Intermediary Liability

I am wondering about the current Canadian rules on intermediary liability, if any — mainly for online intermediaries.

I note the provision of Quebec law (An Act to establish a legal framework for information technology, R.S.Q. c. C-1.1, s. 22.):

A service provider […] is not responsible for the activities engaged in by a service user […]

However, the service provider may incur responsibility, particularly if, upon becoming aware that the documents are being used for an illicit activity, or of circumstances that make such a use apparent, the service provider does not act promptly to block access to the documents or otherwise prevent the pursuit of the activity.

I don’t know of any such general-purpose or subject-specific statutory rule in the rest of Canada. The common law of innocent dissemination in defamation is similar, and I think that argument can work in copyright infringement too (but maybe I am confusing this with US law).

Are there other provisions of common law or statute that have a similar effect? Bill C-61 had a ‘notice and notice’ provision affecting ISPs. Does C-32 repeat it, or change it for the better or worse? I don’t think that provision ever made the service provider/intermediary liable directly, though, did/does it?

What am I missing? Any provision of federal, provincial or terrritorial law or the common law of any of the above jurisdictions would be welcome.


  1. The Attorney General for England and Wales has said that he is considering imposing liability on Internet Service Providers to enforce publication bans and to prevent publication of information that could prejudice a person’s right to a fair trial. Here is the story.

    The story refers to the E-Commerce Regulations, which appear to have a provision like the one cited above for Quebec: publishers are not liable for what they publish if they take it down quickly when notified.

    How much ‘notice’ should publishers need when the material comes from a third party? How credible must the allegation be? What incentive has a publisher of third-party content to be sceptical, rather than just take the stuff down ASAP to reduce costs of operation?