In this issue of PrivacyScan Murray Long looks at “Afterlife”, a controversial Quebec-based website seeking to cash in on the death industry by republishing obituaries and photos found on the websites of Canadian newspapers and funeral homes, generating revenue through advertising and the sale of services like flower delivery. Many Canadians have expressed concern about Afterlife’s non-consensual use of obituaries and photographs, and a class action suit was recently filed in the Federal Court of Canada alleging copyright infringement. However, there are legitimate questions about whether copyright exists in the obituaries and photographs found on the site, and if copyright law fails to provide a remedy, privacy legislation may not be helpful either. This issue highlights the challenge in applying privacy legislation to constantly evolving expectations of privacy in personal information published online.
Murray wishes to remind readers that this article, while delving deeply into technical aspects of both copyright and privacy law, is really about the callous insensitivity of a company that, as a business model, has chosen to systematically exploit information about people, generated at a time of deep personal grief, for its own purely commercial reasons.