Monday, April 9, 2018

Most net firms back web-blocking in Canada, though there are some detractors | UNLIMITED | CMU


The web-blocking debate is moving forward in Canada following the recent passing of a deadline to respond to proposals that a web-block agency be established there. Several internet firms are backing the proposals, though there are some critics too.

Web-blocking, of course, has become a preferred anti-piracy tactic of music and movie companies in many countries and especially the UK. Copyright owners secure injunctions that order internet service providers to block their customers from accessing websites deemed to exist primarily to facilitate and encourage online piracy.

Web-blocks sometimes come about because of the introduction of new regulations or courts may decide that they have the power to issue such injunctions under existing copyright law. Usually it is entertainment companies that push for web-blocks to be introduced. Net firms tend to be resistant at first but – with a few exceptions – then subsequently fall in line once the web-blocking orders start rolling in.

In Canada, however, it is actually internet companies which have been leading the push for some kind of web-blocking system to be introduced. The SVP of Regulatory Affairs at tel co Bell – Rob Malcolmson – first proposed such a system during a session debating the North American Free Trade Agreement last September.

Subsequently Bell and other ISPs have joined with copyright owners to form the Fairplay Coalition which has made more formal proposals. It is proposed that an Independent Piracy Review Agency be set up to manage a list of piracy websites that should be blocked, with Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal ultimately overseeing its operations.

The country’s media and telecommunications regulator CRTC gave interested parties until the end of last month to respond to said proposals, and ‘reply comments’ will still be accepted until 23 Apr. While Canada’s web-blocking plans are unusual in being so readily backed by so many of the country’s internet service providers, there are some net firms among critics of the proposed Independent Piracy Review Agency.

Torrentfreak has honed in on the submission by a company called TekSavvy, which provides net access to over 250,000 homes and businesses in Canada. Hitting out at the Fairplay Coalition’s proposals, it writes: “If implemented, the applicants’ proposal for site blocking would fundamentally reshape how internet services would work in Canada, including the manner in which TekSavvy provides internet services”.

Like many other ISPs who have objected to web-blocking elsewhere in the world, TekSavvy questions the effectiveness of this anti-piracy approach. It goes on: “It is well-documented that blocking individual websites is difficult and expensive and – even so – [blockades are] relatively trivial to circumvent. As a result, site-blocking is neither efficient, nor effective”.

Those ISPs backing the proposals might point out that concerns expressed by net firms in other countries about web-blocking being a major task and/or amounting to censorship haven’t really come to pass.

While it is true that web-blocks are usually pretty easy to circumvent with a simple Google search, copyright owners argue that web-blocking nevertheless serves an educational role by alerting consumers to the fact that a piracy website is in fact a piracy website.

It remains to be seen how the CRTC now responds.


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