IT.CAN Newsletter/Bulletin
August 26, 2016/26 août 2016

Toronto Transit Tweets Tell Terrible Tales

Transit workers’ union grieves the manner in which employer uses and deals with social media customer communication mechanism

In Re Toronto Transit Commission and ATU, Local 113 (Use of Social Media), Ontario Labour Arbitrator Robert D. Howe heard a grievance by the union for workers at the Toronto Transit Commission, regarding the employer’s use of social media and particularly Twitter for customer service. Most of the complaint centred around the TTC’s Twitter account, @TTChelps, which the union said the employer was using to “to publish personal information about Local 113 members, to receive and make complaints about Local 113 members, and to solicit public comment with respect to Local 113 members.” The legal argument was that the manner in which the employer was using the Twitter account constituted breaches of the collective agreement and the Ontario Human Rights Code.

One of the union’s witnesses, an executive board member of the union, testified that after concerns by union members about the content of the @TTChelps Twitter feed were brought to his attention, he began to monitor it closely, and was “overwhelmed by the amount of abuse being visited upon bargaining unit members by the public, including racist remarks, homophobic remarks, vulgarity, and death threats.” He raised these concerns with management but received no substantive response, and thus the grievance was brought. Arbitrator Howe reviewed in great detail the testimony and arguments on both sides, as well as evidence about the content of the Twitter account which (as readers will perhaps not be surprised to learn) contained every manner of insulting, obscene and provocative comment under the sun, all aimed at union members with whom the public interacted or were otherwise displeased with.

The arbitrator ultimately made certain findings against the employer. Notably, “[S]ocial media sites operated by the TTC, such as @TTChelps, can be considered to constitute part of the workplace for purposes of determining whether the HRC, the Agreement, and TTC policies have been contravened as a result of harassment.” It was clear that a number of the tweets in evidence constituted harassment, which contravened both the HRC and the employer’s policy that applied both to employees and the public users of the feed. Moreover, the employer had failed to take all reasonable and practical measures to protect the union members against this harassment, instead using ineffectual or inappropriate methods such as ignoring the harassment, asking the user to avoid the harassment but then providing details about how to make a complaint, etc. The arbitrator concluded:

To deter people from sending such tweets, @TTChelps should not only indicate that the TTC does not condone abusive, profane, derogatory or offensive comments, but should go on to request the tweeters to immediately delete the offensive tweets and to advise them that if they do not do so they will be blocked. If that response does not result in an offensive tweet being deleted forthwith, @TTChelps should proceed to block the tweeter. It may also be appropriate to seek the assistance of Twitter in having offensive tweets deleted. If Twitter is unwilling to provide such assistance, this may be a relevant factor for consideration in determining whether the TTC should continue to be permitted to use @TTChelps.

The arbitrator also concluded that allowing users to post photos of TTC employees in their tweet on @TTChelps constituted invasion of the targeted employees’ privacy, and such users should be asked to remove the photos and blocked if they refused. On the other hand, tweets containing information about names, badge numbers and route schedules related to employees were not invasive of privacy because there was no reasonable expectation of privacy over such information in the context of a public service provider.

The arbitrator concluded that social media being an important and necessary tool and part of customer service, it would not be reasonable to order that @TTChelps be shut down. However:

Developing templated responses mutually acceptable to the Employer and the Union might well be of assistance to the senior service representatives who respond to tweets received by @TTChelps, and beneficial in ensuring that the responses they provide are not violative of the TTC’s collective agreement or statutory obligations. It might also be beneficial for the parties to develop mutually acceptable guidelines regarding when information of that type should be provided, and when tweeters should simply be advised that if they wish to file a complaint they must contact the TTC by telephone or via the TTC website.

The arbitrator chose to allow the parties time to confer on these topics and attempt to reach agreement, while remaining seized of the matter.

Appellate Court Disagreement on Privacy in Texts

Ontario Court of Appeal rejects BC position, finds no reasonable expectation of privacy in texts sent by accused

In R. v. Marakah, a majority of the Ontario Court of Appeal held that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy—pursuant to s. 8 of the Charter—in texts that were sent by the accused to a confederate, a position which conflicts with recent British Columbia Court of Appeal jurisprudence (see R. v. Pelucco, reported in an earlier issue of this newsletter). In an investigation of the accused and a co-accused (Winchester) for firearms trafficking offences, the police executed search warrants and seized the co-accused’s phone, which contained texts from the accused’s phone. Because of Charter breaches by the police the accused was successful in having the results of the warrants targeting his own property excluded by the trial judge, but the trial judge ruled that he had no standing to challenge the police’s seizure of the texts from the co-accused’s phone, on the basis that he had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the texts once he sent them. While the application judge was prepared to accept (albeit reluctantly) that Marakah had a subjective expectation of privacy, he had lost complete control over the texts and what would happen to them once they were received by the co-accused, and it was reasonable to expect that they could eventually fall into the hands of the police. The accused appealed this finding.

