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  • 21 Nov 2019 3:27 PM | CAN-TECH Law (Administrator)

    Court applies traditional test for interlocutory third-party injunctions to require largest internet service providers to block allegedly copyright infringing site

    A judge of the Federal Court of Canada has issued a precedent-setting site-blocking order at the behest of a range of Canadian IP rights holders. The application was brought by Bell Media Inc., Groupe TVA Inc., and Rogers Media Inc., three Canadian broadcasters and the third party respondents were a number of Canadian internet service providers, a number of which are affiliates of the plaintiffs.

    In July 2019, the plaintiffs filed a suit against the unnamed persons operating two websites: goldtv.biz and goldtv.ca, and sought an injunction against the defendant alleging that the GoldTV services had been infringing copyright in various broadcasts owned by the plaintiffs. The injunction was granted, but the plaintiffs alleged that GoldTV continued make copyrighted materials available through its services. The plaintiffs then sought an injunction to force the Canadian internet service providers to block consumers from connecting to a range of IP addresses and websites associated with GoldTV.

    A number of the ISPs (Bell Canada, Fido Solutions Inc., Rogers Communications Inc. and Videotron Ltd.) consented to the motion, while four others took no position. The only respondent to object was Teksavvy Solutions Inc. The objection is summarized by the Court:

    [11] TekSavvy opposes the motion arguing that: (1) the motion relates strictly to the issue of site blocking; (2) the subject matter of the dispute falls within the specialized expertise and mandate of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission [CRTC] pursuant to the Telecommunications Act, SC 1993, c 38 [Telecommunications Act]; and (3) in this circumstance, and although the Court may have jurisdiction, in a narrow sense, the Court should decline to exercise that jurisdiction. TekSavvy further submits that if the Court concludes otherwise, then in the alternative the Plaintiffs have failed to satisfy the test for an interlocutory injunction.

    The Court determined that the Federal Court does have jurisdiction simpliciter to issue injunctions against third parties such as the ISPs, and then turned to the question of whether it could issue this particular order.

    Teksavvy argued that Parliament had been presented with the possibility of a new legal regime that included site-blocking and had declined to do so. It further argued that the CRTC had exclusive jurisdiction over site blocking by virtue of section 36 of the Telecommunications Act:

    36 Except where the Commission approves otherwise, a Canadian carrier shall not control the content or influence the meaning or purpose of telecommunications carried by it for the public.

    The Court noted that when a coalition of broadcasters (the “Fairplay Coalition”) had petitioned the CRTC to enable site-blocking for these purposes, the CRTC had concluded that it did not have jurisdiction over copyright and that the Copyright Act is a complete code dealing with the issue. The Court then wrote:

    [37] Teksavvy seeks to characterize the issue on this motion as one of site blocking only. I am not convinced the injunction remedy sought can be so simply divorced from the essential character of the underlying copyright infringement action.

    [38] Teksavvy has not argued that the CRTC erred in concluding it lacked jurisdiction in the area of copyright infringement. For the purposes of addressing the issues before me and absent argument to the contrary I accept the CRTC conclusion that Parliament intended the Copyright Act to be an exhaustive regime. Absent clear statutory language to the contrary, where the essential character of the dispute is one of copyright, remedies are to be found in the Copyright Act.

    [42] In summary, the Court has jurisdiction to grant the relief sought. I am not convinced that any of the provisions of the Telecommunications Act, nor the fact that there is ongoing debate about the role of site blocking in Canada's telecommunications regulatory regime, support the view that the Court should decline to exercise its discretion in this case.

