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National Blog

Do we need a global Digital Bill of Rights?

By Yves Faguy
July 31, 2014 at 13:02PM Le 31 July 2014 à 13:02PM

On August 15th, at the upcoming CBA Canadian Legal Conference in St. John’s, National Magazine will be hosting a picnic lunch on that very topic.

Back in March, Tim Berners-Lee — the inventor of the world wide web — called on citizens in different countries to pressure their governments to produce a bill of rights to ensure net neutrality and protect the rights of web users worldwide. Brazil enacted in April a law with those very same aims.

For more background, I'll just link here to my latest post on Slaw. Among the questions we will be asking our speakers is this one: How would a digital bill of rights work on a global scale?

We will also discuss what provisions a shared document of principle would include, and explore what would make it robust enough to work.  Another dilemma we want to look into is how to reconcile growing opposition to state surveillance with state enforcement of a bill of rights.

Our five speakers (Yves Boisvert, Patricia Kosseim, John Hoben, Norbert Griffin and Mandy Woodland) will spend six minutes each sharing their perspectives on these questions. I'll be moderating a follow-up discussion with audience participation. Please drop in on us.

And in the meantime, please share your thoughts and questions.

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'Homophone' sounds like gay sex to Utah language school

By Kim Covert
July 31, 2014 at 10:19AM Le 31 July 2014 à 10:19AM

While Canada’s LGBTQ community may find it has a long way to go for full acceptance in all its rainbow glory, we should all breathe a sigh of relief that Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms will keep anyone from being fired for calling something a homophone.

That’s right, a homophone.

It’s a story dripping with irony: a social media strategist for a language school in Utah has been fired, allegedly for posting an explanation of the word homophone – a word that sounds like another but means something different: for example, they’re, there and their are homophones, as are muscles and mussels. They pose difficulties for the hard of spelling and those new to the English language, but a reading of the post should have made it clear enough that the topic was language, not lifestyle.

But at the Nomen Global Language Center, which bills itself as the largest private ESL school in Utah, and “the most reputable in all of the Western United States,” prefixes obviously punch well above their weight.

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Bringing LegalZoom inside the tent

By Yves Faguy
July 30, 2014 at 16:31PM Le 30 July 2014 à 16:31PM

Robert Ambrogi has an item up at the ABA Journal on LegalZoom's success at fending off lawsuits. Sources quoted in his article are making the case that the whole debate surrounding the unauthorized practice of law is getting old:

Meanwhile, legal ethicists such as Deborah L. Rhode, director of the Center on the Legal Profession at Stanford Law School, say it is time for the legal profession to drop efforts to shut down such companies for UPL and instead focus on how best to regulate them to protect their customers.

"With respect to LegalZoom, the train has left the station," Rhode says. "They've got a couple million satisfied customers and it's going to be really hard for anyone to shut them down."

In a May Fordham Law Review article, Rhode and co-author Lucy Buford Ricca, executive director of the Center on the Legal Profession, argue that the legal market is primed for a total transformation driven by innovative companies such as LegalZoom. "From a regulatory perspective," they write, "the key focus should not be blocking these innovations from the market, but rather using regulation to ensure that the public's interests are met."

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Exploiting anxiety’s Achilles heel

By Kim Covert
July 29, 2014 at 10:24AM Le 29 July 2014 à 10:24AM

What makes lawyers anxious?

Their anxiety levels for one, if that isn’t too much of a tautology for you. That was one of the findings of a recent survey of the Canadian legal profession by LPAC, with respondents saying they were more concerned about mental health issues than about alcoholism or drug addiction.

Anxiety is part of the lawyer’s day-to-day, says Jeena Cho in a blog on

“As lawyers, we are constantly pressured to deliver results for our boss, opposing counsel, the court, and most importantly, our clients,” writes Cho, a partner at JC Law Group PC in San Francisco. “Regardless what can be controlled, we are expected to foresee what could go wrong with every correspondence, motion, hearing, email, settlement agreement, and contract. It is no wonder that so many lawyers suffer from anxiety, among other illnesses.”

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CETA: Still waiting on the details, ctd

By Yves Faguy
July 28, 2014 at 17:04PM Le 28 July 2014 à 17:04PM

Clearly Canada and the EU are struggling will a little more than simply dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s to get to a finalized treaty.  The sticking point, it appears, comes from growing German (and European) unease with the investor-state dispute settlement rule. Peter Clark explains:

Germany will protect its investors in risky countries but is not going to submit itself to NAFTA-type Chapter 11 investor-state arbitration from significant (American) investors in Germany. Germany considers that there is nothing wrong with German courts and foreign investors should not have different rights than German investors in Germany.

But how comfortable, really, is Canada with ISDS? Michael Geist flags this little substory

While European opposition mounts, it is important to note that Canada was also delaying finalizing CETA due to ISDS concerns. In Canada’s case, the $500 million Eli Lilly lawsuit over Canadian patent law awoke the government to the enormous risk associated with ISDS provisions. Canada has a strong case in defending against the lawsuit, but the risk that one lawsuit could expand to others means that billions may be at stake

As both Geist and Clark point out, it’s why Canada was so intent in excluding IP rights from the scope of the ISDS mechanism.

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