Writing for himself and Justice MacFarland, Justice James MacPherson began his analysis by noting that the question of whether an individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy must be assessed on the “totality of circumstances,” as the Supreme Court explained in the Edwards case. This is true, he wrote, whether the kind of privacy at play is personal, territorial or informational in nature. Subsequent Supreme Court of Canada authorities indicated that it was the facts of each case, rather than the type of privacy claimed, that drove the “totality of the circumstances” analysis. He then turned to the accused’s argument that the Supreme Court’s decision in the 2013 TELUS case was determinative of the point, in that the plurality judgment held that texts were made in circumstances that attract a reasonable expectation of privacy. He distinguished TELUS on two bases: first, that the Supreme Court had been dealing with the issue of prospective reach of a general warrant compelling production of texts by a service provider, and had expressly declined to address the present issue; and second, that TELUS was not a standing case and thus the Court had not engaged in any analysis of the totality of the circumstances, which was necessary for this case.

Justice MacPherson agreed with the application judge that the two most contextual factors in this case were 1) the fact that the accused had no ownership or control over the co-accused’s phone, and 2) there was no obligation of confidentiality between the two. Contrary to the accused’s argument, control and access were fundamental to our understanding of privacy, particularly informational privacy, and in a given case they could have greater or lesser significance. The SCC authorities such as Spencer and Cole dealt with situations where the accused had significant privacy in the subject matter of the data seized, because the information contained therein went to their biographical core. In this case, by contrast, it was the ability to control access to the data that was central:

We are not talking about the appellant’s privacy interest in the contents of his own phone, or even the contents of a phone belonging to someone else, but which he occasionally used. We are also not dealing with deeply personal, intimate details going to the appellant’s biographical core. Here, we are talking about text messages on someone else’s phone that reveal no more than what the messages contained – discussions regarding the trafficking of firearms.

This is far from being a question of whether the appellant had “exclusive control” over the content. He had no ability to regulate access and no control over what Winchester (or anyone) did with the contents of Winchester’s phone. The appellant’s request to Winchester that he delete the messages is some indication of his awareness of this fact. Further, his choice over his method of communication created a permanent record over which Winchester exercised control (paras. 63-64)

The Court then turned to Pelucco, a case where the police seized the phone of a drug buyer when texts regarding the drug transaction from the accused were coming in, and continued the conversation by pretending to be the buyer. Justice MacPherson felt that the BCCA’s decision rested on its proposition that “a sender will ordinarily have a reasonable expectation that a text message will remain private in the hands of its recipient,” a statement with which he disagreed. There was no empirical evidence to support this statement and in fact much observable behavior of individuals and public bodies (e.g. school curricula) indicated to the contrary. “Because many contextual factors can tip the balance in either direction,” he observed, “it must be that the objectively reasonable expectation of a text user in a particular case should be assessed on a case-by-case basis, not on a broad presumption about how text messaging is used in society. Respectfully, the analysis in Pelucco misses the mark by effectively replacing the Edwards factors with a broad presumption not previously recognized in the jurisprudence.” Ultimately it was the control and access factors that governed, and while in most cases this would dictate that an individual had a reasonable expectation of privacy in terms of creating a message and choosing the recipient, “once the message is received the recipient becomes the controller and the sender’s privacy interest will generally disappear.”

In the circumstances, there was no need for the majority to conduct a 24(2) exclusion analysis. LaForme J.A., dissenting, would have allowed the appeal on this point as he was substantially in agreement with the BCCA’s analysis in Pelucco.

The Court also concurrently released its decision in R. v. Jones, which also dealt with firearms trafficking. Some texts were sent between a phone used by one Waldron, and another phone that the Crown alleged was used by Jones. Waldron’s phone, from which the texts were obtained, was actually under an account held by a third individual, Gellis. Jones made a s. 8 challenge to the production order under which the texts were seized, but did not provide any evidence that he had even a subjective expectation of privacy in the texts on the Gellis phone, arguing at trial that this was “self-evident.” Both the trial judge and Justice MacPherson for the Court of Appeal disagreed, noting that this case was factually different from Marakah—and finding it “far removed from being ‘self-evident’” that the accused would have any privacy interest in a phone he did not use, under an account for which he was owed no contractual obligation. Accordingly, he had no standing to assert a s. 8 interest in the texts.

