Voltage Pictures v. John Doe and Jane Doe

An Ontario Internet service provider has been ordered by the Federal Court of Canada to identify about 2,000 customers suspected of illegal downloading and copyright infringement, but the court took important steps to ward off “copyright trolling”—a practice in which copyright holders threaten a large cohort of Internet users, many of whom are often innocent, unless they pay a settlement fee.

The Feb. 20 decision in Voltage Pictures LLC v. John Doe and Jane Doe requires that the court approve the wording of any letter to subscribers of Internet provider TekSavvy and that Voltage pay TekSavvy’s legal fees before the disclosure of subscriber information. The decision also establishes strict rules protecting the confidentiality of the information released to Voltage.

Teksavvy, based in Chatham, Ontario, did not oppose the request for subscriber information, which is based on activity over a two-month period in 2012. However, it made its customers aware of the action and supported the intervention of the Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC), a technology law clinic, which was granted standing in the case.

CIPPIC brought copyright trolling to the court’s attention and opposed the application to release the subscriber data to Voltage, a U.S.–based producer of films including “The Hurt Locker,” “Don Jon” and “Dallas Buyers Club.” The court indicated it was troubled by the prospect of copyright trolling and found that Voltage may have engaged in some litigation that had improper purposes, but nonetheless ordered the release of the subscriber data.

For plaintiff Voltage Pictures LLC (Los Angeles)

Brauti Thorning Zibarras: James Zibarras and associate John Philpott. (They are in Toronto.)

For respondent TekSavvy Solutions Inc. (Chatham, Ontario)

Stikeman Elliott: Competition litigation: Nicholas McHaffie and counsel David Elder. (They are in Ottawa.)

Christian S. Tacit Barrister & Solicitor: Barrister and solicitor Christian Tacit. (He is in Ottawa.)

For intervenor Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic:

In-House: CIPPIC director David Fewer. (Fewer, a lawyer, is based in Ottawa.)

—Laura King

Ironworkers Pension Fund v. Manulife

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice has certified a class action suit against Manulife Financial Corp., Canada’s largest life insurance company. The case, Trustees of the Ironworkers Ontario Pension Fund and Leonard Schwartz v. Manulife Financial Corporation, alleges that the company misled investors about the extent of its exposure to equity markets between April 2004 and February 2012.

The $1.4 billion securities class action was certified by Justice Edward Belobaba on July 25. In December, Manulife sought permission to appeal. A decision on that application is pending.

The action arises from Manulife’s sale of variable annuity products before 2008. These products were not hedged, and after the 2008 financial crisis, Manulife’s share value dropped when the company was forced to take write-downs because of the annuity products.

In his certification decision, Belobaba granted the plaintiffs permission to pursue statutory causes of action under Ontario’s securities legislation. The court found that plaintiffs “easily cleared” the requirement that they demonstrate a reasonable possibility of succeeding at trial. The certification came after a parallel action brought in the Southern District of New York on behalf of purchasers of Manulife common stock on the New York Stock Exchange was dismissed in U.S. federal district court.

For plaintiffs trustees of the Ironworkers Ontario Pension Fund and Leonard Schwartz

Siskinds: Securities/class actions: Dimitri Lascaris, Daniel Bach and associate Alex Dimson. (Lascaris is in London, Ontario. Bach and Dimson are in Toronto.)

Cavalluzzo Shilton McIntyre Cornish: Civil litigation/class actions: Amanda Darrach and Michael Wright. (They are in Toronto.)

For defendant Manulife Financial (Toronto)

Torys: Corporate/securities, litigation and dispute resolution, class actions: Andrew Gray, Patricia Jackson and associates Sarah Shody and Laura Redekop. (They are in Toronto.)

For defendant Dominic D’Allesandro

Lenczner Slaght Royce Smith Griffin: Litigation: Alan Lenczner. (He is in Toronto. D’Allesandro is the former CEO of Manulife.)

For defendant Peter Rubenovich

McCarthy Tétrault: Litigation: Paul Steep. (He is in Toronto. Rubenovich is the former CFO of Manulife.)


Alberta v. United Food and Commercial Workers

Canada’s highest court has struck down the Alberta’s privacy law and given the province 12 months to enact new legislation.

The Nov. 15 ruling in Alberta Information and Privacy Commissioner v. United Food and Commercial Workers Local 410 emerged from a strike at the Palace Casio in Edmonton in 2006. Individuals complained that the union was photographing and videotaping them crossing a picket line.

The case focused on whether the Alberta privacy legislation struck a constitutionally acceptable balance between an individual’s interest in controlling the collection, use and disclosure of personal information and a union’s right to free expression.

For appellant Information and Privacy Commissioner and Attorney General of Alberta

Jensen Shawa Solomon Duguid Hawkes: Robert Armstrong and Glenn Solomon, Q.C. (They are in Calgary.)

For appellant Attorney General of Alberta

In-House: Roderick Wiltshire. (He is in Edmonton.)

For respondent United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 401

Chivers Carpenter: Gwen Gray, Q.C., and Vanessa Cosco. (They are in Edmonton.)

For the intervenors

In-House: For the Attorney General of Canada: Senior counsel Sean Gaudet. For the Privacy Commissioner of Canada: general counsel Patricia Kosseim and legal counsel Regan Morris and Kirk Shannon. For the Attorney General of Ontario: counsel Rochelle Fox and Sara Weinrib. For the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario: William Challis. (Gaudet, Fox, Weinrib and Challis are in Toronto. Kosseim, Morris and Shannon are in Ottawa.)

Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt: Litigation: Mahmud Jamal. (He is in Toronto. The firm advised the privacy commissioner of Canada.)

Lovett Westmacott: Nitya Iyer. (She is in Vancouver. The firm represented the Information and Privacy Commissioner of British Columbia.)

Torys: Patricia Jackson and associate Sarah Whitmore. (They are in Toronto. The firm represented the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.)

Moore, Edgar, Lyster: Lindsay Lyster. (She is in Vancouver. The firm represented the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association.)

Heenan Blaikie: Simon Ruel. (He is in Ottawa. The firm, which represented the Coalition of British Columbia Businesses and Merit Canada, disbanded in February.)

Chivers Carpenter: David Williams and Kristan McLeod. (They are in Edmonton. The firm represented the Alberta Federation of Labour.)