Monthly Archives: May 2007

I’m Being Sued by Wayne Crookes reports that I’m being sued by Wayne Crookes. I’m named in the same suit as the one he’s launched against Dr. Michael Geist, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law, and is an occasional columnist for the Toronto Star, Ottawa Citizen, and BBC.

Geist writes about this on his blog:

There are several reports (here, here, and here) that Wayne Crookes, who previously launched suits against a wide range of parties including Wikipedia, Yahoo, and a domain name registrar, has sued me in B.C. courts for defamation. I have not been served with the suit, but the reports indicate that I am being sued for an allegedly defamatory third party comment on my site that I took down and for writing about, and linking to,, which in turn linked to another site that allegedly contained a defamatory posting. In other words, I’m reportedly being sued for maintaining a blogroll that links to a site that links to a site that contains some allegedly defamatory third party comments.

The claims against me are similar.

Geist, before he was a defendant, wrote in the Toronto Star about the significance of these suits:

The lawsuits could prove to be critically important to the Internet in Canada, however, because they cast the net of liability far wider than just the initial posters. Indeed, the lawsuits seek to hold accountable sites and services that host the articles, feature comments about the articles, include hyperlinks to the articles, fail to actively monitor their content to ensure that allegedly defamatory articles are not reposted after being removed, and even those that implement the domain name registrations of sites that host the articles.

The common link with all of these targets is that none are directly responsible for alleged defamation. Rather, the Crookes lawsuits maintain that Internet intermediaries should be held equally responsible for such content.

For example, one lawsuit argues that Yahoo! refused to shut down an offending site – a Green Party of Canada chat board – and therefore libelled Crookes. Similarly, MySpace is targeted both for its failure to shut down a personal page that contained allegedly defamatory content as well as for its refusal to remove a link to, a site that the suit claims hosted defamatory content (Crookes has also sued

The inclusion of Wikipedia in the lawsuit extends the circle of liability even further. According to the statement of claim, an article about Crookes appeared on three occasions in Wikipedia. In each instance, Crookes asked Wikimedia, the company that maintains the popular online encyclopedia, to remove the article. In each instance, it complied with the request.

Despite taking down the content, Wikimedia has now been sued for failing to “monitor its website to ensure that the libels of [Crookes] did not reappear on its website.” Moreover, the suit also seeks to hold it liable for refusing to remove an article on online journalism that contains a hyperlink to an article about Crookes.

The broadest extension of liability in the lawsuit involves the inclusion of a U.S.-based service called Domains By Proxy. The company, which allows individuals to protect their privacy by anonymously registering domain names, is being sued for refusing to divulge the identity of the registrant of a website that contained an article about Crookes. The lawsuit argues that the domain name registration service has “accepted responsibility for the actions of the owner of the website.”

While it will fall to a judge to determine whether the articles and postings are indeed defamatory, the inclusion of such a broad range of Internet intermediaries could have a significant chilling effect on free speech in Canada.

If successful, the suits would effectively require websites – including anyone who permits comments on a blog or includes links to other sites – to proactively monitor and remove content that may raise liability concerns. They will also call into question the ability of domain name registrants to guard their privacy by refusing to publicly disclose their identities.

In response, it is likely that many sites will simply drop the ability to post comments, since the challenge of monitoring and verifying every comment will be too onerous.

Alternatively, many sites may abandon Canada altogether by establishing their online presence in the United States.

Submitted for your information.

Flying: Low Price, High Cost

Crossposted from Torontoist.

Reader Jonathan recently let us know about a trip he took to Ottawa and back via (cue dramatic music) Porter Airlines. That’s right, the airline of the infamous island airport.

It’s no secret that we have been less than enthusiastic about airport expansion, of which Porter Air’s operation has become the most prominent example. That being said, it’s worth noting that Jonathan’s review could not have been more glowing:

Wow! Flying is amazing! I think I might be spoiled forever…Just over two hours after I left my office, I was standing in Ottawa. To give that some context, I left work a little early and got to Ottawa before I normally get out of the office. Compare that with a train trip that takes over 4 hours for the trip alone! That two hours even includes 30 mins I had to kill in a nice lounge with free drinks and wifi.

Actually, we fully expect that his account is more or less typical, and we’ve heard similar stories from others. Not only that, but, as he points out, you would expect an experience so clearly superior to the train to cost way more, right? Not so! “The plane is just $41.70 more for a round-trip than the train,” Jonathan writes. “That’s less than $7 for every hour you save.”

So what’s the problem? If this is such a great service which is clearly filling a need (or, you know, at least the Western “I want it!” definition of need), how come so many people are getting so many bees in so many bonnets?

In fact, it comes down to that all-too-loaded word: cost. What we of course should have said is that Porter Air (and air travel in general) has a relatively low price. The cost, on the other hand, is both hidden and high.

These aren’t abstract, touchy-feely costs either. They’re real economic ones that we’ll all end up paying one way or another. The most blatant of these is the cost of climate change, which air travel contributes to much more than train travel, both because of the extra fuel/energy that’s needed to fly a plane, and also because of the high altitude at which those emissions are released. The Stern report (as everyone is hopefully tired of hearing about) pegged the real cost of not acting to reduce the severity of climate change (it’s already too late to stop it completely) at 3.68 trillion pounds. (Trillion! Pounds!) Stern, along with renowned author George Monbiot and the IPCC have also identified that, in order to avoid the worst of what climate change has to offer, we’ll need to make somewhere in the neighbourhood of 80% reductions in emissions below 1990 levels (that’s significant—always pay attention to the base year when people are talking about reductions) by the year 2050 at the latest (Monbiot suggests 2030).