The second issue in Jones was whether a production order was the appropriate vehicle for seizing texts that had been sent and received, or whether applying the Supreme Court’s decision in TELUS meant that the “wiretap” interception provision in Part VI of the Criminal Code was more appropriate. Justice MacPherson distinguished TELUS on the basis that the plurality decision by Justice Abella had carefully circumscribed the point being made, which was regarding the prospective seizure of texts that would be sent in the future. This truly constituted an “interception,” as opposed to the production order in this case which contemplated the seizure of texts already sent and received. The comparable distinction was the one between surveillance, which involved interception of communications, and searches, which impacted “historical” communications, which are already in existence. Moreover, MacPherson J.A. agreed with a submission by the provincial Crown that requiring wiretap authorization to seize already-existing data from electronic devices would not only be inconsistent with existing SCC jurisprudence but would be retrogressive and would come at the expense of effective law enforcement.

Given the level of appellate disagreement on the point raised in Marakah, it seems reasonable to predict that this case or one like it will go on appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

How Web Evidence Impacts Sentencing

Courts take account of search engine results and social media posts as relevant factors in sentencing

Some recent decisions in the sentencing phase of criminal cases have shown that courts are prepared to take into account web content, and even order content to be created, as part of crafting a sentence. In R. v. Briegel, the defendant police officer pleaded guilty to assault arising from a situation where the officer was in an altercation with a drunk individual in a Subway and needlessly struck him in the face three times in order to subdue him. The Crown argued that deterrence was the paramount consideration for the sentence, given that it involved an unlawful use of force by a police officer. Judge J.K. Wheatley of the Alberta Provincial Court admitted evidence from the defence of a Google search of the defendant’s name, which in the judge’s description “details in social media forever the events of March 8, 2014 that will live with Briegel forever” (para. 17). In the court’s view this amounted to specific deterrence, which along with other mitigating factors led to a non-custodial sentence.

In R. v. Stephan, by contrast, the sentencing judge made use of social media as part of the sentence—specifically a convicted individual’s Facebook account. This sentencing resulted from the well-publicized conviction of David and Collet Stephan for failing to provide the necessities of life to their infant son, Ezekiel, who died as a result. Apparently participants in the “anti-vaxxer” movement, the Stephans used natural treatments for their son’s illness rather than seek conventional medical treatment, and this conduct resulted in his death. Throughout their prosecution, the Stephans maintained a Facebook page called “Prayers for Ezekiel,” on which they reportedly promoted the anti-vaccine movement, called various newspaper coverage of their case “lies,” questioned the autopsy results and generally presented themselves as victims. As part of the sentence imposed on Collet Stephan, the court included a condition that she “shall post or cause to be posted an unedited accurate copy of this decision to the following website address: https://www.facebook.com/PrayersForEzekiel, and any website or social media sites that she is personally affiliated with.”

When Snapchat Gets You Fired

PEI nurse terminated after posting “inappropriate” pictures of patients on Snapchat

As reported by CBC in July, Health PEI recently announced that they had terminated the employment of a nurse at a government-run long-term care home in O’Leary, PEI after she posted on Snapchat “inappropriate and degrading photos and videos of vulnerable residents while they were eating, sleeping, using the commode and when your co-workers were providing personal care to certain residents after a bowel movement." It appears that the nurse also posted a picture of a deceased resident with an inappropriate caption, which was forwarded to someone outside the workplace via the app.

PEI Health indicated these were clear violations of existing policy and that their employee handbook did not require any updating.

Évaluation du caractère excessif des frais d’itinérance dans le cadre d’une autorisation de recours collectif

L’appel porte sur une requête en recours collectif introduite au nom des consommateurs québécois qui se sont vus facturer par les entreprises de téléphonie intimées des frais d’itinérance internationale pour les données selon un taux excédant 5 $ par mégaoctet après le 8 janvier 2010. Ils soutiennent que ces frais avaient un caractère abusif, équivalant à de l’exploitation au sens de la Loi sur la protection du consommateur et du Code civil du Québec.

La Cour d’appel décide que le juge de première instance a erré en décidant que l'allégation relative au caractère abusif des frais d’itinérance ne justifiait pas la réduction des frais ou l'attribution des dommages-intérêts et des dommages punitifs réclamés par le groupe. Il n’est pas essentiel de produire le contrat pour démontrer les obligations contractuelles des parties car les autres documents produits permettaient une évaluation suffisante à ce stade du recours.

Aussi, le juge de première instance n’aurait pas dû se fonder sur la prépondérance des probabilités lorsqu’il a évalué les faits présentés mais plutôt tenir la preuve pour avérée. En particulier, le juge a fait montre d’une sévérité excessive à l’égard de la compréhension de l'appelante dans le contexte d'un recours collectif de consommateurs. Or, il existait bel et bien une question véritable relativement à la valeur des services d'itinérance internationale et leur caractère disproportionné.

