Communication and Media Law encompasses such specialized areas as defamation (libel, slander) and privacy.
In Canada, defamation is any sort of communication that harms a person’s reputation. When defamation is spoken, it is “slander”; when it is written, it is “libel”.
Canadian law protects reputation by allowing people to sue when their reputation is harmed.
The Supreme Court in its important decision in Grant v. Torstar, 2009 SCC 61 struck a new balance between the protection of personal reputation and the freedom of speech by introducing two new defences to defamation claims.
The first is called the “reportage” defence, which is a new exception to the repetition rule.
Libellous statements may now be repeated without liability where there is a public interest in the fact that the statement was made aside from the truth or falsity of that statement, provided certain other criteria are met.
The second new defence is called “responsible communication”.
If the impugned piece is on a public interest matter, and its publication was reasonable in the circumstances such that the publisher diligently attempted to confirm the defamatory allegations, then the publisher may invoke the defence and escape liability for publishing the materials.
In determining whether publication of the piece was reasonable in the circumstances, the court suggested several considerations such as the seriousness of the allegation, the matter’s public importance and its urgency.
In Canada, there are two pieces of federal legislation governing privacy.
The Privacy Act requires government institutions to respect privacy. The Act limits the amount of personal information the government collects and uses and requires this to be disclosed to Canadians.
The Act also gives Canadians the right to access this information and request changes.
The Personal Information Protections and Electronics Document Act (PIPEDA) governs the private sector in certain circumstances.
PIPEDA determines how federally regulated private sector organisations (e.g. aviation, banking, broadcasting, and telecommunications companies) may collect, use and disclose personal information during the course of business.
PIPEDA also determines how other private sector organisations companies may collect, use and disclose personal information during the course of business when the information is transferred across Canadian or provincial borders or when it is collected, used or disclosed within a Canadian province that has not enacted legislation that is “substantially similar” to PIPEDA.
In Ontario, the Personal Health Information Protection Act has been found to be substantially similar regarding personal health information. Thus PIPEDA applies in Ontario regarding all other personal information. PIPEDA also governs the collection, use and disclosure of personal information of employees of federal works or undertakings.
The PIPEDA and its application of can be complicated and requires specialized legal knowledge.
In addition to the federal statutes are the provinces’ and territories’ privacy legislation and common law doctrines like the significant new tort of intrusion upon seclusion (see Jones v. Tsige, 2012 ONCA 32).
Information Technology (IT) Law is a broad practice area encompassing computer software and hardware protection, access and control of digital information, internet access and usage, privacy issues, IT security, and electronic commerce. In Canada, PIPEDA deals with IT rules and regulations.
The various legal documents falling within the ambit of IT law include:
- Software License Agreement
- End User License Agreement
- Non-Disclosure Agreement
- Trademark Assignment
- Trade Name Assignment.
Our team of specialist can advise you of your rights and obligations and draft the pertinent documents encompassing them.
Internet activities are regulated by federal and provincial legislation and the common law. Specific legislation governing electronic transactions and e-commerce has been enacted in most provinces and territories.
Provincial e-commerce legislation provides for the enforceability of electronic contracts. Nonetheless, you must ensure that the electronic offer and acceptance process results in an enforceable contract. Also, there are legislative signature requirements for certain types of agreements.
The provincial e-commerce legislation provides that e-signatures can be functionally equivalent to their paper versions.
There are also an array of laws about various e-commerce issues, like online consumer protection (e.g. Ontario’s amended Consumer Protection Act) and online advertising (e.g. the federal Competition Bureau’s 2003 guide called Application of the Competition Act to Representations on the Internet).
A lawyer can help you understand the myriad of laws about Communication, Media and IT and how they apply to you. So if you need advice in this area, get in touch with one of our knowledgeable team members.