2021 Syllabus

2021 Syllabus

Communications Law (Spring 2021)

{Please note that this is a “live” syllabus. There will be rolling changes, especially with respect to scheduling groups etc. but also occasionally in other ways.}

Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia

LAW 424-001 Communications Law

Spring 2021:  Tuesdays, 9:30 a.m. to 12:20 p.m.

3 Credits

Jon Festinger, Q.C.

Adjunct Professor, Allard School of Law

Professor of Professional Practice (SFU) & Faculty, Centre for Digital Media

Faculty in Residence, UBC Emerging Media Lab

Honorary Industry Professor, Centre for Commercial Law Studies, Queen Mary University of London School of Law

Whiteboard Law

Work: 604-568-9192 Cell: 604-837-6426 

E-mail: jon.festinger@ubc.cajon@fblawstrategy.com

Twitter: @jonfestinger

PSN: cdmjon 

Skype: jon.festinger

Office Hours: By appointment. Generally, after class, Tuesdays but am available by appointment or Skype. Please email anytime, even on short notice, to confirm availability.

Technical Resources for Website:

Richard Tape, UBC CTLT – richard.tape@ubc.ca

Course Website: https://allard.coursespaces.ubc.ca/LAW-424-001/

Related Websites: http://www.videogamelaw.allard.ubc.ca

(Thanks to UBC Centre for Teaching, Learning & Technology for design, implementation and continuing support)

Twitter to Website: Add #allardcomm to tweets and re-tweets to post in Twitter widget at Course Blog

  1. Course Description and Purpose

This course covers the legal and regulatory aspects of telecommunications, broadcasting and the Internet. It is intended as the post-millennial successor to telecommunications and media law courses that have been standard fare for decades. In addition to dealing with the legal and regulatory aspects of statutorily determined quasi-monopoly business environments regulated by the CRTC and subject to administrative law oversight, the course encompasses the digital age of emergent technologies that provide a significant degree of freedom and control to individual users.

This course begins from the reality that telecommunications is still the essential backbone for the carriage of content and data (through the internet or otherwise). From this starting point we will examine the common legal framework for all communications in Canada (including statutory provisions and regulatory policies relating to telecommunications, broadcasting, copyright, privacy, competition law, and free trade). We will then apply that framework to analyze issues as diverse as net neutrality; personal privacy; government and corporate surveillance; cultural and industrial protectionism including ownership restrictions; wireless regulation and oversight; the implications of international laws, treaties and accords; political and economic regulation and policing of the internet; the impact of social media and journalism in the post-Snowden, post-Cambridge Analytica and post-Trump age; as well as the future of freedoms of creative and political expression in all of these emergent contexts.


After taking this course you will not be magically transformed into a seasoned communications law lawyer. However, you should be able to confidently identify and explore the legal issues arising and evolving in the communications landscape, as well as understand the societal tensions and compromises that inevitably arise. To practice effectively in the area, you will need to be able to think critically and through an ethical lens about the rights and responsibilities of all the legal actors in the ongoing drama of our media landscape and the creative, political and human forces that shape it.


The world is ensuring that the nature, meaning and application of “communications” itself is changing and morphing every day. The scope of disruption appears to be massive and the legal questions being put into play never ending. Most important for our purposes is that the sheer amount of change coupled with its extraordinary pace allows us the possibility of using real world events as a living lab for emerging legal issues impacting creativity and media generally. As such the pedagogy of this course is to facilitate engagement with real world issues, while identifying their legal background and antecedents.

The design of this course is predicated on the idea that what is being taught and the tools it is being taught with are in dialogue. In other words, how a course is taught can be an example of what is being taught. Lectures guided subject dialogues, student presentations, “news of the week”, guest speakers and even group exercises may all be used to promote engagement with the subject. The course is itself meant to be part of a creative dialectic.

You are expected to arrive on time and be prepared to discuss the subjects at hand.

  1. RULES

All students at the Allard School of Law are subject to the University’s rules on Academic Misconduct (http://vpacademic.ubc.ca/integrity/ubc-regulation-on-plagiarism/), and are expected to act with academic integrity at all times. Students should be especially aware of the University’s rules in relation to plagiarism. Plagiarism includes: copying the work of another student; copying or paraphrasing from a textbook or reference book, journal article, case or electronic source without proper footnoting; copying your own work that has already been submitted for another course in this degree or another degree, passing off the ideas of another person as your own. If you plagiarize, you will be subject to penalties set out in the UBC calendar. (http://www.calendar.ubc.ca/vancouver/index.cfm?tree=3,54,111,959)

In this class: 1) everyone is allowed to feel they can learn in a safe and caring environment; 2) everyone learns about, understands, appreciates, and respects varied races, classes, genders, physical and mental abilities, and sexualities; 3) everyone matters; 4) all individuals are to be respected and treated with dignity and civility; and 5) everyone shares the responsibility for making the class, and the Academy, a positive and better place to live, work, and learn. (Source: http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-professor-blog/creating-respectful-classroom-environment/)



  1. Please create an account at https://cms.ubc.ca/using your CWL.
  2. Once you create an account and sign in at https://cms.ubc.ca/you can click your name in the top right. Half way down the following page will be your WordPress email address.
  3. Send me your WordPress email address at jfestinger@telus.net or at jon@fblawstrategy.com
  4. Then, I will invite you to participate with authoring privileges via your WordPress email address.


