Flying Pucks, Satellite Tv, Internet Libel and Web
1. FLYING PUCKS: Last spring a spectator was killed by a deflected puck at a Columbus Blue Jackets hockey game. With slap shots and foul balls hitting 90 mph are current sports safety standards adequate? What laws in Canada protect spectators?
Traditionally both contract and negligence law come into play. In Ontario, we have the Occupiers Liability Act, which requires the occupier of land "to take reasonable care" to see that persons entering the premises, are reasonably safe. That duty extends both to the condition of the premises and the events carried on there. However, a spectator who "willingly assumes the risk" relieves the occupier of liability. In Hagerman v. City of Niagara Falls a spectator lost an eye, when struck by a puck, at a minor league hockey game. There was a plexiglass screen around the rink (higher at each end behind the goal). The height of the screen was comparable with most other minor league rinks. The arena had taken reasonable care, by complying with the prevailing standards in other similar arenas; and, Hagerman was fully aware of and had assumed the risk. Now that many arenas are installing higher mesh/screening and announcing the danger of flying pucks on public address system, the standard of care appears to have been raised.
2. SATELLITE TV: Companies like Bell ExpressVu and Star Choice are legally licensed by the CRTC to sell such services for a monthly fee. There is also a growing market for unlicenced vendors to sell "single fee" dishes and decoding systems, that enabled Canadian customers to unscramble U.S. satellite TV programming. The legal status of this expanding "grey market" was unclear. This past spring, the Supreme Court of Canada (the "SCC") released a decision, interpreting Section 9(i)(c) of the Radio Communications Act as prohibiting the decoding of all encrypted satellite signals except where authorized by a licenced distributor. Unfortunately, the SCC did not deal with whether Section 9(i)(c) was inconsistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (that guarantees freedom of expression). The grey marketeers have mounted a constitutional challenge. If this challenge is successful, I would expect that the government might rewrite the legislation to get by that hurdle. If you're going "grey market"; then "buyer beware"!
3. INTERNET LIBEL: What if your employee sends e-mail to a customer, containing false statements, trashing your major competitor's product? Assume the recipient forwards that e-mail to others and that your competitor was seeking major refinancing (which was negatively effected by your employee's e-mail), could you be sued for Defamation? Clearly there is exposure. Given the enormous amount of daily internet communication, the huge number of potential recipients, the trend by Courts to award higher damages, and increasing vigilance by business to protect their rights, it will only be a matter of time before such suits are brought forward. All persons participating in the publication may be held liable. If you did not have a policy in place, your company could be responsible for the employee's e-mail. Your business should outline the type of e-mail communications that are prohibited. This policy must be conveyed and enforced. That implies teaching the basics of defamation, discussing the potential financial consequences, monitoring e-mails and imposing sanctions against offending employees. Finally, you should check your insurance policy, to see if same affords coverage for Defamation.
4. LAW ON THE WEB: Congratulations to the Province for updating and simplifying electronic access to the Statutes and Regulations of Ontario. Their website is http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca. E-laws provide free, instant access to the consolidated laws of Ontario; and it's reputed to be updated within 14 days of any change. The search engine is really easy to use. It allows you to find a specific Statute or Regulation or to carry out a basic or advanced search. Once you've found the Act /Section, you can download it onto either Word or WordPerfect at no cost. You can burn a CD to take with you for your laptop or print out hard text. This is a great system for both the legal profession and the lay person who wants cheap and ready access to our laws.
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