Monday, September 10, 2012

Are emails at work confidential or privileged?

A reader wondered about communicating with her lawyer from work.  In particular, she wondered if such communications are confidential or privileged.

Generally, communications between a client and her lawyer are subject to solicitor-client privilege, and may not be revealed in court.

However, if the client contacts her lawyer from work, and in particular uses her work smartphone, work computer or her employer's Internet connection, her employer may have access to her communications with her lawyer.   This applies even if the client uses her work computer but uses her own web-based email (like Gmail or Hotmail) to send and receive emails with her lawyer.

This is because most employers have an information technology policy which allows the employer to have access to all data stored on an employee's work computer, as well as access to all data transfers in and out of an employee's work computer.  There is likely a similar policy with respect to smartphones issued by the employer as well.

If an employee absolutely needs to contact a lawyer while at work, I recommend that the employee use their own personal email account on their personal smartphone to do so.

And please remember to make sure the personal smartphone is using your cellular provider's network, and not the employer's wifi network.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

New fee to play recorded music at parties

Weddings are expensive. Thanks to a recent decision by the Copyright Board, it's going to become a little bit more expensive starting this summer.

The Copyright Board of Canada has recently allowed new tariffs to be collected for playing recorded music at events such as weddings, parades, karaoke bars, and fairs. The cost varies depending on how many people attend the event, the type of event, and interestingly, would double if people are dancing at the event. For example, a wedding where the DJ plays a song from a CD with less than 100 attendees and at least one attendee dancing would cost an extra $18.50 per day, and a parade where recorded music is played on at least one float must pay at least an extra $32.55 per day

It'll be up to the event organizers to self-report and pay the royalty on their own initiative. If you have a wedding this summer, be sure to ask your event organizer whether or not these new tariffs apply to you.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Colbert and Stewart: Copyright fair dealing

Have you ever wondered how Stephen Colbert or Jon Stewart can reproduce news clips without being sued for copyright infringement?

Just because something is under copyright doesn’t mean it cannot be copied or used by someone other than the author. Colbert and Stewart, as pundits who report on current events, criticize and perform parodies and satire, can rightly claim “fair use” under US copyright law in their use of news clips on their shows to avoid copyright infringement.

Similar to fair use in the US, under the fair dealing provisions of the Canadian Copyright Act, the Canadian general public can also use a copyrighted work without infringing copyright.

In general, fair dealing for the purpose of research, private study, criticism or review, or news reporting does not infringe copyright.  As long as the reproduction was “fair”, there is no copyright infringement.

The second step, whether the dealing is fair, depends on the facts of each case.  In CCH v. LSUC, 2004 SCC 13, the Supreme Court of Canada set out six non-exhaustive factors to determine whether a dealing is “fair”:
  1. the purpose of the dealing;
  2. the character of the dealing;
  3. the amount of the dealing;
  4. alternatives to the dealing;
  5. the nature of the work; and
  6. the effect of the dealing on the work.
These “fairness” factors mean that, for example, a wholesale copying of an entire show would probably not be considered “fair”, even if it was for the purpose of news reporting or criticism. But it does allow for short reproductions of clips a few seconds long, just like the clips reproduced on The Daily Show or The Colbert Report.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

The BBM trademark and Research in Motion

Finally some good news for Research in Motion this morning, as the Federal Court dismissed a lawsuit by BBM Canada challenging the use of the trade-mark “BBM” by Research in Motion Limited (RIM) in the promotion of its BlackBerry Messenger service.

The court held that BBM Canada, offering “BBM” as a specific brand of broadcast measurement services, is not entitled to a broader monopoly outside the broadcasting and advertising industries even though it had been using its trade-mark much longer than RIM, as the nature of the products and services provided by BBM Canada and RIM vary significantly.  BBM Canada’s focus is on impartial measurement of ratings data and sophisticated market research for a narrow and distinct group of consumers in the advertising and broadcast media industry, while RIM makes smartphones intended for the general public. The court also found no evidence of actual confusion by consumers, no finding of passing off and no depreciation of goodwill.

This decision was rightly decided, in my view, as generally the nature of the products and services used in association with a trademark defines the scope of the trademark monopoly.  BBM Canada doubtlessly knew this from the beginning.  Perhaps BBM Canada thought its use of the mark since 1944 gives it a fighting chance at a the court recognizing a broader scope for its trademark.  In this case, they were wrong.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Robinson Sucroë and copyright infringement

For the last 16 years, Claude Robinson has been fighting television giant Cinar in Quebec court, alleging that Robinson Sucroë, an animated television series from Quebec, was plagiarized from Robinson Curiosité, an earlier work by Claude Robinson.

In 2009, the Quebec Superior Court agreed with Claude Robinson and found Cinar guilty of copyright infringement. You can read all about the similarities the court found, in addition to comparative screenshots from Robinson Curiosité and Robinson Sucroë in the link above.

Cinar was ordered to pay more than $5.2 million in damages, including $1 million in punitive damages.
Cinar appealed. In 2011, the Quebec Court of Appeal held that Cinar did indeed infringe Robinson’s copyright, but reduced the damages to $2.7 million, including $150,000 in punitive damages.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court of Canada agreed to hear the case. Of particular interest here is the issue of the calculation of damages and punitive damages in relation to copyright infringement. Win or lose, I hope Claude Robinson’s 16 year ordeal will be resolved soon.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Trademarking a sound in Canada

Great news for marketers, as starting today, the Canadian Intellectual Property Office will accept trademark applications for a mark consisting of a sound.

This means that previously unprotected marketing materials such as jingles, vocal slogans, and song snippets that are used to identify with a brand can now be under trademark protection in Canada.



To register a sound mark, the application for the registration of a trade-mark should:
  1. state that the application is for the registration of a sound mark;
  2. contain a drawing that graphically represents the sound;
  3. contain a description of the sound; and
  4. contain an electronic recording of the sound.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Ontario court confirms new privacy tort

Earlier this year, the Ontario Court of Appeal in Jones v. Tsige, 2012 ONCA 32 confirmed the existence of a new tort of privacy, a cause of “action for intrusion upon seclusion”:
One who intentionally intrudes, physically or otherwise, upon the seclusion of another or his private affairs or concerns, is subject to liability to the other for invasion of his privacy, if the invasion would be highly offensive to a reasonable person.
The key features of this cause of action are:
  • the defendant’s conduct must be intentional, within includes reckless conduct;
  • the defendant must have invaded, without lawful justification, the plaintiff’s private affairs or concerns;
  • a reasonable person would regard the invasion as highly offensive causing distress, humiliation or anguish.
Proof of harm to a recognized economic interest is not required. However, given the intangible nature of the interest protected, damages for intrusion upon seclusion will ordinarily be modest.
The court also emphasized that the types of intrusions covered are to be decided objectively:
Claims from individuals who are sensitive or unusually concerned about their privacy are excluded: it is only intrusions into matters such as one’s financial or health records, sexual practices and orientation, employment, diary or private correspondence that, viewed objectively on the reasonable person standard, can be described as highly offensive.
This new development in tort law is welcome as previous cases were unclear whether a tort of privacy actually exists in Ontario. Businesses which keep financial or health records should make their employees aware that such a tort of privacy exists and should take steps to further protect their customers’ information.