature intended it to be so wide as to encompass everything within the phrase “freedom of opinion and expression””: United Food, above, at para 56. Further, the Court noted that “[n]ot every piece of information posted on the Internet qualifies [as journalism]”: United Food, above, at para 59.

[70] In my view, the respondent’s claimed purpose “to make law accessible for free on the Internet” on Globe24h.com cannot be considered “journalistic”. In this instance, there is no need to republish the decisions to make them accessible as they are already available on Canadian websites for free. The respondent adds no value to the publication by way of commentary, additional information or analysis. He exploits the content by demanding payment for its removal.

[71] The evidence indicates that the respondent’s primary purpose is to incentivize individuals to pay to have their personal information removed from the website. A secondary purpose, until very recently, was to generate advertising revenue by driving traffic to his website through the increased exposure of personal information in search engines. There is no evidence that the respondent’s intention is to inform the public on matters of public interest.

[72] Even if the respondent’s activities could be considered journalistic in part, the exemption under paragraph 4(2)(c) only applies where the information is collected, used or disclosed exclusively for journalistic purposes. It is clear from the record that Globe24h.com’s purposes extend beyond journalism.

Here is the final order from the Court:

THIS COURT’S JUDGMENT is that:

1. It is declared that the Respondent, Sebastian Radulescu, contravened the Personal Information Protection and Electronics Documents Act, SC 2000, c 5 by collecting, using and disclosing on his website, www.Globe24h.com (“Globe24h.com”), personal information contained in Canadian court and tribunal decisions for inappropriate purposes and without the consent of the individuals concerned;

2. The Respondent, Sebastian Radulescu, shall remove all Canadian court and tribunal decisions containing personal information from Globe24h.com and take the necessary steps to remove these decisions from search engines caches;

3. The Respondent, Sebastian Radulescu, shall refrain from further copying and republishing Canadian court and tribunal decisions containing personal information in a manner that contravenes the Personal Information and Electronic Documents Act, SC 2000, c 5;

  1. The Respondent, Sebastian Radulescu, shall pay the Applicant damages in the amount of $5000;
  2. The Applicant is awarded costs in the amount of $300; and
  3. The style of cause is amended to substitute the initials “A.T.” for the name of the applicant.

While this case is very interesting and the first in Canada to approach a “right to be forgotten,” the editors would caution against assuming that it is a strong precedent for Canadian law. As it was uncontested, all the argument and evidence was given by parties seeking the removal of the content. The case raises some very interesting, very important and nuanced issues. We really would have benefited from a full presentation of all arguable positions, particularly those related to freedom of expression and the appropriateness of global takedown orders.

“First impression” for passing off on the internet occurs when the link is first encountered

BC Appeals Court finds the moment for determining confusion is not arriving on a landing page

In Vancouver Community College v. Vancouver Career College (Burnaby) Inc., Vancouver Community College brought an appeal before the British Columbia Court of Appeal after a trial court had dismissed its Trade-marks Act and passing off claims against the Vancouver Career College. Vancouver Community College is a public college in the province, while Vancouver Career College is a private educational institution. The services provided by both overlap in a significant way.

In 2009, the private college began using the domain name VCCollege.ca and used the keywords “Vancouver Community College” and “VCC” in its internet advertising campaigns. The public institution had previously obtained official marks status under the Trade-marks Act for “Vancouver Community College” and “VCC”.

The public college sued the private college over the use of the term “VCC” and the defendant’s use of both “VCC” and “Vancouver Community College” in internet advertising. The lawsuit was based on passing-off and violation of the Trade-marks Act.

The Court of Appeal found that the trial court had erred in its analysis of “confusion” as an element of passing off, specifically about when the confusion must take place in the internet context. The trial judge specifically found that whether a member of the public would be confused would be determined by their impressions when arriving at a linked-to website:

[183] The authorities on passing off provide that it is the “first impression” of the searcher at which the potential for confusion arises which may lead to liability. In my opinion, the “first impression” cannot arise on a Google AdWords search at an earlier time than when the searcher reaches a website. When a searcher reaches the website of the defendant in the present proceeding it is clearly identified as the defendant's website. As was said by Frankel J.A. in Insurance Corporation of British Columbia v. Stainton Ventures Ltd. the “relevant consumer” will “understand that it is necessary to view a website to determine whose site it is”. In my opinion that is the point during a search when the relevant first impression is made.