Either we believe the science or we don’t. If we do, then we’ll quickly come to realize that there’s no room for flights of convenience in a world needing an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. (Note also the related but slightly different health and economic costs tied to air quality in Toronto.)

Does that make Jonathan, or others who fly Porter, bad people? We don’t think so. They’re simply making decisions that make sense for them, based on the information they’re presented with. That’s reasonable—that’s what we all do. And the most significant piece of information they have, in this case, is the artificially low price of the plane ticket, which hides its true, high cost. That’s why the idea of using the tax system to send the right price signals to the market is gaining in popularity. In other words, flying, which has a high cost once the externalities are factored in, should be significantly more expensive than taking the train. (This can be done in concert with reductions on other kinds of taxes, so that it’s revenue neutral and more politically palatable.)

In that scenario, individuals will be able to make informed decisions about whether or not they think flying is really worth it. If they do, then fine, but fewer people will. A level of personal freedom will be preserved, and emissions will also be reduced. Unfortunately, of course, this is one of those things that would have to be implemented provincially or federally. Until then, we’ll have to focus on the things that can be done municipally.

Thanks Cabbagetown!

I’m very flattered to read the following in the Old Cabbagetown BIA’s newsletter:

Although the BIA is officially non-political, we can’t help but be impressed by Chris Tindal from the Green Party of Canada. He’s their nominated candidate for the next federal election. He was their candidate in the last election as well when he carried the Green message with both passion and humour.

Among other things, the Old Cabbagetown BIA organizes the annual Cabbagetown festival and parade. I really enjoyed last year’s, and am looking forward to this year’s edition on September 8th and 9th, 2007. They’re currently seeking donations to help pay for associated costs. Contact info here.

Midland Says Yes!

Last Thursday night I felt very privileged to be in Midland for what we think may have been Ontario’s first public information meeting about the referendum on electoral reform since the Citizens’ Assembly released its report earlier this month.

While the event was organized by Fair Vote Canada member Julie Barker, the intention was to make it primarily an information session that could explore both the merits and disadvantages of voting yes on October 10th to adopt a Mixed Member Proportional voting system. Members from each national political party were invited, with the Liberals, NDP, and Greens ultimately attending the meeting. (To be fair to the Conservative who didn’t show, he’s also the MPP for the riding we were in–Simcoe North–and had to unexpectedly be in Toronto that night on related business.)

I was not there as the Green Party representative. That role was filled by Valerie Powell (a fellow shadow cabinet member). Instead, I wore two different hats. First, I stood in for the area’s representative to the Citizens’ Assembly to explain the process they followed and how the system they’ve recommended, MMP, actually works. Then, after the three political reps had spoken, I put on my Fair Vote Canada hat and gave my non-partisan pitch for voting yes. (I did disclose the fact that I was a member of a political party, but was happy to hear from people afterwards that, until I told them which party, they wouldn’t have guessed based on my comments.)

Interestingly (and by accident), everyone on the panel advocated voting yes, though the Liberal was slightly cautious in doing so, and pointed out some valid concerns about the new system. As the two-hour evening went on, many intelligent and important questions were asked by those in attendance, and many of them were framed so as to try and identify weaknesses or flaws with MMP.

I think the most important thing we all came to understand during this meeting was that MMP isn’t perfect, won’t solve all of our problems, and shouldn’t be held to that standard. Of course there are some slight weaknesses or disadvantages to MMP, just as there are with any voting system. However, no one is more aware of those weaknesses than the Citizens’ Assembly itself. There wasn’t a single question or concern we could think of that they hadn’t already considered. And, as experts on all of the reasons why we wouldn’t want to choose MMP over our current voting system, the CA has still recommended that we do. That, for me, was a significant realization.

I concluded my remarks by saying that, while I do think everyone needs to learn as much as they can about the proposal and make up their own mind, there’s also something to be said for the fact that the Assembly members were our peers, followed an excellent, in-depth, open and transparent process, and they’re recommending to us that voting yes to accept their proposal is what’s best for Ontario and for voters.

Now, you might be thinking, “but hey, you didn’t have a representative from the ‘no’ side there.” This is true. However, as I said before, that wasn’t by design. The fact that all of the political reps present supported MMP was both accidental and telling. As for a so-called “no campaign,” as far as I know there isn’t one yet. If it existed, it would be top-heavy, with professional politicians and well-paid pundits comprising the bulk. At this time, there is no widespread grassroots movement to support voting no. There’s no organization you can call (like you can with Fair Vote Canada) and say, “please send me a ‘no’ speaker.” Again, that’s telling.

At the end of the night, someone in the audience suggested we get a show of hands to test the will of the room. There were about 35 people in attendance (given Midland’s population, the equivalent Toronto turn-out would be over 5000). Of them, only one indicated they were considering voting no, with everyone else raising their hand for yes. Everyone, however, also noted that there’s not nearly enough awareness or discussion of this issue taking place. It’s therefore imperative that we all start talking to our friends and neighbours about its importance. A grassroots, word-of-mouth campaign is the only way we’ll be able to clear the (I would suggest too) high threshold of a 60% yes vote to succeed. It’s a challenge and an uphill battle, but completely possible if we all get to work now.