Posts Tagged ‘ copyright ’

Social Networking on the Internet and the Law

As part of the LIS colloquia, Dr. Cameron Hutchison from the faculty of Law presented today on some of the legal considerations of social networking.

It was a short talk on a subject I feel I’m not adequately informed about.  Perhaps the least surprising revelation was that legislation is severely lacking when it comes to electronic and/or digital media.  Dr. Hutchison focused primarily on how the legal system can best interpret existing legislation and adapt it to answer issues such as cyberbullying, copyright, and protection of information.

He began by giving examples of some of the legal gaps surrounding Internet usage.  The first of these was the question: “what happens to your online stuff after you die?”  Current legislation in this area is limited to PIPEDA, the Personal Information and Electronic Document Act, which requires the user’s consent before an online service provider (such as Facebook) will release personal information (Geist and Homsi, 2005).  PIPEDA does not provide any solution in the event of a user’s death (ibid.).  There are online services that can help manage your virtual life after your death– deathswitch, SlightlyMorbid, and to name a few– but no laws exist to deal with this issue.

The second was the recent case of Megan Meier, who committed suicide after her neighbours Lori Drew and Ashley Grills created a fake identity on MySpace in order to bully her online.  Lori Drew, Ashley Grills mother, was tried in court and acquitted.  On July 2 the judge dismissed the case since the jury could only find her guilty of the misdemeanor charges for violating MySpace’s terms of service, even though her intent was clearly malicious in nature and had caused the situation that led to Meier’s death.  Although Drew’s actions were morally objectionable, they weren’t criminal; no law exists to convict her for “cyberbullying”.

One of the questions raised following the talk asked how the legal system determines jurisdiction for cyber-crimes.  Where does the crime occur when it’s happening in cyberspace?  Whose rules apply to the crime?  Quite often legislators assume that an IP address corresponds to an individual; but this is a false assumption, since a single person could use multiple IP addresses, or two or more people could share a single IP address (Lovet, 2009).  IP addresses are commonly masked, and technologies like wifi and P2P networking introduce challenges in associating an IP address to a particular region, let alone a person (ibid.).  In Canada, Hutchison explained, a “real and substantial connection” between criminal and crime must be determined in order to establish jurisdiction.  What happens if, unlike the case of Meier and Drew, the two parties are in different jurisdictions (say in Montreal and Manhattan)?  The notion of a global standard or treaty for the Internet came up, a set of international laws designed specifically to govern the Internet.  But this leads to other problems: what about Net Neutrality?

These were just a few of the issues that Dr. Hutchison raised with his lecture.  Overall, a very interesting talk– although I still feel like a a novice when it comes to Internet law.  Then again, I suppose that’s the point: we’re all novices.

Works cited

Geist, Michael, and Homsi, Milana (2005). “Outsourcing Our Privacy?: Privacy and Security in a Borderless Commercial World.”  URL (  Last accessed December 10, 2009.

Lovet, Guillaume (2009).  “Fighting Cybercrimes: Technical, Juridical and Ethical Challenges.” Paper presented at Virus Bulletin Conference September 2009, at Crowne Plaza Geneva, Switzerland.  URL ( Last accessed December 10, 2009.


Pirate Bay for Sale, Sold!

I haven’t had a chance to give True Blood even a cursory examination, but this review reminds me that there’s still a lot of good TV I’m missing out on.

The Guardian | True Blood is biting into the Buffy effect

The connection to Buffy doesn’t hurt.


Every so often there’s a review of some startup or other that catches my eye.  Epicenter on has an interesting review right now of Google alternatives for search engines that makes for an interesting read. 

W I R E D Epicenter | Cool Search Engines That Are Not Google

The smartest one we found is Collecta. It scours the net for the most recent blog posts, news stories, tweets and comments and displays them in a continuous waterfall. It’s a torrent of information to keep track of, but if you are worried about your company’s online reputation or want the latest news on Iran, it’s indispensable.

Collecta makes me think of a beefier, richer version of the various RSS feed catchers I’ve tried over the months/years, but desguised as a search interface.  I’d like to reserve judgment until I’ve had more time to mess around with it, but at a glance it looks impressive. 

Keeping tabs on local news and events isn’t easy — even in the days of news aggregators. Enter Trackle. Think of it as a standing search engine that will notify you of news and events you want to know about. Want to follow stocks, know the weather, find news about your neighborhood, buy a treadmill on Craigslist, follow the big game while at work or find deals on specific products? Trackle searches constantly for you and sends you emails or text messages (your choice) when Apple stock falls or your team scores a run. The interface is clunky, but the idea of a search robot beats the hell out of an RSS feed any day.

After having a look at Trackle, I’m a bit iffy.  This is basically what I use Twitter for.  I think the idea of a search bot personalized to your interests is a worthwhile one, but the service needs to be refined.  It is a beta, though; Trackle is worth keeping an eye on, if only to see what developments will come out of it over time.


7.7 Million. 

That’s the price of a Pirate Bay.  The new owners of the website hope to turn it into a profitable and legitimate venture.  I’m thinking the odds are against them, but who knows?  It looks like they’ve put some serious thought into their business model: 

W I R E D | After Sale, Can Pirate Bay Survive?

This comes on the heels of the much-publicized trial of The Pirate Bay’s original owners, now each facing 1 year of jail time and $3.5 million in fines.  (I feel frankly, like many, that outcome was a disappointing step backward in the realm of electronic copyright.)