Propos humoristiques discriminatoires diffusés en ligne contre un individu

S’agissant d’une blague prononcée dans le cadre de multiples représentations d’un spectacle et reprise sur un site Internet, le Tribunal des droits de la personne estime que la liberté d’expression ne permet pas de faire des blagues discriminatoires en lien avec le handicap d’une personne nommément identifiée. Le Tribunal explique que le consentement de la personne visée par un propos humoristique serait un facteur à considérer lorsque vient le temps de juger si celle-ci a été victime d’atteinte à sa réputation fondée sur son handicap. De plus, le contexte humoristique du propos ne suffit pas en lui-même à excuser son caractère discriminatoire. Pour le Tribunal des droits, « des propos inacceptables en privé ne deviennent pas automatiquement licites du fait d’être prononcés par un humoriste dans la sphère publique. » Il ajoute que « le fait de disposer d’une tribune impose certaines responsabilités ». Un humoriste « doit tenir compte des droits fondamentaux des personnes victimes de ses blagues ».

Recevabilité en preuve de l’enregistrement vidéo de la filature d’un travailleur

Dans le cadre de demandes relatives à des lésions professionnelles, le Tribunal doit décider de la recevabilité en preuve de l'enregistrement vidéo et d’un témoignage en lien avec l'opération de filature du travailleur effectuée à la demande de l'employeur.

Le Tribunal constate que cette preuve est pertinente eu égard à la nature des litiges et aux allégations respectives de chacune des parties. Mais avant d'admettre en preuve un enregistrement vidéo montrant le résultat d'une filature, il faut s'assurer du caractère authentique de l'enregistrement. En l'espèce, cette preuve est faite car il est indéniable que la personne filmée est bien le travailleur (ce dernier reconnait d'ailleurs ce fait). Les images filmées sont relativement claires, compte tenu des circonstances, c'est-à-dire en tenant compte des lieux où les scènes ont été filmées. Un témoin crédible a confirmé que le contenu de l'enregistrement produit représentait l'intégralité des scènes filmées lors des journées de filature. Dans la mesure où la preuve d'authenticité est démontrée, le Tribunal doit analyser les conditions dans lesquelles l’élément de preuve a été obtenu afin de déterminer si elles portent atteinte aux droits et libertés fondamentaux.

Dans le cas présent, l’employeur a fait la preuve qu’il avait des motifs rationnels de demander une filature du travailleur et que cette filature a été conduite par des moyens raisonnables. De plus, la filature a été réalisée d’une manière peu intrusive, le travailleur ayant été filmé dans des lieux publics. Par conséquent, l'enregistrement vidéo en lien avec l'opération de filature du travailleur est admissible en preuve.

Consentement par courriel

La conjointe d’une personne par ailleurs incapable de formuler un consentement valide peut consentir à sa place en utilisant un procédé permettant de satisfaire aux exigences de l’article 2827 du Code civil pour la signature (art. 39 de la Loi concernant le cadre juridique des technologies de l’information). L’analyse des courriels indique que la conjointe a activement participé à l’expression du consentement. Elle a exprimé des points de vues relatifs aux questions qui devaient faire l’objet de décisions. Aucune preuve n’a été introduite pour tenter d’établir que les courriels ont été écrits en dehors de sa connaissance et consentement.

Ordonnance de sauvegarde relative à un logement loué sur AirBnb

Le Tribunal est saisi d’une demande de la locatrice en résiliation de bail pour modification d’affectation des lieux loués. La preuve dénote clairement que le logement du locataire est affiché sur un site de location Airbnb à 122 $ la nuit, et que selon ce site, le locataire aurait loué son logement pour plus de 80 % du temps pour les mois de juillet, août et septembre 2016. À l’audience, un ami du locataire se présente devant le Tribunal pour demander une remise, alléguant que son ami est à l’extérieur du pays, plus précisément en Chine.

Comme une demande de résiliation de bail est une demande majeure et que le locataire a le droit de se faire entendre, le Tribunal autorisera la demande de remise. Mais étant donné qu’il est impossible pour le Tribunal d’entendre l’ensemble de la cause et vu l’absence du locataire, le Tribunal a le droit, dans un but de sauvegarde selon l’article 9.8 al. 2 de la Loi sur la Régie du logement, de rendre une ordonnance de sauvegarde pour empêcher le changement de destination des lieux puisqu’aucune de ces sous-locations n’a été approuvée par la locatrice. Avec un grand nombre de locations comme le fait le locataire, il est évident que cela cause un grave préjudice à la locatrice, en plus que le locataire ne soit pas présent pour répondre de toutes demandes de ses clients ou de la locatrice. Il est donc ordonné au locataire de cesser immédiatement toute sous-location de son logement sans l’accord écrit de la locatrice et à défaut, la locatrice est autorisée à changer les serrures du logement jusqu’au retour du locataire.

