The Daily Publications Society (DPS) – publisher of The Daily and Le Délit – has issued a press release condemning McGill lawyers’ threat of legal action against one of its publications, The Daily, for publishing an online article on the leak of hundreds of confidential documents from McGill Development and Alumni Relations.
On its now-defunct website, McGillLeaks stated that it would release further documents in later weeks.
After publishing an article on March 5, “McGillLeaks publishes confidential internal documents,” on mcgilldaily.com, The Daily received a letter from McGill’s lawyers, McCarthy Tétrault LLP, that evening.
The letter stated that “the documents and information disclosed or about to be disclosed by McGillLeaks are owned by McGill and are protected by intellectual property rights owned by McGill, and their disclosure is in violation of McGill’s rights.” The letter further demanded “that you take immediate necessary measures to remove any link on the mcgilldaily.com website… We also require that you immediately delete any reference to these documents and information and also delete any comment made on them.”
“Please be advised that McGill University is determined to use any available legal recourse to protect its rights and the rights of the third parties and of the individuals affected by this legal disclosure,” the letter continued. “We expect that you will confirm, within the next three hours, that you have governed yourself in accordance with this letter.”
After consulting with its legal representative, The Daily agreed to remove only the hyperlink to McGillLeaks’ website within the time frame requested.
The DPS explains in its press release that, due to limited funding – as well as the fact that most of its funding is provided by students – “DPS publications will, for the time being, refrain from publishing any hyperlinks leading to the documents and from publishing anything on the actual content of the documents,” in order to avoid legal proceedings with McGill.
“DPS publications may, however, continue to report, comment, or editorialize on the relevant fact as to the existence of McGillLeaks and McGill’s position on and investigations of it,” the press release continues.
The press release adds, “Our decision does not entail, however, that we agree to the soundness of these legal threats, nor that we agree with McGill University’s oppressive tactics. It is lamentable that small independent organizations such as The McGill Daily and Le Délit cannot properly report on matters that directly pertain to their readership because of their limited financial and legal clout.”
“We find the actions and intimidation tactics of McGill University and its legal representatives to be suppressive of our and any organization’s rights to freedom of speech,” the press release concludes.
The online publications Canadian University Press and Milton Avenue Revolutionary Press received similar letters from McGill’s legal representatives after publishing hyperlinks to the McGillLeaks website. Both have removed the hyperlinks.
More recently, on March 13 Dawson College student and representative of the Dawson College Student Union (DSU) Michael Forian received a letter from McGill legal representatives demanding that he remove a post on his Twitter account that referenced content leaked by McGillLeaks.
The letter from McGill’s lawyers demands that Forian “immediately remove this tweet and refrain from releasing, posting and, in any other way, making reference to any confidential information that may have been illegally communicated to you relating to documents stolen from McGill University.”
In response to a tweet that Forian previously posted and has since removed on Twitter stating: “Is that a copy of confidential documents from McGillLeaks in my inbox?”, the letter states that “we hereby demand that you immediately destroy all of said confidential documents that you may have illegally received.”
Forian explained that at this time, he will refrain from publishing further links or tweets regarding the content of the McGillLeaks website, but does not plan on deleting his Twitter post unless further action is taken by McGill. Forian is currently receiving legal consultation from the DSU.
“I was just a little taken aback,” said Forian. “It’s intimidation, and it’s trying to get people to do things that they don’t necessarily have to do.”