Caution should be exercised when requesting, reviewing or
sharing seismic data held by a regulatory authority, as
demonstrated by the latest decision in a series of lawsuits
commenced by Geophysical Service Incorporated (GSI).
GSI is a geophysical services company
headquartered in Calgary that creates and markets offshore seismic
data. In the last several years, GSI has commenced 20 or more
lawsuits in the courts of Alberta, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland
and Labrador against oil and gas companies, off-shore regulatory
boards, and at least one province. The lawsuits are concerned with
seismic data shot by GSI for its own use and licensed to third
parties. GSI asserts that it retains full rights of ownership in
the data either as a trade secret, confidential information, or
through copyright, notwithstanding that the data has been: (1)
licensed to third parties; and (2) disclosed to Canadian regulatory
authorities pursuant to a regulatory framework requiring the
The most recent decision in this series of lawsuits is Geophysical Service Incorporated v
Martin, 2013 CanLII 71082 (NL SCTD) [Martin]. In
Martin, GSI sought to appeal a decision of Nalcor Energy
(Nalcor), a provincial energy company headquartered in St.
John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, which denied an access to
information request made by GSI pursuant to privacy legislation.
The request sought disclosure of Nalcor's use or distribution
of seismic data obtained from the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador
Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB). The Court stayed the appeal on
the basis that it was premature, holding that the outcome of a
companion action in which the question of whether GSI retained any
proprietary rights in seismic data disclosed to C-NLOPB would
affect the outcome. The trial in the companion action, while not
yet scheduled, is anticipated to be an interesting one that may
address the underlying legal merit of GSI's position with
respect to the multitude of proceedings it has brought. Until the
underlying legal question is addressed, energy companies viewing or
contemplating acquiring seismic or similar data from regulatory
authorities should be aware of the potential risks and exercise
caution in proceeding.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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