Le courriel est inclus dans la « fonction téléphonique » visée l’art 435.1 du Code de la sécurité routière

On reproche au défendeur d’avoir conduit en faisant usage d’un appareil tenu en main muni d’une fonction téléphonique. Comme l’appareil n’a pas l’option d’effectuer des appels téléphoniques, le défendeur considère qu’un des éléments essentiels de l’infraction n’est pas prouvé.

Le Tribunal se demande quelle interprétation s’harmonise avec l’intention du législateur de contrer les distractions au volant : considérer le seul échange de la voix comme partie de la fonction téléphonique ou considérer l’échange de la voix, du texte ou de l’image comme partie de cette fonction? Il retient que la fonction téléphonique englobe la communication par l’échange de la voix, du texte ou de l’image. Ainsi, un appareil muni de l’un, de deux ou de tous ces moyens de communiquer est un appareil muni d’une fonction téléphonique car autant l’échange de la voix, que du texte et de l’image entraîne une distraction chez le conducteur. Dans le cas présent, l’appareil utilisé par le défendeur ne permet pas la communication par la voix mais la permet par le texte, il s’agit donc d’un appareil muni d’une fonction téléphonique.

Même en forme de document technologique, les frais de reproduction pour accéder à un document s’appliquent

Le demandeur cherche à obtenir le rôle d’évaluation de la municipalité. Celle-ci répond qu’elle consent à communiquer les documents concernant les 1 253 unités d’évaluation formant le rôle d’évaluation et pour ce faire, elle exige un montant de 538,79 $ pour acheminer les documents au demandeur. L’article 9 c) Règlement sur les frais exigibles pour la transcription, la reproduction et la transmission de documents et de renseignements personnels (RLRQ c A-2.1, r 3) prévoit que des frais s’appliquent pour la transcription et la reproduction des documents à moins que des frais particuliers ne soient applicables en vertu des articles visés au chapitre II. Le demandeur demande la révision des frais exigés faisant valoir que sa demande vise une copie numérique de l’ensemble du rôle d’évaluation et non une copie physique des unités d’évaluation.

La preuve révèle que le rôle d’évaluation complet se compose en fait de 1 253 unités d’évaluation. L’obtention d’une unité individuelle d’évaluation revient à obtenir un extrait du document complet. En toute logique, l’obtention du document complet revient à obtenir toutes les unités d’évaluation. L’interprétation du demandeur pour déclarer inapplicable l’article 9 n’a que peu de sens alors qu’il déclare ne pas rechercher l’obtention d’un extrait, mais bien l’ensemble du rôle d’évaluation. Selon cette logique, demander un rôle complet court-circuite la facturation de toutes les unités qui composent le rôle en lui-même. Il est ainsi plus avantageux de demander le rôle complet qu’une fraction de ce dernier. Cette perception ne peut être raisonnablement retenue. L’article 9 du Règlement est ainsi rédigé qu’il vise le versement d’un tarif selon les portions du rôle d’évaluation demandées et en toute logique, exiger l’obtention du rôle complet entraîne la facturation de toutes les unités qui le forment. Quant au tarif exigible pour une copie du rôle d’évaluation reproduit sur un support technologique, aucune autre disposition ne vient compléter le texte de l’article 9 c) du Règlement pour apporter un éclairage quant à une disparité de frais selon le mode de reproduction retenu. Le paragraphe c) de l’article 9 ne prévoit aucune distinction quant à la forme de reproduction employée d’unités du rôle d’évaluation de telle sorte que la copie informatique comme la copie en format papier entraîne la facturation des mêmes frais.

Réglementation des services Skype, whatsApp et FaceTime – Europe

La Commission européenne souhaite soumettre les opérateurs et services Over The Top (OTT) tels que Skype, whatsApp ou FaceTime à la réglementation des télécoms. La Commission propose de faire en sorte que plus l'OTT se rapproche de l'activité traditionnelle d'un opérateur de réseau de communication électronique, plus il sera soumis au même cadre juridique que ceux-ci.

Rédaction des clauses générales des contrats en ligne – Europe

Les clauses stipulant que « seule la loi du pays du commerçant est applicable » sont fréquentes sur les sites de commerce électronique. Dans les contrats de consommation, une telle clause est incomplète car la réalité juridique est beaucoup plus subtile. Pour la Cour de justice de l’Union européenne, pareille clause est à ce point incomplète qu'elle en est abusive et peut donc être annulée.

