Law, Society & State: Disability, Technology and Law

What is the role of technology in advancing the rights and welfare of about a billion individuals with disabilities in the world today? Is technological advancement a catalyst for a more inclusive society? How so? Does technology enhance access for people with disabilities, and access to what exactly? Does it ultimately and unconditionally lead to fostering respect for their human dignity? Is dignity relevant here and should we be bound by a timeless and universal understanding of that in assessing the present and future impact of technology on the well-being of people with disabilities? Most importantly, does and should technology change our understanding of (dis)ability? Does technological advancement change the relationship between law and disability? How?

This course is a collective exercise in tackling these and related questions in an introductory fashion. The literature on disability rights and technology is a tripod: ethics of approaching disability (such as questions arising from medical and genetic technology, artificial intelligence, human enhancement etc.); human and civil rights of people with disabilities and their full inclusion in the society (such as questions of standards of access and meaningful participation as citizens); and disability and development (such as questions around the role of technology in reducing socio-economic barriers and power disparities or creating new unanticipated forms of those among individuals with disabilities in the world or between the disabled and able-bodied population). We will become familiar with this tripod in order to understand the evolving relation between disability, technology, and law.

Central to this new path is a fundamental focus on the future of our understanding of disability in light of inevitable and fast-growing technological changes. Could it be the case that law’s anxious choice between a medical and social approach to disability will have to come to terms with new and further sources of confusion when the enabling or further disabling impact of technology will ruffle current conceptions of (dis)ability? If those definitions are destabilized, so shall the punitive, identity-protecting labels such as ‘ablism’ that further divides the disabled from the able.

Legal Values: Artificial Intelligence (Discrimination & Surveillance)

This seminar will explore in depth the many ways in which modern computing systems — including the data they ingest, the decisions made by the folks who develop them, and their myriad and nearly ubiquitous applications — may enable, encourage, or prevent societal
discrimination and surveillance capitalism of various types. Students will learn how algorithms and artificial intelligence (“AI”) systems work, how such algorithms and systems may provide differential treatment and/or outcomes for different populations, and how they may invade privacy and cause other harms to people. Students will also consider the potential legal/regulatory, technical, and social/policy interventions that could ameliorate the harms caused by such algorithms and systems and will weigh the advantages and disadvantaged of each.

At the end of the seminar, students should be able to (i) discuss with colleagues and others the positive and negative consequences of various current AI innovations, and (ii) suggest different approaches to address systemic bias and surveillance capitalism — including legal/regulatory or social/policy changes, as well as technical solutions — and explain why certain of these approaches might or might not work in specific circumstances.

Legal Values: Copyright Policy in the Making

The development of digital and network technologies has posed both opportunities and challenges for creators, publishers, and users of intellectual works. For the most part, copyright law has evolved to address these challenges by extending to embrace new media. But
how well do traditional copyright principles and doctrine, developed in the heyday of the printing press, apply in the digital era when works can be created, shared, and transformed more easily than ever before? What considerations should be brought to bear by policymakers as they respond to urgent calls for copyright to “catch up.”

The objective of this seminar is to examine some of the key copyright policy questions currently before Canada’s Federal Government Departments of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) and Canadian Heritage. The seminar exposes students to the complicated process of crafting public policy and proposing law reform, and is uniquely designed to build on (and perhaps even feed into) ongoing public consultations on amendments to Canada’s Copyright Act. Students will tackle issues such as Technological Neutrality and the Copyright Balance; Authorship and Artificial Intelligence; Reproduction for Informational Analysis (Text & Data Mining); Digital Locks and the Right of Repair; Intermediary Liability and Website-blocking; the Regulation of Digital News Intermediaries; Non-Fungible-Tokens and Digital Art; User-Generated Content and Fair Dealing; Controlled Digital Lending and e-Books; Crown Copyright; and Copyright Term Extension. We will critically examine recent policy reports, bills,
statutory amendments, treaties, and case law, as well as emerging industry and consumer practices, stakeholder demands, and the political dynamics of the copyright lawmaking scene. Copyright policy implicates, in addition to the letter and spirit of Canada’s Copyright Act, issues of constitutional law and fundamental rights, international and comparative law, and socio-legal theory.

Law, Society & State: Clean Energy Technology

This course focuses on the laws and policies pertaining to clean energy technologies in Canada and what changes are needed, if any, to enable these technologies to significantly grow and expand in an effort to better address climate change. We begin with a review of various technologies — including electricity from solar, wind and geothermal; and heating/cooling from waste processing, wastewater processing, sewer systems, and district energy systems. Students will then choose a clean energy technology to research and develop throughout the next segment of the course which is focused on whether and how the production, transmission, and distribution of these energy sources should be regulated and financed in Canada, as compared to existing frameworks for conventional oil and gas, as well as hydro and nuclear. We consider the roles that federal, provincial and local governments can and should play in this process in light of international, constitutional, and administrative regulatory frameworks. Moreover, we assess policy tools -– such as clean energy credits, cap-and-trade, carbon taxes, externality disclosure policies, energy retrofit programs, green building initiatives, and loan loss reserve funds — that help promote clean energy by making non-renewable sources more costly. Students will apply their knowledge gained throughout the course to the particular clean energy technology that they selected earlier and then will prepare and provide an in-class presentation and written research paper on the strategy that they have developed to enable their selected technology to succeed. Classes will include lectures, expert guest speakers, discussions, and student presentations.

