Canadian Govt Eyes VPN Pirates, Netflix Thieves and ISP Blocking

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New Government documents have shed some light on the future agenda points for online copyright enforcement. In a briefing for minister Mélanie Joly, officials from the Department of Canadian Heritage mention VPN pirates and website blocking as emerging issues and pressures.

canadaThe newly elected Canadian Government has yet to announce how it will tackle online piracy going forward. However, a new Government document highlights some interesting points.

In a briefing Canadian Heritage officials prepared for minister Mélanie Joly several copyright related topics are discussed. The recent changes proposed by the TPP, for example.

The briefing also identifies three emerging copyright issues and pressures that may need to be addressed during the years to come, as Canadian law professor Michael Geist reveals.

On the top of this list of potential problems is “copyright infringement using VPNs.” While VPNs have plenty legitimate purposes, especially for those concerned about their privacy, pirates also use them to prevent being tracked by monitoring companies.

While the use of VPNs for infringing activities is a concern, Professor Geist believes that targeting these services won’t go down well with privacy advocates.

“Those [infringing] activities raise genuine issues, though the prospect of targeting the technology itself would quickly generate robust opposition from those who rely on VPNs for a myriad of legitimate purposes,” Geist notes.

Slide from the Minister’s briefing


VPNs could also play a major role in a second point being raised, which mentions the hybrid legal and illegal offer of online content. Although it’s not further specified, this may refer to the unauthorized access of streaming services such as Netflix in other countries.

Many Canadians use VPN services to access the U.S. version of Netflix, which has a more appealing content library. This topic was highlighted by Bell Media’s boss earlier this year, who accused her daughter of being a Netflix “thief.”

According to Professor Geist the Government wouldn’t have a very strong case to go after this circumvention behavior, as it will be hard to prove actual losses.

Finally, the brief mentions pirate site blockades by ISPs, something that’s become fairly popular in recent years, especially in Europe. The first signs of Canadian blocking efforts surfaced earlier this year with Quebec’s plans to ban illegal gambling sites.

Whether the three “issues” will become part of new copyright law is unclear. If so, this would be another shift in the wrong direction according to Professor Geist.

“Canadian copyright was already on track for a boisterous debate in the coming years,” he writes.

“If government officials envision adding VPN usage, access to U.S. Netflix, and website blocking to the list of issues, copyright could emerge as one of the government’s most difficult and controversial issues.”


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