Le prestataire de services de téléphonie mobile, débiteur d’une obligation de résultat – France

Le Tribunal de commerce de Rennes a considéré que les exigences du Code des Postes et Télécommunications électroniques portant sur les conditions de permanence, de qualité et de disponibilité du réseau et du service sont d’ordre public. En matière de téléphonie mobile, le prestataire est tenu à une obligation de résultat envers l’abonné. Il est présumé responsable de tout dysfonctionnement sauf à lui de rapporter la preuve d’une cause étrangère. Étant donné le décret 2012-488 du 13/4/2012 modifiant les obligations des opérateurs de téléphonie mobile en matière notamment de qualité de service, il en découle que dans le cadre du contrat liant les parties, le prestataire est débiteur d’une obligation de résultat.

Copier servilement un logiciel non original : concurrence déloyale – France

La société demanderesse Amphitech fabrique et commercialise des dispositifs de communication pour les ascenseurs ou « téléalarmes». Pour sa part, la société défenderesse Avire Limited, filiale du groupe Halma dont elle compose la division «sécurité pour ascenseurs », déploie ses activités à travers notamment la marque Memco, laquelle comprend un produit constitué d’un dispositif de téléalarme d’ascenseur. La demanderesse estime qu’avec ce produit, la société défenderesse Avire Limited a copié son protocole de communication.

Le Tribunal conclut que faute de preuve de l’originalité du « Protocole de dialogue en codage Q 13 des produits DPM / PTU & PTC », il n’y a pas contrefaçon de droits d’auteurs éventuels sur ce protocole. Par contre, il est suffisamment démontré qu’il y a eu de la part de la société défenderesse, reprise du savoir-faire d’un concurrent par la reproduction ou copie servile de son protocole de communication, obtenu par des moyens illégitimes quels qu’ils soient. Cela est constitutif de faute de concurrence déloyale.

Federal Court of Appeal upholds decision against Bell Canada

CRTC decision affirmed principles of net neutrality in mobile applications

The Federal Court of Appeal has ruled that Bell Mobility violated the Telecommunications Act by offering a video streaming application outside of customers’ usual data rates and caps. Bell Mobility Inc. v. Klass was an appeal of a finding of the CRTC that found the Bell Mobility product and a similar one offered by Videotron to be unlawful. Bell Mobility launched Bell Mobile TV, a new product that would permit its existing mobile customers to stream up to ten hours of video for a flat rate of $5.00 per month, outside the customer’s existing data plans and data caps. Additional video content was available for $3.00 per hour. Videotron offered a similar product under the name illico.tv.

The case arose from a complaint that the practice was in violation of s. 27(2) of the Telecommunications Act, which provides:

“No Canadian carrier shall, in relation to the provision of a telecommunications service or the charging of a rate for it, unjustly discriminate or give an undue or unreasonable preference toward any person, including itself, or subject any person to an undue or unreasonable disadvantage.”

The CRTC had found that this section was violated. Media coverage referred to the CRTC Chairman’s take on net neutrality:

In a speech last year, CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais commented on the case, stating it was “about all of us and our ability to access content equally and fairly, in an open market that favours innovation and choice.”

“It may be tempting for large, vertically integrated companies to offer certain perks to their customers, and innovation in its purest form is to be applauded,” Mr. Blais said. “But when the impetus to innovate steps on the toes of the principle of fair and open access to content, we will intervene. … We’ve got to keep the lanes of our bridges unobstructed so that everyone can cross.”

The CRTC and Court of Appeal decisions largely turned on whether this was a broadcasting activity under the Broadcasting Act because the Telecommunications Act provides that the Telecommunications Act does not apply to broadcasting by a broadcasting undertaking. The CRTC had found that, in this activity, Bell and Videotron were not acting as broadcasters:

22. In light of all of the foregoing, the Commission concludes that Bell Mobility and Videotron are providing telecommunications services, as defined in section 2 of the Telecommunications Act, and are operating as Canadian carriers, when they provide the data connectivity and transport necessary to deliver Bell Mobile TV and illico.tv, respectively, to their subscribers’ mobile devices. In this regard, they are subject to the Telecommunications Act. This is the case whether or not concurrent broadcasting services are also being offered.

The Court of Appeal framed the question thusly:

[50] The relevant question is whether the CRTC’s determination that, even though Bell Mobility was involved in broadcasting in carrying out certain activities, it was not broadcasting as a broadcasting undertaking in transmitting its programs, is reasonable. It is important to note that section 4 of the Telecommunications Act exempts an activity (broadcasting by a broadcasting undertaking), not a person or an entire undertaking.