On Reserve:

10 x McCarthy Tétrault LLP Red, Blue, & Black books (Thank You McCarthy Tétrault LLP )


James Grimmelmann, Internet Law: Cases and Problems 6th Edition (Semaphore Press) http://internetcasebook.com

James Boyle & Jennifer Jenkins, Intellectual Property: Law & The Information Society Cases and Materials 3rd Edition (An Open Course Book) http://web.law.duke.edu/cspd/openip

Lessig, L. CODE 2.0. (Basic Books) http://codev2.cc/download+remix/


In preparation for the weekly discussions, the class will read the discussion outlines prepared by their fellow students.



 Term paper accounts for 60% of the final grade.

  1. A minimum 5000-word paper is expected. The word requirement is inclusive of footnotes or endnotes but exclusive of the bibliography.
  2. The paper is due on the last day of the exam period at 4:00 p.m.
  3. Papers must be e-mailed to the Instructor in Word format.

Class Participation accounts for 40% of the final grade

  • 25% of the mark will be based on a presentation (individually or in a group) on any subject within the scope of the course (which is a very wide ambit) that is of interest to you and that you believe will be interesting to your classmates..
  • 15% for student participation in the other course activities including seminar discussions etc.



Class 1: January 12, 2021

Jon’s Talk: “Introducing the Course”

  • Objectives of the course
  • Evaluation
  • Role of “News of the Week”
  • Discussion Hour structure; Formation of Student Discussion Topic Groups, Distribution of Materials

Class 2: January 19, 2021

News of the Week Discussions

Student Bio’s, interests, biases & objectives

  • Why are you taking this course?
  • What do you hope to get out of it?
  • Syllabus/topic input/comments/reactions

Jon’s Talk: “Mapping Communications Law 1.0 & 2.0: A Topology”


John Milton – “Areopagitica” https://www.dartmouth.edu/~milton/reading_room/areopagitica/text.html


Class 3: January 26, 2021

News of the Week Discussions 

Jon’s Talk: “The Roles of Communications & Content in Justice, Sovereignty & Culture” 

Materials: Bell Canada v. Canada (Attorney General) 2019 SCC 66 https://decisions.scc-csc.ca/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/18079/index.do

Class 4: February 2, 2021 

News of the Week Discussions 

Jon’s Talk:“The Many Meanings of Broadcasting” 

Materials: Capital Cities Communications Inc. v. CRTC. [1978] 2 S.C.R. 141 https://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/2586/index.do

Collaborative Event: Invent a media technology that will impact the world (brainstorming session)

Student Discussants: 

Class 5: February 9, 2021

News of the Week Discussions

Jon’s Talk: “Telecommunications Policy: Origins & Regulation”

Materials: Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC 2016-496 http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/archive/2016/2016-496.htm

Student Discussants: 

Class 6: February 16 , 2021

News of the Week Discussions

Jon’s Talk: “Broadcasting Policy: Origins, Regulation & Cases”

Materials: Reference re Broadcasting Regulatory Policy CRTC 2010-167 and Broadcasting Order CRTC 2010-168, [2012] 3 S.C.R. 489 https://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/12767/1/document.do

Student Discussants


Class 7: March 2, 2021

News of the Week Discussions

Jon’s Talk: “Net Neutrality, Internet Regulation, International Data Transmission & Jurisdiction in the Cloud“

Materials: Network Neutrality, Broadband Discrimination Tim Wu https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=388863

Student Discussants: 

Class 8: March 9, 2021

News of the Week Discussions

Jon’s Talk: “A.I. Virtual Reality MEdia & the Rule of Law”

Materials: Tessling on My Brain: The Future of Lie Detection and Brain Privacy in the Criminal Justice System – Ian Kerr, Max Binnie, Cynthia Aoki https://papers.ssrn.com/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1299291

Student Discussants:

Class 9: March 16, 2021

Jon’s Talk: “Consumer/User/Creator Challenges: Privacy, Copyright & Mass Contracts in the Digital World 

Materials: Communications: Blindspot of Western Marxism – Dallas W. Smythe https://journals.uvic.ca/index.php/ctheory/article/download/13715/4463

Student Discussants: 

Class 10: March 23, 2021 

News of the Week Discussions

Jon’s Talk: “Corporate & Governmental Surveillance”

Materials: “The Two Western Cultures of Privacy: Dignity versus Liberty” – J.Q. Whitman http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1647&context=fss_papers

Student Discussants: 

Class 11: March 30, 2021

News of the Week Discussions

Jon’s Talk: “Freedom of Expression 2.0: Journalism in the Post Snowden Post Trump World “

Materials: Gay Alliance Toward Equality v. Vancouver Sun, [1979] 2 S.C.R. 435 https://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/6182/index.do

Collaborative Event: Designing a “Communications Act” for today: Setting policy priorities (brainstorming session) 

Class 12: April 6, 2020

News of the Week Discussions

Jon’s Talk: “The Future of Communications (Law)”