Directed Reading: IP Innovation Clinic

The IP Innovation Program was established in 2019, to support the work of the IP Innovation Clinic, founded in 2010 by Prof Pina D’Agostino. The IP Innovation Clinic is a year-round, needs-based innovation-to-society intellectual property (IP) legal clinic operated in collaboration with Innovation York and supervising law firms Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP, Bereskin & Parr LLP and Own Innovation. Under the guidance and mentorship of the Clinic Director and supervising lawyers, law students provide one-to-one legal information services (not legal advice) to inventors, entrepreneurs, and start-up companies to assist with the commercialization processes. Through this hands-on practical experience, law students learn about common early-stage IP and business issues facing actors in the innovation ecosystem.

Under the rubric of the IP Innovation Clinic, approximately 15 upper year law students called “senior clinic fellows” (2L and 3L students) will work in the clinic for the academic year, under the supervision of the Clinic Director, lawyers, and the Clinic Supervisor. Senior clinic fellows spend approximately 6 hours/week throughout the year on client file-related work and clinical projects. The clinical work includes managing at least two client files, conducting intake meetings, performing prior art searches, reviewing patent specifications, performing freedom-to-operate and clearance searches, reviewing IP licensing transactions, assisting with the preparation and filing of provisional patent applications, drafting memos and conducting legal research. In addition to client file-related work, senior clinic fellows will also work on clinical projects, such as providing IP awareness and education to the clinic clients and the community. IP awareness and education activities include presentations and/or workshops about the basics of IP law, commercialization, licensing, IP strategy, etc.

In addition to the approximately 78 hours per semester on client file-related work and clinic projects, Senior clinic fellows will attend pre-scheduled, mandatory 2-hour monthly seminars with the Clinic Director (and Clinic Supervisor and sometimes guests and/or participating supervising lawyers) and attend other informal meetings as necessary. The purpose of the seminars will be to deepen the students’ understanding of IP in a practical context, the role of IP in commercialization and IP skills and strategies. Students will also have an opportunity to rotate on presenting and discussing assigned reading materials on select topics to enhance their collective learning and reflection of their clinical work, and wider community legal IP context. Presentations and seminars may take place online via Zoom or other similar platform with mandatory audio and video participation for Senior clinic fellows.

Senior clinic fellows will keep a weekly reflective journal and submit it for review by the Program Director at the end of the term.

Law, Society & State: Derivatives Law & Crypto Contracts

Introduction course – Derivatives products have exploded in the last 30 years from being used for important risk hedging in the institutional sector to large speculative trading. We are now seeing a similar explosion of activity for retail investors particularly in the crypto trading area.

This is a two hour weekly seminar that provides a history of the development of derivatives, and overview and explanation of derivatives and derivatives regulation in Canada and internationally, including crypto assets and the regulation of crypto trading, from the perspective of a regulator. We will review the Ontario Securities Act, regulations and policies, as it relates to derivatives and also look at futures oversight under the Commodity Futures Act and have an in-depth discussion of the post financial meltdown derivatives regulatory reform. We will also provide an introduction to documentation of OTC derivatives.

We will examine blockchain technology and how it is used in crypto contracts and currencies, Defi, NFT’s, stablecoins, and staking. We will review the developing oversight regimes for these products and participants in Canada and internationally. We will discuss the gaps in regulation in this area and look at the Canadian Quadriga and the FTX collapse examples to assess the risks involved in trading in these markets and the role of regulation to prevent further investor losses.

In a fast developing new area of the law this will provide students an up to date discussion that will be adjusted through the course to accommodate new developments, particularly as it relates to the oversight of the crypto markets. We will also ask questions regarding these new volatile markets like: Is there anything underlying these assets? Is this the present day version of tulip mania? Will crypto currencies be around for decades or will they be short term speculative investments that benefit some to the detriment of many? Or are they the future that will replace sovereign currencies and provide cheaper sources of payment that will remove the costs associated with financial intermediation from Banks? Who should invest in these products? Who shouldn’t?
The goal is to have students leave the course with a solid grounding in derivatives and crypto trading and the related areas of law. We will use a multi media approach using a variety of related printed and online materials. There will also be expert guest lecturers for some of these topics.