The Court then went on to note that the activity in question was the transmission of programs:

[51] The activity that is in issue is the transmission of programs. Bell Mobility transmitted its mobile TV programs simultaneously with its voice and other data communications using the same network. The transmission of voice and non-program data to its customers is not “broadcasting” as they are not programs and therefore section 4 of the Telecommunications Act is not applicable to the transmission of that content. If the transmission of programs by Bell Mobility were to be treated as “broadcasting by a broadcasting undertaking”, then some of the transmissions made using the same network would be subject to the Broadcasting Act and other transmissions would be subject to the Telecommunications Act. In my view, it is a reasonable result that all transmissions by Bell Mobility would be subject to the same Act.

[52] In my view, this result is also reasonable based on the purposes of the two statutes. As noted by the Supreme Court of Canada in the ISP case, “the policy objectives listed under s. 3(1) of the [Broadcasting] Act focus on content, such as the cultural enrichment of Canada, the promotion of Canadian content, establishing a high standard for original programming, and ensuring that programming is diverse”. The policy objectives of the Telecommunications Act, as set out in section 7 of that Act, focus on the telecommunications system and the telecommunications service. Therefore, the focus of the policy objectives under the Telecommunications Act is on the delivery of the “intelligence” and not the content of the “intelligence”.

The standard of review for the CRTC’s decision was reasonableness, given that the CRTC was interpreting its “home statutes”. The Federal Court of Appeal found this interpretation of both Acts to be reasonable and the appeal was dismissed.

BC Court varies order to protect trade secrets in Delaware patent litigation

Letters rogatory implemented but varied to protect third party’s source code

In Google Inc. v. Mutual, the British Columbia Supreme Court considered an application to vary an order giving effect to letters rogatory issued to assist with Delaware patent litigation. The application was made by William Mutual, the target of the order, who sought additional protection for his trade secret interests.

The U.S. District Court in the District of Delaware had issued a letter of request to the British Columbia Supreme Court seeking to have a resident of that province, William Mutual, examined in an ongoing patent infringement case between YouTube, Google, Vimeo, and VideoShare. In the Delaware case VideoShare alleged infringement of its patent by Google and Vimeo. Google and YouTube argued that no infringement took place due to “prior art”: they alleged that another video system, the POPcast system, pre-dates VideoShare’s patent. Mr. Mutual was the founder of POPcast. His testimony and his records were of interest in connection with the defence brought by Google and YouTube. In their view, his testimony and records would support their position. An initial order was granted by Justice Harris, but Mutual applied to the court to vary the order to give additional protection to his source code. He sought to have it excluded from the order or that he be paid to redact his trade secrets.

On the application to amend the order, the Court summarized Mutual’s submissions at paragraph 15:

[15] Mr. Mutual deposes that the disclosure of what he terms “never-public back end Source Code files”:

would absolutely breach my trade secret rights. It would allow Google and VideoShare, as well as others to unfairly glean information on the many proprietary inventions that my companies and I have maintained as carefully guarded trade secrets for many years…

although the source code for the operation of these later video enterprises has changed such that their current code is not the POPcast code, the secret methods, innovations, networking controls, and other sophistications that apparently have still not been discovered by any others in the industry, could become known by competent video software or hardware engineers if they were somehow able to review the POPcast back end source code.

The Court reviewed the existing order and noted that it contained significant protections for Mutual’s trade secrets, including:

  1. the Source Code shall initially only be made available for inspection and not produced except in accordance with the order;
  2. the Source Code is to be kept in a secure location in the continental United States at a location chosen by the producing party at its sole discretion;
  3. there are notice provisions regarding the inspection of the Source Code on the secure computer;
  4. the producing party is to test the computer and its tools before each scheduled inspection;
  5. the receiving party, or its counsel or expert, may take notes with respect to the Source Code but may not copy it;
  6. the receiving party may designate a reasonable number of pages (the specifics I need not particularize in the reasons for judgment) to be produced by the producing party;
  7. onerous restrictions on the use of any Source Code which is produced;
  8. the requirement that certain individuals, including experts and representatives of the parties viewing the Source Code, sign a confidentiality agreement in a form annexed to the order;

The Court did, however, agree to vary the order to provide additional safeguards:

[35] Accordingly, now that the Source Code has been located, which is a material change in circumstances since the Order was made, I conclude that if the Order is varied to specifically incorporate the terms of the Protective Order, then reasonable safeguards will exist to protect any potential improper use of it or other trade secrets. It follows from this that the provision in para. 2 of the Order that Mr. Mutual deliver documents by a certain date to counsel, is vacated. Rather, inspection and production must be in accordance with the terms of the Protective Order which, I would add, may well have been Harris J.’s intent when the Order was made.