On this point, the Court of Appeal concluded:

[70] As I consider the judge erred in assessing confusion at the time of arrival at the website, the question is whether this case, viewed at the time the search results appear, is akin to ICBC and BCAA or akin to the Law Society of British Columbia. It is apparent that there is nothing about the domain name “VCCollege.ca” that distinguishes the owner of that name from Vancouver Community College. The letters “ollege” added to the acronym “VCC” are as equally reminiscent of the appellant as the respondent, and there are no words or letters that disclaim affiliation with the appellant.

[71] I conclude the second component of passing off, confusion, is fully established by proof that the respondent’s domain name is equally descriptive of the appellant and contains the acronym long associated to it. In my view, it was an error for the judge to discount the likelihood of confusion before the searcher arrives at the landing page of the website. Adopting the language of Masterpiece at para. 24, the judge “should have limited his consideration to how a consumer, upon encountering the [“VCC”] would have reacted”, and on that question, the necessary likelihood of confusion is established.

The plaintiff/appellant attempted to persuade the Court of Appeal that simply bidding on the keyword “VCC” for online advertising would also constitute passing off. The Court disagreed:

[72] … More significantly, the critical factor in the confusion component is the message communicated by the defendant. Merely bidding on words, by itself, is not delivery of a message. What is key is how the defendant has presented itself, and in this the fact of bidding on a keyword is not sufficient to amount to a component of passing off, in my view.

On the claim grounded in the “official marks” provisions of the Trade-marks Act, the Court of Appeal determined there were too many factual elements that must be considered and which are not in the record before the Court. The Court allowed the appeal on this point so that it could be determined before a trial court with the appropriate evidence.

The Court concluded:

[92] In my view, the order appealed must be set aside in its entirety. For the reasons given, I consider the cause of action in passing off is established and the appellant is entitled to a permanent injunction, in terms that may be the subject of further submissions if required, restraining the respondent from use of “VCC” and “VCCollege” in respect to its Internet presence. It will be necessary to remit the issue of quantum of damages for passing off to the Supreme Court of British Columbia for assessment. Further, I would remit the claim of breach of official marks to the Supreme Court of British Columbia for fresh determination. In my view, costs in the trial court should be determined by the trial court.

Sentencing for “Revenge Porn”

Individual sentenced for “revenge porn” after pleading guilty to harassment

In R. v. Zhou (2016 ONCJ 547, no hyperlink available) the accused had pleaded guilty to one count of criminal harassment under s. 264 of the Criminal Code. The accused and complainant had been in a relationship when they were teenagers. When he was 19 and the complainant was 17, the complainant uploaded intimate images of herself onto a tumblr account accessible only to the two of them. However, the complainant subsequently discovered that the accused had placed the images onto a publicly-accessible pornographic website, where they remained for two years and attracted over 1,300 views. The complainant managed to have the photos removed but suffered depression and anxiety for some time a result of the event. The accused, by the time he was charged, was a promising music student at a prominent post-secondary music conservatory. He was initially charged with circulating child pornography, which caused public reaction and stigmatization in his community.

After reviewing the general law of sentencing, Justice Sheila Ray of the Ontario Court of Justice turned to the specific act of non-consensual circulation of intimate images, taking notice of the report of 2012 Report of the Nova Scotia Task Force on Bullying and Cyberbullying and the CCSO Cybercrime Working Group’s 2013 Report on Cyberbullying and the Non-Consensual Distribution of Intimate Images, as well as previous jurisprudence which noted the psychological trauma, harm and victimization that stems from this conduct. This was an act, she stated, that has a disproportionate impact on young females in precisely the manner the complainant had suffered in this case, making them a particularly vulnerable group and the crime a grave one. She noted:

Incidents of non-consensual distribution of intimate images and non-consensual sexting dove tail the increased use of technology for communication purposes in our society, and the escalating risk-taking behaviour that sexting leads to, which has in turn created a new class of vulnerable persons requiring the Court’s protection, and a crime that is more prevelant in our community than was previously the case. The increased prevelance of precisely the crime that Mr. Zhou committed in this case, charged under the rubrique of criminal harassment, heightens the general gravity of this offence.

