Federal Court orders Canada’s ISPs to block TV piracy website for first time

Federal Court orders Canada’s ISPs to block TV piracy website for first time

TORONTO — A Federal Court is ordering Canada’s internet service providers to block websites for a company selling pirated television online, deeming that such a move wouldn’t infringe on freedom of expression or net neutrality.

The decision, issued Friday, affects Gold TV, an IPTV service that offers thousands of traditional TV channels for a nominal fee, streaming over internet networks. It’s the first time a nationwide blocking order has been made in Canada, setting a precedent that critics say could have broader consequences.

Earlier this year, a coalition of Canadian telecommunications companies and ISPs — Bell Media, Groupe TVA and Rogers Media — filed a complaint in a federal court saying GoldTV.ca was selling subscriptions to numerous channels without owning the rights.

GoldTV.ca billed itself as “Canada’s premium IPTV provider” offering 4,000 live TV channels in standard and high definition for as little as $15 per month. Among the Canadian TV channels its website offered were Citytv, CTV, Global, as well as international outlets BBC, ESPN and Animal Planet.

A judge says ISPs have 15 days to comply with blocking Gold TV’s services.

University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist calls the federal court order “an enormously problematic decision, and flawed from a legal perspective.”

“At a minimum, site blocking ought to be a measure of last resort, and it wasn’t in this case,” Geist said in a phone interview.

“Before you can even entertain the possibility of taking what is really the most extreme step in terms of literally trying to block content, you need to have taken every step you can short of that, and that’s not what happened here.”

The federal court move comes as Canadian media companies look for ways to quash illegal file-sharing websites and torrent applications that trade copyrighted entertainment between users for free or a nominal price.

Last year, FairPlay Canada, a coalition of more than 25 Canadian media companies, filed an application with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) urging the regulator to play a role in identifying and forcing ISPs to block piracy websites.

The request by the group, which included CBC, Bell, Rogers and Quebecor, was denied by the CRTC which said it “does not have the jurisdiction under the Telecommunications Act.”

The CRTC added at the time that “other avenues are more suitable to address this issue, which include the ongoing parliamentary review of the Copyright Act, as well as the expert panel review of the Telecommunications Act and the Broadcasting Act.”

The smaller coalition of Bell Media, Groupe TVA and Rogers Media took a more specific case against Gold TV to a federal court, and the judge agreed with their argument.

In a joint statement supplied by their legal representatives, Bell, TVA and Rogers applauded the court order.

“Content theft remains a critical threat to Canada’s creative sector, impacting rights holders and creators across the industry and causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damages and thousands of lost jobs,” the companies said.

“Similar orders are regularly issued by courts in other countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia and France, and require Internet Service Providers to simply disable access to sites distributing illegal content.”

But fellow ISP TekSavvy opposed the measures, and said the court should rely on the “specialized expertise” of the CRTC, rather than exercise its own jurisdiction on the matter.

“(A) blocking order is a grave violation of network neutrality and a fundamental change to what we do as internet service providers,” said Andy Kaplan-Myrth, vice president of TekSavvy’s regulatory and carrier affairs, in an emailed statement.

“All ISPs should defend the basic principle that we are not liable for or responsible for the content of the traffic on our networks. As unsympathetic as GoldTV may be, TekSavvy’s view is that it does not represent such an urgent harm to the plaintiffs or to society that stopping its copyright infringing activities would justify such a fundamental change in the nature of the internet in Canada.”

TekSavvy also raised concerns that ISPs would be faced with “hundreds or even thousands” of site-blocking orders in the future, and that could put a “significant strain” on its resources.

The judge acknowledged an internet censorship order of this nature hasn’t been previously made in Canada, though something similar has been issued in the United Kingdom. The order cites a U.K. case where British ISPs were ordered to block e-commerce sites that were selling knock-off Cartier luxury watches.

Geist believes the Canadian court is relying too heavily on site blocking rules established in another country under different circumstances.

“Once you start inviting site blocking it won’t surprise people if we start seeing other groups who have their own issues and their own perceived harms argue that we ought to adopt the same approach for their issue,” Geist added.

