Two weeks ago Canada’s Federal Court approved the first pirate site blockade in the country.
Following a complaint from major media companies Rogers, Bell and TVA, the Court ordered several major ISPs to block access to domains and IP-addresses of the pirate IPTV service GoldTV.
While the service in question has a relatively modest number of users, the order paves the way for additional site blocking requests that may target traditional pirate sites as well.
This is exactly what major rightsholders have extensively lobbied for in the past. After a request for a national pirate site blocking scheme was denied last year, the media companies have now accomplished this goal through the courts.
Most Internet providers, which include Bell and Rogers as well, haven’t objected to the request. However, there’s one that’s pushing back. According to TekSavvy, site blocking will do more harm than good and the company filed an official appeal yesterday.
“We are very concerned about what the federal court’s new site-blocking regime means for the open Internet as a whole,” says Andy Kaplan-Myrth TekSavvy’s vice-president of regulatory affairs.
TekSavvy argues that the Federal Court reached the wrong conclusion and asked for the order to be set aside. One of the problems, according to the ISP, is that the Court heavily relied on a UK ruling, instead of merely following Canadian law.
The ISP further highlights that it runs counter to Canada’s Net Neutrality principles.
“[The order] is based on foreign law, and it clearly violates Network Neutrality, without giving any serious consideration to that fundamental principle of communications law in Canada,” Kaplan-Myrth tells TorrentFreak.
“If it is allowed to stand, this site-blocking order will be just the first of many, undermining the open Internet to protect the profits and business models of a handful of powerful media conglomerates,” he adds.
TekSavvy is the only ISP to file an appeal but, outside court, there has been strong opposition from others. Canadian law professor Michael Geist, for example, has criticized the ruling, arguing that the Government should weigh in on such a crucial matter.
“In reviewing the GoldTV ruling, it is obvious that site blocking raises so many issues that it requires a government policy decision, not a single judge making a myriad of policy calls,” Geist noted.
There also many people who see site blocking in a more positive light. Hugh Stephens, Executive Fellow at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy, says that “copyright protection in Canada has taken a step forward.”
Meanwhile, the Federal Court’s order has already resulted in the first blocks. Several people are reporting that their ISPs have started to roll out the restrictions already. This includes Rogers, Fido, Bell Aliant, and SaskTel.
It’s clear that rightsholders are pleased with the blocking ruling, so they are expected to fiercely defend it at the Federal Court of Appeal. Given the controversy around the site-blocking topic, it would be no surprise if other interested parties will have their say in court as well.
A copy of TekSavvy’s Notice of Appeal, filed at the Canadian Federal Court of Appeal, is available here (pdf).