    Once the Court determined that it had jurisdiction to issue the particular order, the analysis switched to what test should be applied. The usual test for interlocutory injunctions was accepted, though the Court sought guidance from a similar order issued in Cartier International AG & Ors v British Sky Broadcasting Ltd & Ors [2016] EWCA Civ 658 (“Cartier CA”), a trademarks decision of the England and Wales Court of Appeal:

    [52] In Cartier CA the EWCA endorsed a number of principles or factors as being relevant in determining if a site-blocking order is proportional. The factors are:

    A. Necessity — a consideration of the extent to which the relief is necessary to protect the plaintiff's rights. The relief need not be indispensable but the court may consider whether alternative and less onerous measures are available;

    B. Effectiveness — a consideration of whether the relief sought will make infringing activities more difficult to achieve and discourage Internet users from accessing the infringing service;

    C. Dissuasiveness — a consideration of whether others not currently accessing the infringing service will be dissuaded from doing so;

    D. Complexity and Cost — a consideration of the complexity and cost of implementing the relief sought;

    E. Barriers to legitimate use or trade — a consideration of whether the relief will create barriers to legitimate use by unduly affecting the ability of users of ISP services to access information lawfully;

    F. Fairness — a consideration of whether the relief strikes a fair balance between fundamental rights of the parties, the third parties and the general public;

    G. Substitution — a consideration of the extent to which blocked websites may be replaced or substituted and whether a blocked website may be substituted for another infringing website; and

    H. Safeguards — a consideration of whether the relief sought includes measures that safeguard against abuse.

    The Court carried out an analysis of each of the above Cartier CA factors and determined that the balance of convenience favoured the plaintiffs.

    A fifteen paragraph order issued to require the blocking of the sites and IP addresses requested by the plaintiffs, the first of which reads:

    1. Within fifteen (15) days of the issuance of this Order, the Third Party Respondents shall block or attempt to block access by at least their residential wireline Internet service customers to the websites or online services identified at Schedule 1 to this Order (the "Target Websites"), by blocking or attempting to block access to all of the Target Websites' domains, subdomains and IP addresses identified therein. For clarity, the Go1dTV.ca Service is a Target Website for the purpose of this Order. Schedule 1 to this Order is empty for the Go1dTV.ca Service as of the date of issuance of this Order, and may be supplemented by the Plaintiffs if and when appropriate in accordance with paragraph 2 of this Order.

    Notably, any customer of any of the third party ISPs has the right to make an application to the Court to vary the order if it affects their ability to access or distribute non-infringing content.

  • 21 Nov 2019 3:24 PM | CAN-TECH Law (Administrator)

    Federal Court refuses to certify Voltage “reverse class action” on numerous grounds

    The Federal Court of Canada appears to have brought the Voltage “reverse class action” for copyright infringement to an end (subject to appeal). On November 12, 2019 in Voltage Pictures et al. v Salna et al.the Federal Court of Canada dismissed the application for certification brought by a group of production companies (“Voltage”) that sought to sue, in a single class proceeding, hundreds of Canadians accused of unlawfully downloading and uploading movies for which the plaintiffs own the exclusive rights.

    In a certification motion, the plaintiffs have the burden of satisfying the test set out in the Federal Courts Rules, which require:

    Conditions

    334.16 (1) Subject to subsection (3), a judge shall, by order, certify a proceeding as a class proceeding if

    (a) the pleadings disclose a reasonable cause of action;

    (b) there is an identifiable class of two or more persons;

    (c) the claims of the class members raise common questions of law or fact, whether or not those common questions predominate over questions affecting only individual members;

    (d) a class proceeding is the preferable procedure for the just and efficient resolution of the common questions of law or fact; and

    (e) there is a representative plaintiff or applicant who

    (i) would fairly and adequately represent the interests of the class,

    (ii) has prepared a plan for the proceeding that sets out a workable method of advancing the proceeding on behalf of the class and of notifying class members as to how the proceeding is progressing,

    (iii) does not have, on the common questions of law or fact, an interest that is in conflict with the interests of other class members, and

    (iv) provides a summary of any agreements respecting fees and disbursements between the representative plaintiff or applicant and the solicitor of record.