Comparative Law: International & Comparative Labour Law

Artificial Intelligence and management-by-algorithms are reshaping the modern world of work in industrialized and developing countries. This is exemplified by the rise of platform work in the so-called gig-economy but is spreading in every sector and affects both blue-collar and white-collar occupations. Besides the intuitive risks in terms of automation of jobs, this seminar will focus specifically on less-known challenges, including algorithmic discrimination, augmented work surveillance, privacy invasion, increase in non-standard forms of work, and disruption of collective rights. We will look at these challenges from an international and comparative standpoint. We will focus specifically on international labour law and developments concerning the International Labour Organization, and other regional and national developments at the European level to compare them with the Canadian legal landscape.

Legal Information Technology: Data Analysis & Coding for Access to Justice

In this course, students will engage with law as data, using new legal technologies that promise to shift how lawyers practice in coming years, with a particular emphasis on exploring implications for access to justice. The aim is to examine not how the law regulates new legal technologies, but rather how these technologies can or should be used by legal professionals to advance the rights and interests of marginalized groups.

The course will use a hands-on experiential pedagogy. That is, students will engage directly with new legal technologies – including by completing several small coding projects involving legal data analysis. In addition to exploring these technologies, students will critically reflect on their ethical, professional, social, and economic impacts, focusing on implications for low-income and otherwise marginalized groups.

No prior coding experience is required. The course recognizes that students may bring a range of prior skills and knowledge. Both learning and evaluation have been designed to allow students who are beginners to coding and legal data analysis opportunities to successfully explore a new area, while also allowing students who already have relevant technical skills – as well as students who want to push their skillsets further – to take on more advanced projects. As such, participation is weighted heavily, and students can elect to pursue final projects that involve coding or no-code/low-code final research papers.

The course involves both synchronous and asynchronous components. After an initial introductory class, most of the first half of the course will be delivered asynchronously, through online modules and small coding projects. The instructor will be available for online troubleshooting sessions and for other support during the hours notionally set aside for classes in the weeks when modules and small coding projects are completed. In addition, at the conclusion of each small coding project, synchronous discussion sessions will be held to explore ethical, professional, social and economic impacts, with some critical readings provided. The second half of the course will involve students working on a final project (either individually or in groups), presenting a draft of that project to colleagues for feedback, and finalizing the project.

Synchronous sessions will be delivered in a hybrid (hyflex) format, meaning that students can elect to attend any given synchronous session either in person or remotely via Zoom. Classes will be scheduled in 3-hour blocks.


(1) Introduction to Coding & Access to Justice (Module 1: Automating the boring stuff)

(2) Data Gathering & Cleaning (Module 2: Finding legal datasets and creating new ones)

(3) Data Analysis (Module 3: I have some legal data, now what?)

(4) Artificial Intelligence (Module 4: Using generative AI to advance access to justice)

(5) Student Presentations of Draft Final Projects


This course is a study of the limited statutory monopoly granted to the authors of musical, literary, dramatic and artistic works under the Canadian copyright regime. From art and entertainment to education and information, copyright law affects almost every aspect of our lives. With the shift towards an information economy and the rapid development of digital technologies, copyright is one of the most dynamic, critical and controversial areas of Canadian law and policy. The course will examine the requirements for copyright protection, the kinds of works that qualify for protection, and the scope of the rights granted to the copyright owner. Among the subjects to be explored are: the nature and scope of the owner’s ‘right’ in her work; the meaning of authorship and originality; the transfer and licensing of copyright interests; the dichotomy between protected expression and unprotected ideas; the role of the public interest and the public domain; and the freedom of users to deal with copyrighted works. Through analysis of the Copyright Act and common law jurisprudence, the course offers a comprehensive introduction to copyright law while critically assessing the copyright system in terms of its justifications and its public policy objectives. By the end of the course, students will be familiar with the fundamentals of copyright doctrine, as well as with the theoretical and policy controversies that surround copyright in the modern age.

Emerging Technologies: Law, Policy and Governance

Established technologies like the internet and social and emerging ones like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics, are transforming how we live, work, and interact. These changes raise a host of complex law, policy, ethical, and governance challenges in a range of domestic and global contexts, including internet censorship, the role and regulation of social media platforms, disinformation and online abuse, legal automation, algorithmic discrimination, privacy, surveillance, fintech, and cyber-warfare. Among the kinds of questions pursued in this course: Who is responsible when technology causes harms? Do we have to forego privacy for either technological innovation or security? How best to regulate social media, if at all? What can we do to prevent algorithmic discrimination and other forms of technology-enabled human rights abuse? What is “ethical” AI and how can we incentivize it?

These issues and other significant challenges and controversies in the law, policy, and governance of emerging technologies will be contextualized and brought to life via case-studies and real world scenarios involving issues that are often currently in the news and unfolding in real time outside the classroom in government, industry, and civil society. The course aims to introduce and provide a foundation in law and technology issues — to identify them, understand and think critically about them, and manage them in practice.