The degree of the accused’s responsibility for the offence was heightened, Justice Ray found, by his conduct regarding the images themselves:

The admitted facts demonstrate a desire by him to spread the images widely on the Internet. He protected his own identity by uploading the images anonymously. The victim was not afforded such protection. Although Mr. Zhou did not provide her name or address, her face was visible in the photos. Seven of the images exposed her breasts, and four showed her pubic area. Although Mr. Zhou did not directly send the images to the victim’s classmates or friends, he uploaded the images in which her face was visible on a publicly accessible website. At least one viewer commented that he thought that he knew the victim.

It is also evident that Mr. Zhou intended to distribute the images as widely as possible. Mr. Zhou checked the number of views and comments several times per week soon after posting and eventually stopped checking for approximately one year. He then became curious again and emailed himself the link to the site so that he could track the comments and views. This was not merely reckless. He was fully aware and he fully intended the images to be widely distributed. He posted them on a website, where they were shared with 1,333 viewers, and he knowingly placed them there for that purpose.

Thought and planning went into posting the photos. Mr. Zhou would have to have chosen which photos he would post, think about the comment he would post them with, and according to the agreed statement of facts, he checked the comments of the viewers with some frequency. This was not a momentary lapse of judgment or a thoughtless one-time mistake. It was a continuing offence.

Despite this, Justice Ray noted that the accused was a “youthful, first-time offender” with no subsequent criminal conduct. He had taken full responsibility for his actions, successfully engaged in rehabilitative efforts, and attempted to make amends to the victim. It was clear he had insight into his behavior and showed no sign of repeating it. He had pleaded guilty to one of the offences with which he was charged, sparing the victim from a trial. Nonetheless, a discharge was not warranted because of the gravity of the offence and the need for denunciation and deterrence. In the result, Zhou was sentenced to time served plus a 12-month non-reporting probationary period and an order prohibiting contact with the victim and possession of any images of the victim. A ban on internet use was unnecessary as it was “more likely to impair rather than facilitate” his reintegration into the community, and the victim’s best interests did not require it.

This judgment on sentencing sensitively balances the circumstances of both the complainant and the accused, taking account both of the suffering that was caused to the complainant but also the apparent rehabilitation of the accused. It is a decision that could be of use in future prosecutions under s. 162.1 of the Code, the new offence of circulation of private intimate images, under which cases of this sort should be expected to proceed in the future.

US Authorities seeking social media information at the border

Information may soon include passwords to social media accounts

A number of media outlets have reported that American border authorities are considering not only questioning prospective visitors about their offline lives, but may ask certain visitors for their social media login information. According to the Guardian, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security testified about the practice before a Congressional committee:

“We want to get on their social media, with passwords – what do you do, what do you say?” said the DHS secretary, John Kelly, speaking to Congress during the House committee on homeland security on Tuesday. “If they don’t want to cooperate then you don’t come in.”

The Guardian further reports that the practice will be focused on individuals from the countries referred to in President Trump’s executive order creating the so-called “travel ban” from predominantly Muslim countries.

The practice of requiring individuals to provide border officials with access to electronic devices, including passwords to unlock them, has reportedly increased. A recent high-profile example, according to CNN and others, involved a US-born NASA employee who was required to unlock and surrender her government-issued smartphone.

In light of this apparent change in practice, Wired.com has produced a helpful article entitled “A Guide to Getting Past Customs With Your Digital Privacy Intact.”

Action collective pour bris de sécurité

Dans le cadre d’une action collective, le demandeur réclame des dommages-intérêts à la suite d'un bris de sécurité concernant des renseignements rattachés sur plusieurs millions de cartes de crédit et de débit. La défenderesse a reconnu que des pirates informatiques ont accédé illégalement aux « données de cartes de paiement » (notamment les noms, numéros de carte, dates d'expiration et codes de sécurité) de ses magasins aux États-Unis. Elle a également reconnu que des données cryptées des NIP de son système et autres renseignements personnels ont été piratés.