    Voltage argued that its amended statement of claim met the test. It is important to note that the decision is based on the pleadings, assuming the allegations to be true.

    Justice Boswell determined that the Voltage pleadings did not disclose a reasonable cause of action for either primary or secondary infringement. Primary infringement refers to making a film available for upload by BitTorrent or advertising through BitTorrent that a film was available for download. Secondary infringement or authorizing infringement refers to failing to take steps, as a controller of an internet account, to prevent the two acts of primary infringement, or authorizing either of them. With respect to a primary infringement, Voltage did not identify any person who it alleged to be a primary infringer. Voltage did name an alleged secondary infringer who had an IP address that was associated with making five films available on the BitTorrent network at various times.

    The Canadian Internet and Public Interest Clinic (“CIPPIC”) argued that Voltage’s own affiant admitted during cross-examination that an IP address cannot be associated with a particular individual in copyright infringement matters. The operator of the account identified by Voltage had two tenants who were also identified; however, it is unclear who (or if any of them) were the ones to allegedly infringe the plaintiffs’ copyright. Because of this, no Direct Infringer could be identified by Voltage, and it is therefore plain and obvious that its claim of primary infringement cannot succeed. From Paragraph 77: “Without an identifiable respondent the action could not appropriately go forward as a class proceeding…”.

    For secondary infringement or authorizing infringement, the court similarly found that the Voltage claim as pled was doomed to fail. With BitTorrent, there is no difference between downloading and uploading files as they take place simultaneously. When files are shared on BitTorrent, they are shared by all users and not necessarily with the users’ knowledge.

    The Court determined that Voltage failed to provide sufficient evidence about the actual existence of a class of two or more persons:

    “The nexus between an IP address and the person responsible for copyright infringement is highly technical and difficult to assess without a consideration of the merits of individual liability issues” (para 106).

    Voltage also failed to demonstrate to the court’s satisfaction that there was some basis in fact that the claims of the class members raise common questions of law or fact. The final nail in the coffin for Voltage was that its litigation plan was unmanageable for having to deal with individual issues, for relying on public resources for a private end and because it largely relies on the notice-and-notice regime of the Copyright Act to facilitate a large-scale class proceeding that could affect thousands of Canadians.

    The motion was dismissed with costs.

  • 21 Nov 2019 3:23 PM | CAN-TECH Law (Administrator)

    Court holds Internet-based dangers to children justify stricter sentencing

    In R. v. Alcantara, the accused had pleaded guilty to the offence of internet luring under s. 172.1 of the Criminal Code, arising from a sting operation in which he interacted in a sexual manner with “Brayden,” an undercover officer who was playing the part of a 14-year old boy. “Brayden” had responded to an ad the accused placed on a site called “Doublelist!”, in which the accused sought sexual activity with a person emphasized as “young.” After short conversations with sexual content, the accused arranged a discreet “meeting” with “Brayden” and was apprehended thereafter.

    The sentencing judge, Rolston J. of the Manitoba Provincial Court, took account of Parliament’s clear prioritization of combatting child sexual exploitation and its “growing concern for offences involving internet use,” which was reflected in turn by the creation of minimum sentences for deterrence purposes. The court remarked:

    [6] As a general observation, it is worth noting that the use of social media on the internet has virtually exploded since the time that the Ontario court expressed the noted concerns in D.D. in 2002. In 2019, virtually everyone carries a phone that is capable of accessing the vast number of internet applications that cater to connecting people to one another in some form or another. Often, the children as opposed to the adults, are the experts in the use of these devices. Despite often being experts in internet navigation, children remain naïve and vulnerable to influence and predatory behaviour. Therefore, the words of Justice Moldaver (as he then was) in D.D. add perspective to his words written more recently on behalf of the Supreme Court in R. v. Morrison, [2019] S.C.J. No. 15 at paragraph 153:

    Child Luring is a serious offence that targets one of the most vulnerable groups within Canadian society—our children. It requires a high level of mens rea and involves a high degree of moral blameworthiness.

    The reality is that today’s technology is moving at light speed. The potential for damage to our “valued and vulnerable assets” is real. The combination of these facts logically calls for a focus on the principles of deterrence and denunciation in sentencing those who use the internet as a tool to lure and victimize our youth. These sentiments have been echoed time and time again in courts across the country (see, for example: Rv. Legare2009 SCC 56 (CanLII)Rv. Alicandro2009 ONCA 133 (CanLII)R. vParadee2013 ABCA 41 (CanLII)RvJepson, [2004] O.J. 5521, RvHarris2017 ONSC 940 (CanLII), and RvGalatas, Unreported MBQB, May 1, 2019). The concern of Parliament to ensure that the principles of deterrence, denunciation and protection of the public are at the forefront, is reflected in the increased sentences imposed by law.

    Here, the defendant had challenged the constitutionality of the 1-year mandatory minimum sentence attached to the offence, but the court found that a sentence of at least one year would be appropriate in the circumstances and thus it did not need to consider the challenge. The defendant was sentenced to one year in jail and one year of probation, along with various conditions restricting his internet use, including a ban on the use of social media.

  • 7 Nov 2019 4:07 PM | CAN-TECH Law (Administrator)

    Unilateral GPS tracking via cell phone app violates Collective Agreement

    In Brick and Allied Craft Union of Canada & Brick and Allied Craft Union of Canada, Local 31 v Terrazzothe Ontario Labour Relations Board found that unilaterally implementing a digital timesheet tracking system on employee’s personal phones was in violation of two provisions of the collective agreement and also an unreasonable exercise of management rights. Tsheets is a digital timesheet app downloaded onto employee smart phones to allow them to electronically “clock in” and out of their shifts. The employer unilaterally implemented a digital timesheet app called “Tsheets” in November 2018. In response the Union brought a grievance application, arguing that this change violated the Collective Agreement in a number of ways.

    The operation of the app, and its use by the employer, was summarized by the Board:

    3. Tsheets is a digital timesheet application that allows employees to electronically record the time they start and end their workday on a cellular phone. An employee “clocks in” at the beginning of his shift and “clocks out” at the end. It requires the use of cellular data from the employee’s personal cellular plan.

    4. In order to use Tsheets, the employee must download the Tsheets app on his smart phone. The employer installed Tsheets software on its computer in order to receive the data from the Tsheets app. The Tsheets app sends all the recorded data, through the Tsheets servers, to the employer.

    5. Once a job is set up by the employer, Mr. Emiliani assigns a job number and job site in the Tsheets software. When the employee starts work, he is expected to open the app, use the pull-down menu to find the appropriate job number, and “clock in”.

    6. The app is also capable of tracking the location of the employee (or more accurately, the location of the employee’s phone) through Global Positioning System (“GPS”) technology. By default, the GPS option on the app is enabled and transmits the location to the employer. If the employee disables the GPS on their phone, Tsheets is not capable of tracking the GPS.

    7. To explain this in greater detail, if the GPS option is enabled on the employee’s phone, the phone sends GPS data to Tsheets while the employee is “clocked in”. That data is then sent, in real time, to the employer…

    11. Tsheets allows the employer to determine which features it wants to use and which features should be unavailable. For example, the employer had the option of deactivating the GPS function. That is, even if the employee’s GPS function was activated on his phone, the employer could have made the settings for Tsheets to not track the employee’s GPS. It chose not to do so. The settings of Tsheets allowed GPS tracking for any employee who did not manually turn off the GPS tracking on their phone.

    The employer had implemented use of the app to eliminate the time necessary to physically travel and collect time sheets in order to manage payroll. The Union objected that this change violated the Collective Agreement in five ways, only two of which the Board found it necessary to decide.

    First, the Collective Agreement specifically considered the submission of timesheets, and provided that “A timesheet may be submitted by telephone, email or fax.” This language was exhaustive, and so requiring the use of Tsheets was inconsistent with the Collective Agreement.

    Second, the Collective Agreement prohibited the use of personal cell phones during working hours on any project. The use of Tsheets, on the other hand, required the use of a personal cell phone during working hours, and so again was inconsistent with the Collective Agreement.

    More importantly, however, the Board found that even if the use of Tsheets were not inconsistent with the Collective Agreement, it was an unreasonable exercise of management rights. First, the unilateral implementation of Tsheets forced employees to own, carry and use their personal cell phones at work. Second, employees were forced to pay for their own data in using Tsheets: the Board noted that:

    45…While the employer asserted that employees can utilize Tsheets on public wifi networks (e.g. at a local restaurant), this seems impractical in the circumstances, since the employee is required to “clock out” at the end of their shift. To require an employee to relocate to an area where wifi was publicly available is not a practical response to avoid the use of personal data.

    Most importantly, the Board found there to be notable privacy concerns with Tsheets:

    46. Third, the storage, use and potential sharing of data by Tsheets is also of concern because the employees are not informed by the employer about how such data is protected or used. If looked at in isolation, the collection of “clocked in” and “clocked out” times might not give rise to any concerns. But, when that data is combined with GPS, including locations during breaks and lunches, a more complete picture of employee behavioural characteristics can be seen by Tsheets and any third party provider authorized by Tsheets to view the information.

    47. It is unclear to me whether data such as facial recognition (a security option), passwords, Information Protocol (“IP”) addresses, online cookies, or other cell phone usage is tracked and stored by Tsheets. The Privacy Statement of Tsheets states that it collects device information, usage information, location information, content, camera and contacts, information from cookies and local storage. There was no evidence about the collection or use of this information. Thus, I am unable to draw conclusions about the privacy implications. It is obvious that there could be real privacy issues with allowing Tsheets (and possibly the employer) to having access to the data collected and controlled on personal cell phones.

    48. It is also concerning that the possibility of such information being shared with third parties is not addressed in the employer’s policy or part of a detailed explanation to the union and the employees. The sharing of personal information with third parties is an issue employees would be reasonably concerned about and I would have expected the employer to thoroughly address it.

    In addition, Tsheets automatically sent notifications to employees reminding them to “clock in”, but these notifications were sent to all employees, including those who were not scheduled to work or those who were off due to illness. This might have been reasonable if the employer issued cell phones to its employees, but “it is unreasonable for an employer to unilaterally maintain some control (e.g. sending notifications) over the personal cell phones of the employees” (para 51). Accordingly, the grievance was decided in favour of the union.

  • 7 Nov 2019 4:03 PM | CAN-TECH Law (Administrator)

    US court hold that “thumbs-up” emoji did not amount to consent for removal of child from country

    In Bardales v. Lamothe, Judge Eli Richardson of the US District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee (Nashville) presided over an application under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction, in which a Honduran father alleged that his child’s mother (from whom he was separated) had abducted their child from Honduras and taken him to the US, in violation of the custody arrangement in place. The father proved to the court’s satisfaction that he had been exercising his parental and custodial duties at the time the child was removed, and that his custodial rights under Honduran law had been breached by the mother’s removal of the child.

    However, the mother defended, in part, on the basis that while the father had not consented to her removing the child, he had subsequently acquiesced to her keeping the child in the US permanently. In support of this she produced a series of text messages, in one of which she told the father that they had arrived in the US and he responded with a “thumbs-up” emoji. The father testified that this only meant that he was indicating that she should enjoy the company of her mother (with whom she was staying), and not that he was consenting to the child remaining there. In another text exchange the father stated that he was going to “work hard, get his papers and come to the United States,” though the father testified that he meant he was intending to come to the US to retrieve his son, and not to live there. In still another, the mother texted the father that their son “would be an important man” in the US, to which the father replied, “perfect.”

    Judge Richardson found that as evidence of acquiescence, these texts were “ambiguous, at best,” and any inference of acquiescence that could be drawn was rebutted by the fact that the father had consistently made efforts to get the child back, in part by enlisting the help of the Honduran authorities and, eventually, bringing the court application. The mother had not proven, on a preponderance of the evidence, that the father had acquiesced. In the result, the court ordered that the child be returned to Honduras.

  • 7 Nov 2019 4:03 PM | CAN-TECH Law (Administrator)

    Bitcoin cleared by Ontario Securities Commission to issue final prospectus

    In [Re] 31Q Corp. and the Bitcoin Fund, Commissioner Lawrence P. Haber heard a review in which Bitcoin Fund and 31Q Corp. requested that he set aside a decision of the Director of the Ontario Securities Commission’s Investment Funds & Structured Products branch denying a receipt for Bitcoin Fund’s final prospectus. The effect of the decision was that Bitcoin could not distribute its securities to the public in Ontario. The Bitcoin Fund is a non-redeemable public investment fund that plans to invest substantially all of its assets in bitcoin (using blockchain to record all transactions), while 3IQ manages the fund.

    Noting that the decision was not about the merits of the plan as a potential investment and that it was not the Commission’s function to inoculate potential investors against risk, Commissioner Haber made some interesting preliminary remarks:

    [5] This application is not about the merits of bitcoin as an investment. As with other classes of assets or undertakings or businesses underlying an issuer, the investment potential of these underlying assets, undertakings and businesses are outside the scope of securities regulation.

    [6] Bitcoin is a novel asset in an emerging and evolving market. It is a risky asset. Markets for novel asset classes and securities evolve over time. Emerging markets for securities and asset classes look and feel very different from mature markets. As markets evolve and mature, they change, either through the efforts of the market participants or through government intervention or regulation, or both.

    [7] Some novel asset classes and securities products fail. They become tulip bulbs or dot.com’s. Others succeed and become gold or the next great technology.

    The decision below had been based in the Commission’s “broad, but not infinite” public interest jurisdiction, under which staff had raised three operational risks relating to the project:

    A) Valuation and Market Manipulation

    Bitcoin is a commodity, not an equity or other security and therefore the bitcoin market should be examined like other commodity markets as opposed to the standards applicable to securities markets (para 80). Market manipulation is a risk in all commodity markets (para 80), and the IFSP staff was not successful in demonstrating that bitcoin is more susceptible to manipulation than other commodity products (and not in the public interest).

    B) Safeguarding of the Fund’s Assets

    Bitcoin can be stolen and lost like other valuable commodities (para 85). However, the Bitcoin Fund will use a regulating Canadian trust company as its custodian (Cidel Trust Company) as well as a New York State trust company.as a sub-custodian (Gemini Trust Company, LLC), which is regulated by New York State. The safeguards in place with these two custodians, and reputable reports indicate that they have effective internal controls and cybersecurity practices, as well as disaster recovery plans (paras 87, 88).

    C) Auditability of the Fund’s Financial Statements

    “Investment funds that are reporting issuers are required to file financial statements that have been audited and contain an auditor’s report. When an investment fund relies on a service organization, the controls at the service organization are relevant to the investment fund’s audit.” (para 89)

    Commissioner Haber concluded that the companies had a reputable auditor in place, and one which had experience auditing with regard to crypto-currencies. The operational risks identified were concerned not with the structure or management of the Fund, but with the asset itself. There are other means of acquiring bitcoin, and a ban by the Commission would not protect investors from the “unfair, improper or fraudulent practices” from which it seeks to protect the public from. The denial of the fund would also fail to promote fair and efficient capital markets and confidence in those markets. Accordingly, he held that the Director’s decision was set aside and the receipt for the final prospectus was ordered to be issued.

    (with a contribution from Ella Hantho)

  • 7 Nov 2019 4:02 PM | CAN-TECH Law (Administrator)

    Edited dashcam video sufficiently reliable

    In Dainov v. Leethe Ontario Superior Court of Justice granted a motion for summary judgement to dismiss the action involving a minor car crash based solely the evidence from one of the car’s dashboard cameras and the parties’ testimonies. In essence, the only important evidence concerning the accident came from the dashcam, and unless that evidence was inadmissible the defendant would succeed. Because it was admitted, the plaintiff’s case was dismissed.

    To be admissible the video had to be a fair and accurate representation of the events, and not impair trial fairness. The plaintiff objected to the use of the video on the basis of three arguments: 1) the video was edited to show only the first 26 seconds leading up to the collision; 2) the original video and the dashboard camera were no longer available, and; 3) the limited field of view of the dashboard camera made the video unreliable.

    The judge rejected all three of these reasons. Although only a short period before the accident was on the video, the portion edited out was from another location and was not relevant. Although the plaintiff argued that portion of the video would have shown the road conditions on the night, the parties did not disagree about that. The plaintiff did not explain why the original would be required, and had not suggested the video was doctored in any way. With respect to the third argument, any camera has a limited field of view, but the narrow field in this case was sufficient to demonstrate the positions and speed of the vehicles involved, and clearly indicated the defendant gave the plaintiff a reasonable opportunity to avoid a collision.

  • 24 Oct 2019 4:09 PM | CAN-TECH Law (Administrator)

    Without first-hand evidence or testimony about the reliability of how it was taken, Google mapping images are not admissible

    The Third District Court of Appeal of Florida in City of Miami v. Juanita Kho reversed and remanded a trial court’s decision that accepted a Google Maps photograph (presumably taken by a Google Street View car) into evidence without proof of authentication. The Court of Appeal instead held that a photo taken from Google Street View will be subject to the same authentication requirements of any other photograph. In Florida, this is addressed in s. 90.901 of the Florida Evidence Code.

    The underlying dispute had to do with a trip-and-fall accident in 2010 on a sidewalk. The plaintiff alleged that a difference of 1 ¼ inches between the sidewalk and a patch created a “dangerous and defective condition” resulting in the trip and subsequent fall. To prove her case, the plaintiff had to prove actual or constructive knowledge of the situation on the part of the defendant city.

    The plaintiff had attempted to demonstrate this constructive knowledge by using a Google image of the sidewalk at issue, which was dated November 2007. The incident occurred in 2010.

    The defendant objected to the admission of any internet photograph or map unless it was properly authenticated. During the hearing, the trial court said that a Google image is not “self-authenticating”, would be treated like any other photograph and thus require authentication by testimony.

    The plaintiff’s expert testified that there was no substantial difference between the Google photograph and the photograph that was taken of the same location on the date of the plaintiff’s fall. Because the expert had not visited the location of the fall prior to 2010, he was unable to claim that the site of the fall three years before, when the Google image was taken, was in fact similar to the date of the fall. The plaintiff also did not introduce any testimony from a Google representative who may be able to speak to the image or how it was created.

    At trial, the court overruled the defendant’s objection to admitting the Google photo as evidence without any additional testimony.

    On appeal, the court strictly followed Section 90.901 of the Florida Evidence Code. The Court of Appeal stated at page 4 of its decision that “a Google Maps image must be authenticated in the same manner as any other photographic evidence before it is admitted in evidence”. This can be done using one of two methods:

    1. the “pictorial testimony” method, which requires a witness to have personal knowledge and testify that the image fairly and accurately depicts the scene, or
    2. the “silent witness” method, which requires that photograph “may be admitted upon proof of the reliability of the process which produced the tap or photo.

    The Google image was not authenticated by either of these methods in the trial court, so the first ground was not satisfied by the plaintiff’s expert who had not attended the scene before 2010.