[36] The Order is also varied to provide that the secure location to be selected by the producing party, that is Mr. Mutual, can include British Columbia.

Canadian businessman with strong ties to Israel permitted to sue Israeli newspaper in Ontario

Undertaking to only seek Canadian damages and to pay witness expenses a factor

A majority of the Ontario Court of Appeal in Goldhar v. Haaretz.com has affirmed a decision that found a Canadian businessman could sue an Israeli newspaper in Ontario for defamation that took place via the newspaper’s website. The Court recited the background at the beginning of its judgement:

[2] In November 2011, an Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, published an article criticizing the management practices of Mitchell Goldhar, the owner of the Maccabi Tel Aviv Football Club, a soccer team based in Tel Aviv, that plays in the Israeli Premier League.

[3] Goldhar is a prominent Canadian businessman and lives in Toronto.

[4] In addition to being published in print, the article was available on the newspaper’s Hebrew and English-language websites. It came to the attention of some Canadian readers through the English-language website.

[5] The article asserted that Goldhar imported his management model from his main business interest – a partnership with Walmart to operate shopping centers in Canada – and that he “runs his club down to every detail.” It also included a suggestion that his “managerial culture is based on overconcentration bordering on megalomania” and questioned whether “his penny pinching and lack of long term planning [could] doom the [soccer] team.”

Haaretz brought a motion in the Ontario courts to have the action stayed on jurisdictional grounds. This application was dismissed and Haaretz appealed to the Court of Appeal. At the hearing of the original motion, the plaintiff agreed that he would only seek damages for harm to his reputation in Canada and that he would fund the travel costs of witnesses.

A two-to-one majority of the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal. The Court of Appeal found that the motion judge did not err in finding the defendants failed to rebut the presumption of jurisdiction. Though the newspaper has a relatively small readership in Canada, the Court found that the subject matter of both the article and the action had a significant connection to Ontario:

[38] Contrary to Haaretz’s submissions, the subject matter of the article is not confined to a discussion of Goldhar’s business dealings in Israel or of the operation of Maccabi Tel Aviv. Rather, the article puts Goldhar’s Canadian connection front and center by acknowledging that he is a long distance operator and spends most of his time in Canada and by asserting that he imported his management model for Maccabi Tel Aviv from his main business interest, his Canadian shopping center partnership.

On the first part of the jurisdiction test established in Club Resorts Ltd. v. Van Breda, 2012 SCC 17, the Court did not find that motion judge erred in failing to find that Israel was a clearly more appropriate forum. An action in Israel was slightly more convenient based on the fact that most of the witnesses were there and the cost of travel to Canada (although Goldhar offered to fund travel), this was not sufficient.

In terms of applicable law, the Court found that the motion judge was correct to conclude that both lex loci delicti and the “most substantial harm” test favour a trial in Ontario: both the tort itself and the most substantial harm to reputation occurred in Ontario. His agreement to only seek damages for reputational harm in Canada supported this:

[88] Contrary to Haaretz’s submissions, in my view, the undertaking given by Goldhar in this case does not demonstrate that he is “forum shopping.” Rather, it confirms the significance to him of his reputation in Ontario and the importance to him of vindicating his reputation here.

With respect to juridical advantage, Goldhar argued that proceeding in Ontario would allow him two juridical advantages: (i) access to a jury trial, and (ii) the absence of a public figure defence that would be available to Haaretz in Israel. Haaretz argued that Israel’s defamation laws would be more advantageous to Goldhar than Ontario’s. While motion judge had concluded in favour of Ontario as a matter of juridical advantage, the Court of Appeal found that the loss of such an advantage was a neutral factor. Regardless, this error on the part of the motion judge did not have an effect on the overall conclusion of the court below.

On the question of fairness, Haaretz argued that it would be unfair for it to be sued in Ontario where the relative readership is miniscule compared to in Israel. The Court disagreed:

[104] I would reject Haaretz’s arguments. Read as a whole, the motion judge’s reasons demonstrate that he was well aware of the evidence concerning disparity in readership and of Haaretz’s arguments concerning the subject matter of the article and Haaretz’s connections to Israel. At the end of the day, what the motion judge considered important was that Goldhar lives and works in Ontario and that Haaretz chose to write an article about him impugning his management of an Israeli soccer team in a manner that implicated his Canadian business practices and integrity as a Canadian businessman. In these circumstances, the motion judge concluded it was no surprise – and not unfair – that Goldhar would choose to vindicate his reputation in Ontario. I see no basis on which to interfere with this conclusion.

The majority of the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal.