Michael Geist

Michael Geist

Chair of Internet and E-commerce Law
Joined on January 9, 2004
Total Post Views: 251,757

About

Dr. Michael Geist is the Canada Research Chair of Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa and serves as Technology Counsel to Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP. He is a member of the CIRA board of directors. He has obtained a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) degree from Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, Master of Laws (LL.M.) degrees from Cambridge University in the UK and Columbia Law School in New York, and a Doctorate in Law (J.S.D.) from Columbia Law School.

Dr. Geist has written numerous academic articles and government reports on the Internet and law, is columnist on technology law issues for the Toronto Star, the creator and consulting editor of BNA's Internet Law News, a daily Internet law news service, editor of the monthly newsletters, Internet and E-commerce Law in Canada and the Canadian Privacy Law Review (Butterworths), the founder of the Ontario Research Network for E-commerce, on the advisory boards of several leading Internet law publications including Electronic Commerce & Law Report (BNA), the Journal of Internet Law (Aspen) and Internet Law and Business (Computer Law Reporter) as well as the author of the textbook Internet Law in Canada (Captus Press) which is now in its third edition.

Except where otherwise noted, all postings by Michael Geist on CircleID are licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Featured Blogs

TPP IP Chapter Leaks Reveal New U.S. Proposed Regulations for Country-Code Domain Names

The leaked Trans Pacific Partnership intellectual property chapter has revealed a number of U.S. proposals including U.S. demands for Internet provider liability that could lead to subscriber termination, content blocking, and ISP monitoring, copyright term extension and anti-counterfeiting provisions. This post discusses Article QQ.C.12 on domain names. more»

Canadian Government Quietly Pursuing New ISP Code of Conduct

If approved, the code would technically be voluntary for Canadian ISPs, but the active involvement of government officials suggests that most large providers would feel pressured to participate. The move toward an ISP code of conduct would likely form part of a two-pronged strategy to combat malicious software that can lead to cybercrime, identity theft, and other harms. First, the long-delayed anti-spam legislation features new disclosure requirements for the installation of software along with tough penalties for non-compliance. more»

Ontario Court Rejects U.S. Government Demand for Full Access to Megaupload Servers Seized in Canada

Many readers will recall that nearly one year ago, the U.S. government launched a global takedown of Megaupload.com, with arrests of the leading executives in New Zealand and the execution of search warrants in nine countries. Canada was among the list of participating countries as the action included seizure of Megaupload.com servers located here. more»

UN Internet Takeover Rumours Mask Bigger Governance Shortcomings

In recent months the Internet has been buzzing about the prospect of a United Nations "takeover" of the Internet, including responsibility for governance of the domain name system. The concern hit a fever pitch late last month when the U.S. Congress held hearings on the issue. A steady stream of technology companies and consumer groups expressed fears with potential U.N. and foreign government involvement and members of Congress pledged to take a strong stand against the takeover. more»

Facing Up to the Generational Privacy Divide

Last week hundreds of privacy regulators, corporate officers, and activists gathered in Jerusalem, Israel for the annual Data Protection and Privacy Commissioner Conference. ... Many acknowledged that longstanding privacy norms are being increasingly challenged by the massive popularity of social networks that encourage users to share information that in a previous generation would have never been made publicly available for all the world to see. more»

U.S. Uses Domain Names As New Way to Regulate the Net

Governments have long sought ways to regulate Internet activity, whether for the purposes of taxation, content regulation, or the application of national laws. Effective regulatory measures have often proven elusive, however, since, unlike the Internet, national laws typically end at the border. Earlier this month, the United States began to move aggressively toward a new way of confronting the Internet's jurisdictional limitations - the domain name system. more»

European ACTA Document Leaks With New Details on Mexico Talks and Future Meetings

A brief report from the European Commission authored by Pedro Velasco Martins (an EU negotiator) on the most recent round of ACTA negotiations in Guadalajara, Mexico has leaked, providing new information on the substance of the talks, how countries are addressing the transparency concerns, and plans for future negotiations. more»

New Zealand Releases Revamped Three Strikes Proposal

The New Zealand government has released a revamped three strikes proposal that incorporates full court hearings and the possibility of financial penalties. A prior proposal, which would have resulted in subscriber access being terminated without court oversight, was dropped earlier this year following public protest. more»

Opposition Mounts in Europe to Three-Strikes Proposals

Multiple reports today indicate that opposition is growing in Europe to plans for three-strikes policies that could lead to the termination of Internet access for some subscribers. In the U.K., protests are mounting over those plans in the recently introduced Digital Economy Bill. The BBC reports that thousands of people have signed a petition urging the government to reconsider its approach, while the Open Rights Group says it has seen a big spike in membership. more»

Canadian Marketing Association Attacks Anti-Spam Bill

With the final Industry Committee review of C-27, Canada's anti-spam legislation, set for Monday afternoon, lobby groups have been increasing the pressure all week in an effort to water down many of the bill's key protections. Yesterday, the Canadian Marketing Association chimed in with an emergency bulletin to its members calling on them to lobby for changes to the bill. While the CMA was very supportive of the bill when it appeared before the committee in June, it now wants to kill the core protection in C-27 - a requirement for express opt-in consent. more»

Privacy Commissioner Finds Facebook Violating Canadian Privacy Law

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has released its long-awaited finding in the complaint against Facebook on a variety of privacy grounds. The complaint was launched by CIPPIC in May 2008 (note that I am an advisor to CIPPIC but had no involvement in this complaint). The case marks an important step in assessing how Canadian privacy law addresses social media with the Commissioner identifying some significant concerns. Moreover, as the case potentially heads to court, it will be closely watched to see whether the findings can be enforced against a global social media power like Facebook. more»

When Did CIRA Become the Commercial Internet Registration Authority?

Nearly ten years ago, the Government of Canada wrote a letter to the chair of the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) that set out the framework for the management of the dot-ca domain. The government articulated a vision of the dot-ca domain as a “key public resource” and called on CIRA to act in an open and transparent manner. CIRA has long sought to live up to those standards, but in recent months the organization has shown an unmistakable shift toward prioritizing commercial gain over the public interest along with a troubling move toward secret decision making... more»

WIPO's Misleading Release

The World Intellectual Property Organization put out a release yesterday trumpeting an eight percent increase in domain name disputes handled by WIPO. In 2008 there were 2329 complaints filed with WIPO, the most ever. WIPO uses the increase to raise questions about the possible increase in the number of available generic top-level domains... more»

Lawless Canada Emerging as a Spam Haven

The recent Facebook case has placed the spotlight on Canada's ongoing failure to address its spam problem by introducing long overdue anti-spam legislation. The fact that organizations are forced to use U.S. courts and laws to deal with Canadian spammers points to an inconvenient truth – Canadian anti-spam laws are woefully inadequate and we are rapidly emerging as a haven for spammers eager exploit the weak legal framework. more»

CRTC Denies CAIP Application on Throttling, But Sets Net Neutrality Hearing

This morning, the CRTC issued its much-anticipated ruling in the CAIP v. Bell case, the first major case to test the legality of Internet throttling. The Commission denied CAIP's application, ruling that Bell treated all of its customers (retail and wholesale) in the same throttled manner. This points to the challenge in this case -- it was not about discriminatory network practices per se, but rather about wholesale shaping in a specific context. more»

Coming to Grips with an Internet that Never Forgets

My weekly technology law column discusses the implications of an Internet that never forgets. I note that the most significant Internet effect during the current election campaign in Canada has not been any particular online video, website or Facebook group. Instead, it has been the resignation of eight Canadian candidates based on embarrassing or controversial information unearthed online. more»

CIRA Creates Backdoor WHOIS Exceptions for Police and IP Owners

Earlier this year, I wrote glowingly about the new CIRA whois policy, which took effect today and which I described as striking the right balance between access and privacy. The policy was to have provided new privacy protection to individual registrants -- hundreds of thousands of Canadians -- by removing the public disclosure of their personal contact information... Apparently I spoke too soon. more»

New CIRA Whois Policy Strikes Balance Between Privacy and Access

My weekly technology law column focuses this week on the new CIRA whois policy that is scheduled to take effect on June 10, 2008. The whois issue has attracted little public attention, yet it has been the subject of heated debate within the domain name community for many years. It revolves around the whois database, a publicly accessible, searchable list of domain name registrant information (as in "who is" the registrant of a particular domain name). more»

Does Bell Really Have a P2P Bandwidth Problem?

Bell filed its response to the Canadian Association Of Internet Providers (CAIP) submission to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) on its throttling practices yesterday, unsurprisingly arguing that its actions are justified and that there is no need to deal with the issue on an emergency basis. Several points stand out from the submission including its non-response to the privacy concerns with deep-packet inspection... and its inference that P2P usage could be deemed using a connection as a "server" and therefore outside the boundaries of "fair and proportionate use" under typical ISP terms of use. more»

Business in the Hotseat over Net Censorship

My weekly technology law column focuses on the growth of Internet censorship and the accompanying pressure on the business community to do something about it... China's censorship system may be the most extensive, but it is not alone. The University of Toronto's OpenNet Initiative, a world leader in tracking state-sponsored Internet censorship, recently co-published Access Denied, a book that highlights its pervasive growth. The book notes that some countries control all public Internet services, thereby creating an easy pipeline to implementing filtering technologies. Countries such as Syria have sought to chill access to the Internet by requiring cybercafe owners to record the names and identification cards of clients... more»

How the Internet On Cable Became the Internet As Cable

When Rogers Communications began promoting its Rogers@Home high-speed Internet service nearly a decade ago, the company branded it "the Internet on Cable." Years later, their service, as well as those of their competitors, is gradually morphing into "the Internet as Cable" as broadcasters, Internet service providers, and cultural groups steadily move toward the delivery of content online that bears a striking resemblance to the conventional cable model. more»

The Globe on Terror Goes Digital

The Globe and Mail published an embarrassing feature story on the weekend focusing on terror groups' use of the Internet and a "Canadian connection." A story on terror group use of the Internet would have made for an interesting (albeit unoriginal) story, so it appears that the Globe tried to generate greater interest in the story by adding a Canadian connection. The article begins with "Welcome to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia - pivotal battleground in the global jihad."... more»

Whois Policy Reform Advances

The Associated Press reports this week on ICANN developments involving the Whois reform. The Whois database, which displays domain name registrant information including names, addresses, phone numbers, postal and email addresses, has been the subject of years of debate within ICANN as many in the Internet community have expressed concerns about the mandatory disclosure of such personal information. The Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) has successfully pushed for reform, though it is uncertain how the ICANN board will respond. more»

ICANN Sacrifices Privacy for Shot at Independence

Late last month, ICANN took a major step toward addressing some ongoing concerns by signing a new agreement with the U.S. government entitled the Joint Project Agreement (JPA) heralded as a "dramatic step forward" for full management of the Internet's domain name system through a "multi-stakeholder model of consultation." ...While the Joint Project Agreement may indeed represent an important change, a closer examination of its terms suggest that there may be a hidden price tag behind ICANN newfound path toward independence -- the privacy of domain name registrants. more»

CIRA's Second Public Letter to ICANN

Readers of my blog may recall that the Canadian Internet Registration Authority wrote a public letter earlier this year to ICANN that expressed concern over the current lack of accountability (note that I am on the CIRA board). The letter indicated that CIRA was withholding payment of any voluntary fees to ICANN until the accountability concerns were addressed. This week CIRA followed up with a second public letter to ICANN... more»

Telecom Policy Review Panel Calls For Net Neutrality Legal Safeguards

The Telecommunications Policy Review Panel report [Canada] was released yesterday and while the immediate reaction will no doubt focus on the recommendations for a market-oriented approach with significant changes to the CRTC, I would call attention to three other recommendations gleaned from reading the executive summary (the full document is nearly 400 pages). more»

The Credible Threat

If you have been following the debate over Internet governance over the past few years, you know that while ICANN supporters (U.S., Canadian, Australian governments; business lobby) and critics (developing world and occasionally Europe) argue over the optimal approach, particularly with respect to government involvement in the domain name system, the reality has been that possession is all. ...The alternate root has always lurked in the background as a possibility that would force everyone to rethink their positions since it would enable a single country (or group of countries) to effectively pack up their bags and start a new game. ...It is with that background in mind that people need to think about a press release issued yesterday in China announcing a revamping of its Internet domain name system. Starting tomorrow, China's Ministry of Information Industry plans to begin offering four country-code domains. more»

The Search for Net Neutrality

My weekly Law Bytes column (Toronto Star version, freely available version) examines the growing trend toward a two-tiered Internet, which upends the longstanding principle of network neutrality under which ISPs treat all data equally. I argue that the network neutrality principle has served ISPs, Internet companies, and Internet users well. It has enabled ISPs to plausibly argue that they function much like common carriers and that they should therefore be exempt from liability for the content that passes through their systems. ...Notwithstanding its benefits, in recent months ISPs have begun to chip away at the principle. more»

The WSIS Deal

There is considerable coverage this morning (or this evening in Tunis) on the last minute WSIS deal struck yesterday. The gist of the coverage rightly reports that the U.S. emerged with the compromise they were looking for as the delegates agreed to retain ICANN and the ultimate U.S. control that comes with it (note that there is a lot in the WSIS statement that may ultimately prove important but that is outside the Internet governance issue including the attention paid to cybercrime, spam, data protection, and e-commerce). This outcome begs the questions -- what happened? And, given the obvious global split leading up to Tunis, what changed to facilitate this deal? more»

Facing the Facts on Internet Governance

Having just arrived in Tunis for the WSIS, my weekly Law Bytes column (Toronto Star version, freely available version) focuses on the Internet governance issues that are likely to dominate discussions all week. I argue that claims about a "digital Munich" and a U.N. takeover are not helpful to arriving at an appropriate solution (though based on discussions this morning it does not appear that things are moving very far away from such claims). more»

Working Group on Internet Governance Releases Report

The Working Group of Internet Governance has released its final report [PDF]. As I wrote this week in my Law Bytes column, the report comes on the heels of the U.S. statement that it has no intention of surrendering control of root zone file. The WGIG report developed a working definition of Internet governance that states: "Internet governance is the development and application by Governments, the private sector and civil society, in their respective roles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programmes that shape the evolution and use of the Internet."... more»

Domain Name Dispute Puts Dot-Ca in the Spotlight

My weekly Law Bytes column (freely available hyperlinked version, Toronto Star version) focuses on the recent Canadian parliamentary discussion on domain name disputes. As discussed about ten days ago, the impetus for governmental interest in domain name disputes and Internet governance is the registration of several domain names bearing the names of sitting Members of Parliament by the Defend Marriage Coalition, an opponent of same-sex marriage legislation. The resulting websites, which include donboudria.ca and davidmcguinty.ca, include MP contact information, photos, and advocacy materials. more»

Survey of Global Internet Jurisdiction

The American Bar Association/International Chamber of Commerce (ABA/ICC) recently released a survey on global Internet jurisdiction. The survey, co-chaired by Professor Michael Geist, involved nearly 300 companies in 45 different countries. It found that U.S. companies were far more concerned and pessimistic about Internet jurisdiction risk than European and Asian companies. The study has also found that an "Internet jurisdiction risk toolkit" is emerging where companies target low risk jurisdictions and take steps to avoid doing business in perceived high risk jurisdictions. more»

The Debate Continues: Geist Replies to CENTR Response

While this may be better suited as a comment to the CENTR posting, I thought that its length might warrant a separate submission. Many thanks to CircleID for hosting this interesting discussion. Below is the full text of a comment I forwarded to CENTR earlier today in reply to its commentary on my recent study on national governments and ccTLDs. ...I should also preface my remarks by noting that I speak for myself -- not the ITU (see below), nor CIRA, (a CENTR member ) on which I serve on the board of directors, nor the Public Interest Registry, which manages the dot-org domain and on which I serve on the Global Advisory Council. more»

Topic Interests

DNSDomain NamesTop-Level DomainsInternet GovernanceICANNPrivacyPolicy & RegulationRegional RegistriesCensorshipSpamSecurityBroadbandAccess ProvidersNet NeutralityVoIPTelecomWhoisP2PCybersquattingCybercrimeRegistry ServicesWebLawEmailMalware

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Popular Posts

The Credible Threat

Domain Name Dispute Puts Dot-Ca in the Spotlight

The Debate Continues: Geist Replies to CENTR Response

ICANN Sacrifices Privacy for Shot at Independence

Survey of Global Internet Jurisdiction