    On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the photograph may be authenticated under the “silent witness” method. This was not successful, because the plaintiff “did not present any evidence as to the operating capabilities or condition of the equipment used by Google Maps”, or the procedures that Google Maps’ employees used to take the photograph, or any other relevant factors listed in precedents dealing with photos.

    The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s decision and remanded the case with instructions that judgment be entered for the defendant.

  • 24 Oct 2019 10:58 AM | Anonymous

    Limited rights to discovery prior to certification did not lead to production of full database of affected users.

    Once again, privacy class action lawyers have suffered a setback on their path to certification in privacy breach cases. This time, it’s in Karasik v. Yahoo Inc. where plaintiffs’ counsel were rebuffed in their attempt to obtain access to the database of all of Yahoo!’s sixteen million customers in Canada. The case is rooted in the infamous data breaches of 2013 – 2016 and a putative class action was commenced in 2016 in the Ontario courts. Prior to certification, the plaintiff brought a motion to compel the production of Yahoo’s Canadian user database.

    The motion was made after Yahoo! Inc. delivered multiple affidavits on the hearing of the certification motion. One affidavit was a statement by Dr. Ghose, an expert in information systems. The expert had been given access to the database in order to prepare the affidavit. Prior to the cross-examination, the plaintiffs requested the production of the database and Yahoo! refused.

    Prior to certification, production of records and evidence is generally limited. For documentary discovery at this stage, the judge required that the party making the request must demonstrate that the demand is proportionate, fair, and necessary for the certification motion.

    In light of the significant evidence adduced by Yahoo! Inc, the judge concluded that the request was disproportionate to the needs of the certification motion. In addition, the plaintiffs did not successfully displace the burden of proving why the database would be necessary, other than a statement that the database would be necessary for cross-examination of the witness. There was no evidence to suggest that the database may be inaccurate. As a result, the plaintiffs’ motion was denied.

  • 24 Oct 2019 10:57 AM | Anonymous

    Records capable of being confirmatory evidence

    A relatively novel use of cell phone tower evidence was at issue in R v Saleh. Evidence that an accused’s cell phone has pinged a particular cell phone tower is not infrequently used directly as evidence placing that accused in the vicinity of an offence, in order to show guilt. In Saleh, however, the evidence was used more indirectly.

    The accused was charged with and convicted of first degree murder. Both the accused and the victim were involved in the drug trade, and the Crown argued that the accused had killed the victim because of a dispute related to that. Important evidence against the accused came from two witnesses also involved in the drug trade, one of whom had also been charged with the same murder but had made a deal in exchange for his testimony. Because these were two “unsavoury witnesses”, the trial judge was required to give the jury a Vetrovec caution about their evidence. That is, the judge was required to instruct the jury that they should show the greatest care and caution before accepting the evidence of those witnesses, unless there was confirmatory evidence of their testimony. That confirmatory evidence had to be independent and had to support or confirm material parts of the witnesses’ testimony.

    The accused objected on appeal that the trial judge had wrongly pointed to cell phone tower evidence as capable of being such confirmatory evidence. The location of the shooting was a secluded rural area west of Ottawa, and records relating to cell phone use and cell phone towers placed the co-accused witness and the accused in relevant areas at relevant times. The accused argued that this should not be seen as confirmatory evidence: it was not material in respect of whether he was involved in the killing. Because those records were irrelevant to the question of his role in the killing, he argued, they did not meet the materiality requirement.

    The Ontario Court of Appeal found no error in the trial judge’s reference to those records as satisfying the confirmatory purposes of a Vetrovec caution. Confirmatory evidence need not directly implicate the accused: it is sufficient that it be reasonably capable of strengthening the jury’s belief that the witness is telling the truth on an important aspect of the case. In this instance the cell phone and cell tower records confirmed the attendance of the accused and the witness at the remote site contemporaneous with the killing: that made it potentially material confirmatory evidence, and so the trial judge had not erred in pointing to that possible use of the evidence.

  

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