Le Tribunal estime qu’il n’y a pas lieu d’obliger un résident du Québec ayant subi un préjudice occasionné par la faute de l’entreprise américaine à intenter des poursuites en dommages-intérêts contre celle-ci aux États Unis. Mais elle limite aux seuls résidents du Québec l'action collective proposée. Bien que la surveillance des comptes et des relevés de carte de crédit n’est pas un inconvénient pouvant donner droit à des dommages-intérêts, la nécessité de devoir mettre en place de la surveillance de cartes de crédit et d'alertes de sécurité, l'obligation de requérir des rapports de crédit et d’être placé devant la nécessité d’annuler ou remplacer des cartes de paiement constituent des situations pouvant potentiellement donner droit à des dommages-intérêts. La Cour autorise le recours au regard de la fraude et du vol d'identité de même que sur la possible omission de signaler l'acte de piratage aux membres du groupe.

Admettre l’inclusion de messages syndicaux dans les courriels des professionnels du gouvernement est déraisonnable

Le Tribunal juge déraisonnable la décision rendue le 8 septembre 2015 par la Commission des relations de travail (CRT) ordonnant au Gouvernement, à ses ministères ainsi qu’à tous ses représentants de cesser d’entraver les activités syndicales de l’Association professionnelle des ingénieurs du gouvernement du Québec (APIGQ) et de permettre aux salariés qu’elle représente d’inclure dans tous leurs courriels transmis dans l'exercice de leurs fonctions un message d’intérêt syndical (décision résumée dans Bulletin IT.Can, 15 octobre 2015) .

La liberté d'expression qui s'exerce sur les lieux et pendant les heures de travail doit respecter certaines conditions particulières pour être «valablement exercée»; le message diffusé doit être relativement discret et ne pas être envahissant. Pour le Tribunal, la CRT a omis de considérer la longueur du message syndical en cause dans le contexte de l'envoi. Celui-ci tient sur plus de quinze lignes et sur quatre paragraphes, alors que la signature de l'auteur tient sur deux ou trois lignes. Difficile de considérer un tel message comme « discret ». De plus, il est adressé par des employés de l’État à des interlocuteurs identifiés qu'ils ont pour mandat de servir ou d'informer au nom de l'État, à l’aide d’un système de messagerie protégé, appartenant à l’employeur, et qui sert à communiquer avec l’extérieur. Le Tribunal estime que le ton du message est au mieux équivoque, au pire tendancieux et désobligeant et met volontairement en doute la probité des employés de l'État eux-mêmes et de leur employeur ainsi que leur expertise.

Le Tribunal estime que si la CRT s'était attardée véritablement au caractère raisonnable de l’exercice par l’APIGQ et ses membres de leur droit à la liberté d’expression dans le contexte global de la diffusion de ce message, sa conclusion aurait été différente. La Loi sur la fonction publique dispose que la fonction publique a pour mission première de fournir au public les services de qualité auxquels il a droit. Or, tel que formulé et diffusé, le message syndical de l’APIGQ compromet l’image de la fonction publique en tant qu’employeur et ne peut que miner la confiance des destinataires en la qualité des services qu’ils reçoivent de la part des ingénieurs à l’emploi du gouvernement.

Il faut, avant toute chose, tenir compte de la raisonnabilité objective de la demande syndicale et du sens commun (ou du gros bon sens) pour ne pas saper davantage la confiance du public dans des services publics aussi importants que ceux que doivent rendre les ingénieurs de l'État chargés d'assurer la solidité des infrastructures mises au service des citoyens. Malgré la déférence due ici à la CRT, ni sa familiarité avec les faits de la cause ni sa connaissance privilégiée de sa loi habilitante ne lui ont permis d'avoir une perspective suffisante des enjeux globaux de l'affaire pour mettre en balance les droits des parties. Cette mise en balance a été défaillante et non proportionnée. Une pondération raisonnable de l’atteinte somme toute minimale portée par l’employeur au droit à l'exercice de la liberté d’expression de l’APIGQ et l’intérêt public auraient dû amener la CRT à conclure à la raisonnabilité de l’interdiction faite par l’employeur aux ingénieurs et au rejet de la plainte fondée sur l'article 12 du Code du travail.

Les données émanant de Google ne constituent pas une preuve fiable

Le 18 mai 2014, le défendeur est intercepté au kilomètre 476 de l’autoroute 20. On lui reproche d’avoir circulé à 146 km/h dans une zone de 100 km/h, ce qu’il nie catégoriquement. Il prétend avoir activé son régulateur de vitesse à 110 km/h, n’atteignant jamais la vitesse alléguée. Il dépose aussi des photographies provenant du site Internet « google », qui font ressortir la présence d’arbres dans l’embranchement d’une longueur mesurant 650 mètres. Le temps pour parcourir cette distance selon ce même site Internet est d’une minute. Le policier a parcouru 20 kilomètres avant d’intercepter le défendeur et a perdu de vue le véhicule capté pendant un certain laps de temps. Le Tribunal doit déterminer si la poursuite a établi hors de tout doute raisonnable que le véhicule capté par cinémomètre était bien celui du défendeur.

La fiabilité de l’appareil cinémomètre n’est pas remise en cause. Or, rien dans la preuve du défendeur ne soulève un doute raisonnable quant à sa culpabilité. La vitesse constatée par la lecture de son régulateur de vitesse ne constitue pas une preuve contraire. Les distances et les temps émanant du site « google » ne constituent en rien une preuve fiable. Donner foi à ce témoignage nécessiterait de rejetter complètement la version du policier et conclure que celui-ci a menti du début à la fin, ce que le Tribunal ne peut faire. La version du défendeur n’est pas vraisemblable eut égard à l’ensemble de la preuve, elle affecte aussi sa crédibilité et ne soulève aucun doute raisonnable.

Revision d’une décision autorisant un mandat de perquisition suite à des allégations de piratage d’un site web

Un mandat de perquisition est exécuté le 21 septembre 2016 et donne lieu à la saisie d’un ordinateur portable propriété du journaliste Nguyen. Le Tribunal est appelé à déterminer si la juge autorisatrice disposait d’une preuve suffisante sur laquelle, agissant de façon judiciaire, elle pouvait se fonder pour décerner le mandat de perquisition.

Le rôle de la Cour supérieure doit se limiter à apprécier la légalité du mandat émis; aussi, dans la mesure où les éléments de preuve soumis à la juge autorisatrice sont fiables et pouvaient la convaincre de l’existence de motifs raisonnables de croire que l’infraction avait été commise, le Tribunal lui doit déférence dans l’exercice de sa discrétion judiciaire et doit s’abstenir d’intervenir. Or, de l’ensemble de ces éléments de preuve, dont la fiabilité n’est pas remise en cause, il apparaît que la juge autorisatrice pouvait être convaincue de l’existence de motifs raisonnables de croire que l’infraction avait été commise, à tout le moins après la conversation du 2 juin 2016 entre Nguyen et l’agente d’information du Conseil de la magistrature du Québec. À cette occasion, celle-ci a rappelé à Nguyen les règles de confidentialité rattachées au traitement d’une plainte devant le Conseil de la magistrature et qu’il pouvait retrouver les informations de nature publique sur la section publique du site. Bien qu’il est vrai que la façon dont le site est sécurisé n’est pas précisée, il n’en demeure pas moins que les éléments factuels recueillis d’au moins trois sources fiables indiquent que certaines sections du site étaient sécurisées lors des intrusions faites par l’adresse IP 24.37.60.214. Cette preuve pouvait permettre à la juge autorisatrice de décerner le mandat recherché en regard des éléments constitutifs de l’infraction prévue à l'article 342 (1) du Code criminel.

Omission de retirer des propos diffamatoires sur Facebook : outrage au tribunal

Le 26 mai 2016, une demande d'injonction permanente déposée par la compagnie d'assurances SSQ est accueillie. Le dispositif de ce jugement comporte 16 conclusions spécifiques d’ordonnances à l’encontre du défendeur Roy, et s’inscrit dans le cadre d’un litige qui a opposé Roy à son assureur habitation, la SSQ. Ces ordonnances enjoignent le défendeur de cesser de diffamer ou de harceler de quelque façon que ce soit l’assureur SSQ, ses dirigeants et employés et d’utiliser sur son portail Facebook ou tout autre site le sigle de la SSQ en l’associant à des expressions comme « assurances pourris », et de diffuser, notamment sur You Tube, une vidéo parodiant une publicité de SSQ. Ne se conformant pas à la totalité des ordonnances, Roy est condamné pour outrage et le juge prend acte, entre autres, de son engagement à se conformer aux conclusions du jugement et si tel est le cas, de la déclaration de la SSQ de ne pas faire de représentation sur la sentence. Le Tribunal entend la preuve et les représentations aux fins de déterminer la peine suite à la condamnation pour outrage au Tribunal.

La preuve résulte de documents imprimés provenant de portails Facebook ou de sites Internet en lien avec le défendeur Roy et de déclarations assermentées du témoignage d’une réviseure experte en sinistres pour la SSQ. Le Tribunal retient que Roy ne s’est pas conformé au jugement lui enjoignant de cesser de diffamer ou de harceler de quelque façon que ce soit l’assureur SSQ. Une veille des différentes pages Facebook utilisées par le défendeur révèle qu’elles sont toujours accessibles sous les dénominations telles que « Assurances Pourris SSQ  », « Assurances Pourris », « Assurances pourris S.S.Q ». Les différentes captures d’images reproduites sur support papier ne prêtent à aucune ambiguïté et révèlent qu’il y a toujours contravention à certaines des ordonnances contenues dans le jugement. Des éléments diffamatoires prohibés par le jugement sont toujours publiés sur deux sites Internet et la publication de jugements et arrêt ordonnés par ce jugement n’a toujours pas été faite. Au moment de l’instruction, les différentes publications subsistent toujours, bien que le 8 août, le défendeur Roy a désactivé sa page Facebook personnelle et que la vidéo sur You Tube a également été retirée.

Le Tribunal réitère les ordonnances contenues dans le jugement antérieur et juge que la peine de 100 heures de travaux dans la collectivité est appropriée.

Demande de supprimer des informations de sites Internet : pas de diffamation évidente

La demanderesse, psychologue, demande l’émission d’une ordonnance d’injonction interlocutoire provisoire afin de retirer des sites Internet du Journal de Montréal et du Journal de Québec les articles et photos publiés le 16 novembre 2016 la concernant et de détruire tout article et toute photographie la concernant se trouvant dans leurs services d’archive. Madame reproche à la journaliste d’avoir essentiellement tenu des propos diffamatoires à son endroit en rapportant, dans son article et intitulé « Une psychologue mise sous filature par la SAAQ », des propos tendancieux et incomplets qui visaient à entacher sa réputation, son droit à la vie privée et sa dignité personnelle.

Sans s’immiscer dans le fond du litige, les propos publiés n’apparaissent pas, à première vue, être diffamatoires au sens juridique du terme. La preuve soumise permet au Tribunal de constater que la journaliste a écrit son texte en fonction d’informations se trouvant dans les documents qui lui avaient été fournis à l’audience publique devant le Conseil de discipline de l'Ordre des psychologues, ainsi qu’en fonction de son entrevue avec Madame et des témoignages entendus. Au point de vue pratique, vu le peu de lignes à couvrir dans son article, il était impossible pour la journaliste de tout reproduire dans un espace aussi restreint, d’autant plus qu’elle n’était pas présente aux audiences tenues antérieurement devant le Conseil de discipline.

Le Tribunal comprend que la demanderesse aurait voulu que d’autres éléments factuels soient rapportés pour un article plus équilibré et équitable. Chaque partie doit avoir le loisir de produire sa preuve devant un juge qui déterminera alors si l’article de la journaliste comporte ou non des éléments diffamatoires. Il n’y a aucune preuve permettant de conclure que la journaliste était de mauvaise foi en rédigeant son article ou qu’elle était animée ou motivée par des intentions malveillantes envers la demanderesse.

