This past fall was a fascinating time to be at the CBC as broadcasters work to adapt to changing media consumption habits. It also marked the start of the Hockey Night In Canada partnership with Rogers, a scandal breaking about one of CBC’s most notable personalities, and Canadian news making international headlines. Having an interest in communications law, I was excited to get the opportunity to work for the public broadcaster during this period as part of Osgoode’s Intellectual Property Law and Technology Intensive Program.
I spent the semester working on all manner of legal issues and learning about all the different departments and deals that involve IP. Branding and licensing of IP is increasingly important for any company and most agreements involve some mention of the parties’ IP. However, I also learned about all the other areas of law that a broadcaster deals with. Everything from trademark licensing, to pensions, to civil procedure, to language rights, to defamation, to procuring pencils runs through the legal department in some way at some point. In-house lawyers at a broadcaster have to be ready to work in any field of the law. In the legal department at a broadcaster you also get to work on interesting questions you never thought you would have to answer, like reviewing puppets’ costumes for potential liabilities.
Although the CBC deals with a myriad of legal issues, I spent a great deal of time doing research on IP related issues. After all it is an IP intensive. I learned that unlike in the world of school assignments, a clear and definitive answer is a rarity. Often it is a matter of finding the closest or most applicable answer from the case law or textbooks and extrapolating that information to determine how to provide future guidance, or how to respond to the issue. It quickly became apparent to me just how much lawyers have to make sure that their research is solid and then trust their judgment. It was also amazing to have my judgment trusted and to see my opinions or suggestions actually incorporated into practice.
As part of my work with the media department I got to spend a day in the newsroom. I expected to spend the day chasing down a lead, and getting to see how stories get made before they end up on a lawyer’s desk to review for defamation. What I did not expect was to be in the centre of a chaotic and tragic day in Canadian history. I spent the day watching as the newsroom and the nation scrambled to decipher what had happened on Parliament Hill on October 22nd 2014. Peter Mansbridge garnered international praise for the manner in which he covered this national tragedy and it was extraordinary to be in the newsroom that day.
The biggest thing I learned working in-house for a public broadcaster was that counsel could be pulled in so many directions. There are obligations as a government entity, to the corporation, to the departments within the corporation (which may not always have the same goals), and to outside parties that you contract with. Even in relatively simple transactions there is a whole web of responsibilities and relationships you have to consider. Once you conclude a file with a client you may still work across the hall from them, and likely will have to maintain an ongoing relationship.
The IP intensive has been a greatly rewarding experience. Getting the chance to apply what I’ve learned at Osgoode in a real work setting was an amazing opportunity. I also had the good fortune to spend 10 weeks with an awesome team of people. I really did fall for CBC, and occasionally bump into Steven and Chris (literally).
Allison McLean is a JD Candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School and was enrolled in Osgoode’s Intellectual Property Law and Technology Intensive Program. As part of the program requirements, students were asked to write a reflective blog on their internship experience.