ISP blocking has become a prime measure for the entertainment industry to target pirate sites on the Internet.
In recent years sites have been blocked throughout Europe, in Asia, and even Down Under.
In most countries, these blockades are ordered by local courts, which compel Internet providers to restrict access to certain websites. In Canada, however, there’s a plan in the works to allow for website blockades without judicial oversight.
A coalition of movie industry companies and ISPs, including Bell, Rogers, and Cineplex are discussing a proposal to implement such measures. The Canadian blocklist would be maintained by a new non-profit organization called “Internet Piracy Review Agency” (IPRA) and enforced through the CTRC, Canadaland reports.
The plan doesn’t come as a total surprise as Bell alluded to a nationwide blocking mechanism during a recent Government hearing. What becomes clear from the new plans, however, is that the telco is not alone.
The new proposal is being discussed by various stakeholders including ISPs and local movie companies. As in other countries, major American movie companies are also in the loop, but they will not be listed as official applicants when the plan is submitted to the CRTC.
Canadian law professor Micheal Geist is very critical of the plans. Although the proposal would only cover sites that “blatantly, overwhelmingly or structurally” engage in or facilitate copyright infringement, this can be a blurry line.
“Recent history suggests that the list will quickly grow to cover tougher judgment calls. For example, Bell has targeted TVAddons, a site that contains considerable non-infringing content,” Geist notes.
“It can be expected that many other sites disliked by rights holders or broadcasters would find their way onto the block list,” he adds.
While the full list of applicants is not ready yet, it is expected that the coalition will file its proposal to the CRTC before the end of the month.
Thus far, the Government appears to be reluctant in its response. In comments to Canadaland spokesperson Karl Sasseville stressed that Canada maintains committed to an open Internet.
“Our government supports an open internet where Canadians have the ability to access the content of their choice in accordance to Canadian laws,” Sasseville says. “While other parts of the world are focused on building walls, we’re focused on opening doors.”
As we’ve seen in the past, “net neutrality” and website blocking are not mutually exclusive. Courts around the world, also in Canada, have ordered content to be blocked, open Internet or not. However, bypassing the judicial system may prove to be a problem.
Professor Geist is happy with the Government’s comments and notes that legal basis for the proposal is thin.
He stresses that the ISPs involved in these plans should seriously consider if they want to continue down this path, which isn’t necessarily in the best interest of their customers.
“The government rightly seems dismissive of the proposal in the Canadaland report but as leading Internet providers, Bell and Rogers should be ashamed for leading the charge on such a dangerous, anti-speech and anti-consumer proposal,” Geist concludes.