“The so-called slippery slope is a very real concern.”

Just Posted

Mayor Rick Bonnett. (Screenshot)
WATCH: Ponoka council calls on gov’t to support rural small businesses

Ponoka council is calling on the provincial government to increase funding to… Continue reading

Pumpjacks draw oil out of the ground near Olds, Alta., Thursday, July 16, 2020. A new report suggests the economic impact of the pandemic led to a massive increase in federal aid to Canada's oil patch. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta economy ‘still reeling,’ says ATB Financial

Alberta’s economy is still feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and… Continue reading

Ella Stoner, five, is ready to cut off her hair and donate it to A Child’s Voice Foundation. (Photo by Lauren Stoner Photography)
Central Alberta girl to donate her ‘princess hair’ to A Child’s Voice Foundation

A five-year-old girl from Rimbey has never had a haircut before. Now,… Continue reading

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta adds 1,195 new COVID-19 cases Saturday

Red Deer has dropped to 760 active cases

Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr
Central Alberta MLAs comment on UCP members kicked out of caucus

A pair of central Alberta MLAs have commented on the two United… Continue reading

Conservative MP Ron Liepert rises during Question Period on Parliament Hill, Friday, March 10, 2017 in Ottawa. Ron Liepert says these days, the phone calls and emails from people wanting to talk about his party's climate plan have slowed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Alberta MP pitches Conservative carbon price with a 24-pack of Pilsner

OTTAWA — Ron Liepert says these days, the phone calls and emails… Continue reading

A sign marks Stairs Place in the Hydrostone district in the North end of Halifax on Thursday, May 13, 2021. The street was named for William Grant Stairs, a Canadian explorer from Halifax who helped lead some of the most controversial expeditions through the African continent. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Where the streets have explorers’ names, some Halifax residents call for change

HALIFAX — When builders created Halifax’s distinctive Hydrostone neighbourhood more than a… Continue reading

Riley Oldford, 16, suffers from cerebral palsy. He was the first youth in the Northwest Territories to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Here he receives the needle from nurse practitioner Janie Neudorf in Yellowknife on Thursday May 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Bill Braden
People with disabilities even more alone during pandemic: cerebral palsy spokeswoman

YELLOWKNIFE — Riley Oldford is usually out playing sledge hockey or hanging… Continue reading

Poached trees that were taken recently on Vancouver Island in the Mount Prevost area near Cowichan, B.C. are shown on Sunday, May 10, 2021. Big trees, small trees, dead trees, softwoods and hardwoods have all become valuable targets of tree poachers in British Columbia as timber prices hit record levels. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne.
Tree poaching from public forests increasing in B.C. as lumber hits record prices

VICTORIA — Big trees, small trees, dead trees, softwoods and hardwoods have… Continue reading

Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) comes in to celebrate with right wing Tom Wilson (43), right wing T.J. Oshie (77) and defenseman Justin Schultz (2), after Oshie's overtime goal in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series against the Boston Bruins, Saturday, May 15, 2021, in Washington. The Capitals won 3-2. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Nic Dowd scores in OT, Capitals beat Bruins 3-2 in Game 1

Capitals 3 Bruins 2 (OT) (Washington leads series 1-0) WASHINGTON (AP) —… Continue reading

Vancouver Canucks' Zack MacEwen (71), Travis Boyd (72) and Jimmy Vesey (24) celebrate a goal against the Edmonton Oilers during third period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 15, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Big third period lifts Vancouver Canucks to 4-1 victory over Edmonton Oilers

Canucks 4 Oilers 1 EDMONTON — Matthew Highmore scored twice in the… Continue reading

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Canada’s vaccine rollout operation won’t miss a beat with new military leader: expert

DARTMOUTH — The sudden departure of the senior military officer in charge… Continue reading

Quebec Premier Francois Legault speaks during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic, Tuesday, September 29, 2020 at the legislature in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
Quebec premier argues province has power to amend constitution in letter to Trudeau

MONTREAL — Quebec Premier François Legault has written a letter to Prime… Continue reading

Most Read