IP Intensive: 3, 2, 1... And We're Rolling – A Semester at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

Think you have what it takes to provide legal advice to the newsroom with five-minutes left until they go to air? Are you ready to tell the folks at Dragons’ Den what they can and cannot do (and not many people tell them what they cannot do); do you think you are Canada’s Smartest Person? Then this is the internship for you!


My experience with the CBC was nothing short of phenomenal. This is real-time law at its best, with fresh issues, high stakes and a wide range of concepts and media to master. IP lawyers at the CBC are involved in almost every aspect of the broadcaster’s affairs in one way or another. During my internship as part of Osgoode’s Intellectual Property Law & Technology Intensive Program, I had the opportunity to work in corporate and commercial matters, contracts, procurement, litigation, sponsorship, defamation, piracy, privacy, acquisition and distribution deals, licensing, broadcast law, media law, regulatory compliance, copyright and trademark – not bad for 10 weeks!

Watching the news unfold from inside Canada’s national broadcaster brought new insight into the making of the news and all that goes into it. This fall there was no shortage of events to follow –from the highs and lows of the federal election to the shocking attacks in Paris. CBC’s outstanding team covered it all – and the legal team supported the on-air group on every step of the journey.

One central theme dominated much of my internship experience – the federal election. While Canadians watched the news from the comfort of their homes, I had a behind-the-scenes view. Elections are filled with moment by moment scandals, sound bites and attack ads. The information that comes to your TVs every evening does not come together easily. Much of what makes the news is contentious and touches upon areas of legal danger-zones – privacy, confidentiality, whistleblowing, libel and defamation – to name a few. Journalists require immediate advice when there is a concern. This is real-time law, and there are no ‘take-backs’ once they go live. Fortunately, CBC has a stellar team waiting to take the call and put out the fire. It was fascinating to watch and work with CBC’s in-house counsel to provide real-time answers to these issues. They say the camera never stops rolling, but from my experience, it is the lawyers who never stop moving.

As a crown corporation, CBC is constantly juggling its obligations. The same is true of the lawyers who represent it. In every decision, in-house counsel must consider their obligations to their client, the best interest of the Company, and the overall ethical considerations of CBC as the nation’s public broadcaster. There are a lot of perspectives and parties to consider, and those positions do not always agree.

Much of my day-to-day responsibilities consisted of working with in-house counsel in contractual negotiations with outside parties. This required close communications with the Company’s various components to ensure that we understood their needs and represented accordingly. The ability to work closely with all areas of the Company allow the legal team to be involved in every step of the creative process, from pre-production and pre-licensing, right through to concept meetings, rough cut screenings and final cut edits, to post-air blowback, and third party content distribution. This is all in a day’s work for in-house counsel.

I have come away with so many practical tools from my time in-house at CBC, the most important of which are those lessons you can never learn in a classroom; such as the importance of considering all angles and all parties to a problem from legal, ethical, and business perspectives. I have learned that legal advice is only as effective as the vehicle that delivers it – in law school we pride ourselves in delivering arguments thick with legalese – but in business, communications must be delivered in terms that will be understood across the board. Most of all, I have learned that there is a place for lawyers within the development of the arts in Canada – it is a welcoming and thriving atmosphere where there is much to learn and even more to do.

This internship provided a hands-on learning environment to the practice of real-time law at its best. I encourage any student interested in a career in Media, Broadcast and IP law to apply to this intensive placement. My internship at the CBC sits at the apex of my law school experiences. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to learn so much from such an excellent team.

 

Jennifer R Davidson is a JD Candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School and was enrolled in Osgoode’s Intellectual Property Law Intensive Program. As part of the program requirements, students were asked to write a reflective blog on their internship experience.

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