Diffamation dans des publications diffusées sur Internet

Le demandeur Bernèche est impliqué dans la boxe et partenaire d'un club de boxe. Il est gérant de plusieurs boxeurs dont Pierre-Paul. À la suite d'un combat de Pierre-Paul, le défendeur Vaillancourt publie des articles sur son site Web, Le Guerrier Moderne, dont « Quand ton gérant pense juste à l'argent: le cas de Dougy Bernèche? » que Bernèche estime injurieux. Il réclame des dommages et la publication d’une rétractation. Le défendeur Vaillancourt s’affiche comme journaliste (parmi d’autres expertises) sur son site.

Le Tribunal estime que le défendeur avait un devoir de vérifier la validité de ce qu’il écrivait. Il aurait pu facilement déterminer que les informations qu’il s’apprêtait à diffuser sur le comportement de l’équipe du demandeur, tant avant qu’après le combat, s’avéraient fausses, et ce, avec une vérification sommaire. Plusieurs des autres remarques de Vaillancourt dans son article ne sont que des opinions gratuites, dénuées de tout fondement. Ces propos « ne peuvent être tenus que par méchanceté, avec l'intention de nuire à autrui. » Une fois la faute établie, le Tribunal détermine que le demandeur a subi un préjudice. Au lieu de pouvoir jouir de ses vacances, Bernèche devait gérer les dégâts causés par l’article. Il a reçu 60 appels ou textos dans les deux ou trois jours suivant l’article.

Dans les commentaires publiés sur Facebook, après la parution de l’article, on voit que plusieurs gens étaient préoccupés par le fait que le demandeur ait brisé la carrière de Pierre-Paul. Une mère écrit ceci : « Si un jour mon garçon réalise son rêve et devient boxeur professionnel je vais m’assurer qu’il ne s’en approche jamais!! ». Ce genre de propos est dommageable pour un gérant de boxe. Il était également dommageable de comparer le demandeur à Don King; la mission du club était d’aider les jeunes du quartier et opérait également un programme de sport-études. La réputation de M. Bernèche était précieuse à ces deux éléments de la mission du club.

En ce qui concerne les dommages, dans une situation où l’auteur des mots avait 426 amis Facebook, une partie demanderesse s’est fait octroyer la somme de 4 000 $ et une autre partie demanderesse, 1 000 $. Le site Web le Guerrier Moderne a eu 4 042 visiteurs en juin 2014. Le premier article a été vu à 2 612 occasions en juin 2016 et le deuxième à 373 occasions. Ils ont également été vus sur Facebook et partagés par les amis du défendeur. Mais il n’y a pas d’indice que des personnes ont décidé de ne pas faire affaire avec le gym à cause de ces articles. Le Tribunal octroie 5 000 $ à titre de dommages moraux. De plus, rappelant que Facebook est un média social susceptible d'avoir une grande efficacité au niveau de la communication et de la diffusion, il appert qu’en publiant les textes contestés, Vaillancourt voulait nuire au demandeur. Il est redevable en dommages exemplaires que le Tribunal fixe à 5 000 $.

Droit à la déconnexion – France

Depuis le 1er janvier 2017, la « Loi Travail » demande aux entreprises françaises comptant plus de 50 salariés de réfléchir à la mise en place d’un droit de déconnexion des salariés. Cette disposition leur demande d'ouvrir des négociations dans le but de mettre en place des dispositifs de régulation de l’utilisation des outils numériques pour assurer le respect des temps de repos et de congés. Un mois après l'entrée en vigueur de cette disposition, l'auteur constate que les questions sont plus nombreuses que les réponses.

La banque doit prouver la fraude du client lorsqu’il nie avoir effectué une transaction en ligne – France

Lorsqu’un utilisateur d’un moyen de paiement nie avoir effectué une transaction, la Cour de cassation française a rappelé qu’un établissement financier doit faire la preuve que le client a agi frauduleusement ou a communiqué à un tiers ses données personnelles, identifiants ou mots de passe de connexion par sa négligence. Il ne peut pas se fonder sur des suppositions pour refuser le remboursement des sommes indûment débitées. Selon la Cour, la banque doit démontrer que le porteur a révélé volontairement à un tiers ses données personnelles ou démontrer que par une négligence grave, il a permis à un tiers d’en prendre aisément connaissance.

