Earlier in the year, a broad coalition of Canada’s broadcasting and Internet Service Provider (ISP) giants asked a court in the country to allow the blocking of a pirate IPTV service GoldTV, including its domain names and IP addresses.
And for the first time in Canada’s history, the county’s Federal Court has ruled to order ISPs to block such sites, issuing an order to this effect. ISPs are told to block or attempt to block all domains, subdomains, IP addresses of the target website, and do this within 15 days.
The judge in the case did not think the decision would jeopardize either net neutrality or freedom of expression.
Censorship by ISP-level blocking has been increasingly used around the world as a tool to enforce copyright claims. Besides Canada, this practice has been all but normalized elsewhere, including in Australia, Germany, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Japan, and the UK, among other countries. It’s Canada’s first foray into the slippery slope of this type of internet censorship.
What makes Canada’s Federal Court order remarkable is that it’s the first of its kind. Canada’s giant broadcasters that also operate as ISPs – Bell, Rogers, and Videotron – had been at the forefront of the push to obtain the court order to block GoldTV.
The only telecom to oppose these measures, and fail in its challenge, has been TekSavvy. Previously, this company argued that website blocking, which they saw as a draconian move, was neither effective nor appropriate.
TekSavvy pointed out to the timing of the proposal – precisely as the country’s lawmakers were debating whether or not such measures are appropriate.
This debate came within the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review. But the court’s decision seems to have beaten to the punch any conclusion the legislators might have arrived at. TekSavvy also said there are ways to work around ISP blocks, making them ineffective.
“If the plaintiffs were successful in obtaining a site-blocking order in this case, there is no question that they would use it as a precedent to obtain other site-blocking orders, whether in respect of copyright infringement or otherwise,” TekSavvy said at the time, noting that this might snowball into hundreds of thousands of blocked websites and increase the company’s running costs.