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.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Patrick Malkin, co-owner of The Granary Kitchen, says he wants the provincial government to lift COVID-19 restrictions that shutdown in-person dining. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red deer restaurant owner ‘frustrated’ in-person dining restrictions are still in place

Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced the restrictions won’t yet be eased this past Thursday

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta identifies 573 new COVID-19 cases, 13 deaths on Saturday

There are currently 9,727 active cases of the virus in the province

A firetruck sits in front of a home on Harvey Close in Red Deer Saturday afternoon. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Firefighters respond to Red Deer fire

Red Deer firefighters responded to a blaze in the north part of… Continue reading

(Courtesy photo)
Red Deer rental prices drop slightly

Renting an apartment in Red Deer became slightly cheaper last month. Rentals.ca… Continue reading

Rylee Trippel was last seen Friday. (Photo contributed by RCMP)
Red Deer RCMP looking for missing teen

Police are looking for a teen who was last seen in the… Continue reading

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

RCMP say missing teen Hope Tivendale has been found. (File photo by Advocate staff)
No foul play suspected after burned body of homeless person found in North Vancouver

VANCOUVER — A burned body, believed to be of a homeless person,… Continue reading

The central zone experienced a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases Thursday, rising from 454 to 508 active cases over the past 24 hours, with 10 people in hospital. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Spartan Bioscience says Health Canada has approved its rapid COVID-19 test

TORONTO — An Ottawa company says it’s received approval from Health Canada… Continue reading

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole defends decision to back, then oust, Sloan

OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says he was once willing to… Continue reading

Quebec Premier Francois Legault pauses as he speaks during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021 at the legislature in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
Non-essential travel ban would violate Constitution but courts might allow it: expert

MONTREAL — Fear that Quebecers will catch a new variant of COVID-19… Continue reading

A woman walks outside the Roberta Place Long Term Care home in Barrie, Ont. on Monday, January 18, 2021. The devastating toll of COVID-19 on long-term care residents in Canada has underscored the need for increased public funding for home care, advocates say. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
COVID-19 deaths in long-term care reveal need for home supports: advocates

VANCOUVER — The devastating toll of COVID-19 on long-term care residents in… Continue reading

A Chinese flag is illuminated by sunshine in the Hall of Honour on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Thursday, September 22, 2016. China is threatening retaliation against Canada after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned a new security law giving Beijing more control over Hong Kong.. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Diplomats contact Canadian held for over 2 years in China

BEIJING — Canadian officials have met online with former diplomat Michael Kovrig,… Continue reading

Marc Gold (centre) stands with senators André Pratte (left) and Peter Harder before being sworn in during a ceremony in the Senate on Parliament Hill, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Senator urges study of vexing barriers to using secret information in court cases

OTTAWA — A Senate committee should examine the hurdles that make it… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Winnipeg ticket holder wins Friday night’s $60 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — A ticket holder from Winnipeg won Friday night’s whopping $60… Continue reading

Most Read