Michael Allen Geist (born 11 July 1968) is a Canadian academic, and the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-Commerce Law at the University of Ottawa. Geist was educated at the University of Western Ontario where he received his Bachelor of Laws before going on to get his Master of Laws at both Osgoode Hall Law School and Cambridge University. After that, he attended Columbia Law School where he got his Doctor of Law degree.
His weekly columns on new technology and its legal ramifications appear in the Vancouver Sun, Toronto Star and the Ottawa Citizen. He served on Canada's National Task Force on Spam and is the founder of the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic. Geist is active on many boards, including the CANARIE Board of Directors, the CanLII Board of Directors, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada's Expert Advisory Board, the Electronic Frontier Foundation Advisory Board, and on the Information Program Sub-Board of the Open Society Institute. He was also a board member of the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, which manages the dot.ca domain, for six years.
Geist was named one of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 in 2002. In 2010, he was listed globally as one of the top fifty influential people in regard to intellectual property by Managing Intellectual Property.
Geist received widespread public attention from mainstream and citizen media in the winter of 2007 for leading the public response to proposed Canadian copyright changes.
According to Dr. Geist, the Canadian legislation included the worst aspects of the 1998 U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). In December, 2007, Geist said the legislation will likely "mirror the DMCA with strong anti-circumvention legislation — far beyond what is needed to comply with the WIPO Internet treaties," and will likely contain no protection for "flexible fair dealing. No parody exception. No time shifting exception. No device shifting exception. No expanded backup provision. Nothing."
Widespread online and offline support, from activist and author Cory Doctorow to over 30,000 Facebook users, led to the tabling of the copyright legislation by Industry Minister Jim Prentice until 2008.
Michael Geist is considered an expert about the proposed international Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which he covered frequently on his blog, criticizing the negotiation process for lack of transparency and warning of possible negative consequences for Internet users.
In December 2010, he wrote a paper titled “Clearing Up the Copyright Confusion: Fair Dealing and Bill C-32” where he summarizes and critically examines some of the main issues of this bill.
Then in October 2011, when the Canadian government began attempts to pass a new bill on copyright reform, which included digital lock rules, called Bill C-11, he wrote “The Daily Digital Lock Dissenter” on his blog. This was a daily blog entry where he introduced former submissions to the government about how Canadians felt about the restrictive digital lock regulations in regard to Bill C-32 and based on the 2009 national copyright consultation. He argued that while Bill C-11 had some valid points, it was too restrictive because it did not take a balanced approach and it was “primarily about satisfying U.S. pressure, not public opinion”.
In 2011, Geist criticized the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC) history of inability to foster an atmosphere of competition that would allow third-party internet service providers (ISPs) to gain a foothold in the Canadian market. He did note, with the CRTC's usage based oral hearing on July 19, 2011, that they were making efforts to address this lack of competition and criticized Bell Canada and other major companies for their involvement in limiting smaller ISPs. Also in 2011, he wrote a study on the true transport costs of a gigabyte for a Canadian consumer from an ISP and concluded it was roughly a total of eight cents per gigabyte but this report was later denounced by the major ISPs, most notably Bell Canada.
In 2008, Geist found that favourable edits to Jim Prentice's English Wikipedia article were traced back to Industry Canada computers.
He maintains the following websites:Privacyinfo.ca
From "Radical Extremism" to "Balanced Copyright": Canadian Copyright and the Digital Agenda (editor)
Internet Law in Canada
In the Public Interest: The Future of Canadian Copyright Law (editor) -- a series of essays regarding Bill C-60
Geist, M. (2013). The copyright pentalogy: How the Supreme Court of Canada shook the foundations of Canadian copyright law. Ottawa, ON: University of Ottawa Press
Michael Geist has received numerous awards for his work including the Kroeger Award for Policy Leadership and the Public Knowledge IP3 Award in 2010, the Les Fowlie Award for Intellectual Freedom from the Ontario Library Association in 2009, the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Pioneer Award in 2008, Canarie’s IWAY Public Leadership Award for his contribution to the development of the Internet in Canada in 2003.