À signaler

  • Benoît CHARTIER, « Cyber-risques et cyber-responsabilité dans l’industrie des assurances », Développements récents en droit des assurances (2016), Service de la formation continue du Barreau du Québec, 2016, EYB2016DEV2432.
  • Jonathan LACOSTE-JOBIN, Bernard LAROCQUE et Leila YACOUBI, « La proposition d’assurance par Internet : où en sommes nous ? », Développements récents en droit des assurances (2016), Service de la formation continue du Barreau du Québec, 2016, EYB2016DEV2433.

Broader Audience Required

Reply email to alleged defamer does not constitute “re-publication” for purposes of defamation

In Dyck v. The Canadian Association of Professional Employees, Justice Robert Smith of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice presided over a motion by a defendant in a defamation action, Picotte, to have the claim struck out as against him, on the basis that it disclosed no cause of action. The underlying action involved the defendant Lebel having sent an email to the defendant Picotte, in which Lebel asked Picotte to tell the plaintiff to stop following Lebel’s daughter on Twitter and to stop “going after” Lebel’s family. Picotte sent Lebel reply emails, the first of which said “ok” and the second asking for the plaintiff’s email address and some proof that the plaintiff was following the daughter on Twitter. In the plaintiff’s statement of claim she stated that Picotte was liable for defamation because he had republished the defamatory statement by: 1) replying to Lebel’s email, and 2) sending blind cc copies to unnamed others when he replied to Lebel.

On the first ground of liability, Justice Smith canvassed several authorities from the 1940s which held that simply sending defamatory statements back to the person who made them (most likely by mail, given the ages of the cases) did not constitute republication. This applied, he held, equally to “replying to an email” and accordingly the reply email had not been republication. On the second ground of liability the judge noted that the plaintiff had not pleaded any material facts to support the “bare allegation” that there had been blind cc copies of the reply email sent to parties unknown. Given that there was no uncontradicted evidence to support the alleged fact, it was pure speculation. In the result, no cause of action was disclosed as against Picotte and thus the claim against him was struck out.

Even Better Than the Real Thing (or at least just as good)

Court holds that clicking “I agree” on screen showing e-waiver constitutes executing waiver, despite other execution options

In Quilichini v. Wilson’s Greenhouse, Justice B. Scherman of the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench presided over a summary judgment motion in a personal injury action. The plaintiff was injured when the go-kart he was driving on the defendant’s commercial go-kart track smashed into a concrete barrier. He sued the defendant for both breach of contract and negligence, essentially based on the allegation that go-kart was faulty or in poor repair. The defendant brought a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff had voluntarily accepted the risk of accident by executing a waiver. The plaintiff resisted the motion, in part, by arguing that a trial was required to determine whether he had actually executed the waiver.

Justice Scherman began by examining s. 18 of Saskatchewan’s Electronic Information and Documents Act, which provides that a contract may be accepted:

  1. by means of information or a document in an electronic form; or
  2. by an action in an electronic form, including touching or clicking on an appropriately designated icon or place on a computer screen or otherwise communicating electronically in a manner that is intended to express the offer, acceptance or other matter.

Here, entry to the go-kart facility was gained only after customers went through an electronic document displayed on a screen, page by page, and agree to the terms of the waiver and release by clicking on an “I agree” icon—all of which the plaintiff had done. The plaintiff argued, however, that it was not clear whether he had signed the waiver, because a screen print-out of the waiver contained signature bars for both the customer and a company representative. Applying the legislation, Justice Scherman stated:

The legislation is clear. Agreement to contractual terms can be expressed by touching or clicking on an appropriately designated icon or place on a computer screen. The fact that the contract could have alternatively been executed by printing a hard copy and having a participant sign a hard copy form does not detract from the foregoing. The fact that there are optional ways to execute the contract does not lead to the conclusion that using only one of those options does not constitute agreement. The fact that there was a hard copy alternative for a traditional signature does not alter the fact that the plaintiff gave an electronic agreement to the waiver and release.

It was clear from the evidence that the defendants had provided sufficient notice of the waiver to the plaintiff, via their electronic admission system. There was accordingly no issue for trial on the question of whether the waiver had been executed. On the more general issue of whether the waiver was enforceable, the court concluded that by clicking “I agree” the plaintiff had voluntarily assumed the risk, and thus the action was dismissed.