vendredi 7 juin 2013

La Cour supérieure de la Colombie-Britannique permet la signification de procédures par voie de messages privés sur un forum web

par Karim Renno
Irving Mitchell Kalichman s.e.n.c.r.l.

Le 15 octobre 2012, nous attirions votre attention sur une décision québécoise qui permettait la signification d'un subpoena par voie de courriel. Les jugements similaires par lesquels les tribunaux canadiens permettent la signification par voie électronique lorsque la signification traditionnelle est inefficace se multiplient et nous traitons aujourd'hui d'un tel jugement rendu en Colombie-Britannique. En effet, dans Burke c. John Doe (2013 BCSC 964), la Cour supérieure de cette province permet la signification de procédures introductives d'instance par voie de messages privés sur un forum web.

Le Demandeur dans cette affaire, l'ancien directeur général des Maple Leafs de Toronto, Ducks d'Anaheim et Canucks de Vancouver, désire intenter des procédures en diffamation contre des utilisateurs d'un forum web qui ont véhiculé des informations qu'il allègue être fausses et diffamatoires à son égard. Le problème est que le vrai nom (et donc l'adresse) de ces utilisateurs est inconnu, ceux-ci utilisant des alias sur le web.
Le Demandeur recherche donc la permission de signifier les procédures à ces personnes par le biais de messages privés sur le forum web en question.
Saisi de cette demande, le greffier spécial de la Cour, Master MacNaughton, est d'avis que les circonstances justifient l'émission de la permission recherchée puisque la solution proposée est la meilleure dans les circonstances:
[13]        The particular method of service proposed by Mr. Burke has not been the subject of any decisions of this court, although substituted service through active email accounts and other social media sites such as Facebook has been permitted both in this court, elsewhere in Canada, and in other Commonwealth countries.  
[14]        Many such applications are not reported. They are granted on affidavit evidence which confirms that the person proposed to be served maintains an active email or profile on social media sites. They reflect the reality of today’s methods of communication which are increasingly electronic. 
[15]        In Knott Estate v. Sutherland, [2009] A.J. No. 1539 (Alta. Q.B.), Master Breitkreuz ordered service of a statement of claim and notice to a defendant by sending a notice of the action to the defendant’s Facebook page. Similarly, in Bryne v. Howard, [2010] FMCAFAM 509 (Fed. Mag. Ct.), service of a child support application via Facebook, and other electronic means, was deemed effective and in Mothership Music Pty Ltd. v. Darren Ayre (T/As Vip Entertainment & Concepts Pty Ltd), [2012] NSWDC 42, service of an injunction application was permitted by email transmission and by Facebook.  
[16]        In a case involving facts similar to this, Blaney v. Persons Unknown, (1 October 2009) IHQ/12/0653 (Ch.), a journalist and commentator who operated the “Blaney’s Blarney” website, obtained an injunction against an anonymous internet poster who was impersonating him through a Twitter account. Counsel was unable to provide me with a copy of the case despite efforts to obtain it from various sources. However, according to reports of it published in the Canadian Lawyer’s Weekly (Leonard Polsky and Stacey Wade, “Status update: service by Facebook” September 30, 2011) and in “Online defamation: confronting anonymity” a paper written by Anna Vamialis and published by the Oxford University Press, the High Court granted the plaintiff leave to serve the defendant poster with an injunction by sending a message to his Twitter account which included a link to a website on which the injunction order was displayed.  
[17]        In this case, I am satisfied that personal service on the Message Board Defendants is impracticable. Mr. Burke does not know the identity of the Message Board Defendants nor where they are located.  
[18]        I am also satisfied, on the material filed, that there is no cost-effective means of discovering this information. It would be possible to seek this information by applying for production orders against the various internet service providers or the hosts of the message boards. Such orders have become known as Norwich orders after they were granted in Norwich Pharmacal Co v Commissioners of Customs and Excise [1974] AC 133 (HL).  
[19]        In this case, if Norwich orders were granted and complied with, they would only yield the email addresses provided by the Message Board Defendants when they opened their accounts as this is the only identification that is required to open such an account. Slobberface registered for his account in 2004, the earliest date and Mbskidmore registered in April 2012.  The email accounts they, and the other Message Board Defendants, used when they registered may no longer be active.  As a result, applications for service on those email addresses would arguably be less effective because there is more likelihood of the proceedings coming to the attention of the Message Board Defendants on an active message board account.   
[20]        In addition, given the number of the Message Board Defendants, all of whom posted the allegedly defamatory statements on different message boards, proceeding in this manner would be lengthy, and time consuming. While these factors alone would not be sufficient to meet the test of impracticability, the fact is that proceeding in that manner may also be ineffective because it is unlikely to yield any more certainty of notice than the currently proposed method.  
[21]        In my view, it is reasonably likely, or probable, that notice of the proceedings will come to the attention of the Message Board Defendants by the proposed method. Mr. Brandt’s affidavit establishes that, according to their profiles on the message boards, the Message Board Defendants regularly log into the very accounts on which they posted the allegedly defamatory statements and use message boards and the Internet as a regular means of communication. They will be notified that they have received a personal message upon logging into their account in an online forum in which they have chosen to participate. 
[22]        In all these circumstances, I order that Mr. Burke may serve the notice of civil claim, filed April 26, 2012, on the Message Board Defendants by sending them a private message to the internet message board accounts maintained by them in the form attached to the notice of application. I required the form of the message to be amended to include the name and contact information of the lawyer at Heenan Blaikie from whom the Message Board Defendants may obtain the notice of civil claim and a copy of this order. In addition, I ordered that a similar notice be published in one edition of a national Canadian newspaper.
Le texte intégral du jugement est disponible ici:

Référence neutre: [2013] ABD 227 

2 commentaires:

  1. How effective would serving them in this manner really be? He is suing nameless entities. Can you really ask for redress from the courts, when you do not even know who you are suing?

  2. You can definitely obtain a judgment against an unknown person provided that you can establish that it was impossible (or almost impossible) for you to ascertain his or her identity. Executing the judgment afterwards will require you to be able to prove that the person you've identified is really the unknown person you had sued in the first place.

    As to effectiveness, please keep in mind that a judgment is valid for years (10 years in Québec). Hence, while someone might not be identifiable today, that's not necessarily true for the future. For example, a plaintiff might get an order against a forum to get IP addresses and be able to track down an anonymous commenter on the web that way.

    That all being said, in most cases the plaintiff is trying to show that he won't be messed with and will enforce his rights. While he may not be able to execute his judgment, he will have sent a pretty clear message to others that he won't tolerate this type of conduct.


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