Even More Changes Coming for the Competition Act and a Story About Rental Rates Shenanigans Illustrating Why It May Be Needed

Not content with the 2022 changes to the Competition Act, Canada was announcing this week that it will be looking into making even more changes, based on a consultation it has now undertaken. Use of technology is changing how society is going about things and the economy is of course following suit. In a context of constant changes, it’s not very surprising we also need to keep updating our statute that deals with preserving competition between businesses.

Canada will be looking to make changes such as those discussed in a recent document published by the government and which provided us with a fair indication as to what may be in store for the Competition Act, moving forward.

This is happening in Canada but other countries like the U.S. are experiencing the same kind of thing.

In a story that seems a good example of what we’re talking about, the Verge was reporting a story earlier this week about the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) looking into practices by some American landlords (lessors) potentially fixing prices for rental space (to a degree), by using the RealPage software to collaborate.

The story at issue relates to the fact that, nowadays, large landlords often subscribe to a platform called YieldStar (connected to RealPage) that easily allows them to share part of the data about their rental rates, in various markets. Over time, the system has enough data to suggest possible rentals rates to landlords looking to rent premises, as compared to other deals in the same area for such premises. In practice, this may lead to higher rates than would otherwise have been the case, had landlords not shared info like this.

In essence, if every landlord ends-up sharing data with other landlords in the market (in this instance, through use of a specific software), we may end-up with a coordinated effort that results in an increase in rental rates across the country. If this amounts to collusion, then legally there may be an issue of competition law, by the sheer use of RealPage and YieldStar, including certain message boards that are part of that offering. That’s the question the DOJ is looking into anyway.

Interesting fact pattern that’s symptomatic of the interaction which technology can have with competition law. Sharing is fine, but cartel-like practices may be crossing a line.

Canada One Step Closer to Adopting C-27 and IA-specific Legislation

The Canadian government reiterated last week that we’re collectively moving forward with the revamp of the country’s federal privacy legislation, including an offshoot meant to curb (better control, some would say) rampant and unrestricted adoption of artificial intelligence (“AI”) throughout. At the same time, the bill at issue (named C-27) moved to the second reading stage, bringing us one step closer to a formal adoption of this piece of legislation.

Bill C-27 will reinforce personal information protection throughout Canada but updating a law that is now more than 20 years old and, many would say, quite outdated. The new version of the personal information protection statute at issue will include provisions meant to generally empower individuals in a way that allows them to exercise control over their data, something the current version of the legislation has largely failed to do. Though it’s not quite GDPR, many see this new version of the Canadian privacy legislation as a much needed shot in the arm for our federal privacy regime.

At the same time, this project will likely also include Canada adopting a whole new statute meant to better control the use of AI (e.,g. by businesses), including new rules to try and minimize scenarios where AI is implemented in a way that is incompatible with personal rights and freedoms as well as Canadian values.

The Canadian government clearly says it intends to move forward with all of these. Now, it’s mostly a question of going through the rest of the legislative process, but there’s little doubt that this thing will become law before long. Stay tuned.

Canada Now a 70 Years+ Copyright Jurisdiction

Further to Canada and the U.S. entering into a new free-trade deal a couple of years back, Canada recently formally amended its Copyright Act (the “Act”), to extend the protection term of copyright works to 70 years after death of each author.

Following the example of the U.S. that did so a good while back (after lobbying to save copyright over Mickey Mouse from falling into the public domain), Canada thus just added 20 years to how long a typical work will remain protected for. So doing, Canada joins the ranks of several foreign jurisdictions which already hoped on the longer copyright protection term bandwagon.

As to this, I should point out that the new rule will not be retroactive, so that works already in the public domain prior to 2022 will remain so. Technically, I would also point out that, to my knowledge, the coming into force date remains to be decided, though the Act has been amended, what remains is a mere technicality. So, if what you know about copyright includes the basic rule that such protection generally remains for 50 years after death of each author, you should make a mental note: that general rule is now rather 70 years after death of the author.

With a life expectancy of something like 80 years, in Canada, we’re now looking at works produced nowadays that may remain protected for 130 years or more.