Last November, 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.
This is the first blocking order of its kind in Canada but could be the start of many. While most of the targeted ISPs stayed quiet and didn’t even acknowledge receipt of our questions, TekSavvy chose to appeal the blocking injunction.
The Internet provider is not the only organization that’s worried about the blocking order. Several others have raised concerns and some have now asked the Federal Court of Appeal if they can intervene in the case. This includes CIRA, the registry that operates the .CA domain name.
The registry, which also provides DNS services for .PT, .SE, and .ES domains, says it didn’t previously intervene because it wasn’t aware of the proceeding. It only learned about the blockades after these were reported in the media.
Among other things, CIRA is concerned that the website blocking injunction will interfere with the open Internet infrastructure. In addition, it will also bypass its authority by pointing Internet users to other locations when they try to access a .CA domain.
“Ordering ISPs to intercept and redirect internet communications could conflict with CIRA’s longstanding commitment to maintain an open and effective internet architecture,” CIRA writes.
“It could jeopardize CIRA’s mission to steward the .CA domain and to provide high quality registry, DNS, and cybersecurity services,” the registry adds.
Ideally, more stakeholders should have been consulted before making such a drastic decision, the registry notes. In CIRA’s view, site blocking is not the answer to address infringing sites. It directly conflicts with the Telecommunications Act while there are better alternatives.
One of the options suggested by CIRA is to identify the site owners through the WHOIS database. The organization says that it can provide such information when it’s compelled to do so by a Canadian court order.
Possible measures could also include involving other third-party intermediaries such as hosting companies and payment intermediaries.
“Any and all of those options are, while still extreme, more consistent with the Telecommunications Act and less intrusive into the technical architecture of the internet than the remedy sought from and granted by the Federal Court,” CIRA writes.
Based on these and other arguments, the registry asks the Federal Court of Appeal to grant its motion to intervene in the case.
Another organization that would like to be heard is the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC). The group, which is connected to the University of Ottawa, also believes that the site-blocking order should be reversed.
“ISP-based website blocking is an intrusive remedy, incompatible with the right to free expression,” CIPPIC writes, adding that it also raises issues with the Copyright Act and the Telecommunications Act.
Such orders should not be taken lightly and deserve more scrutiny than the Federal Court has offered so far.
CIPPIC raises a variety of issues which it wants to argue in more detail. This also includes possible conflicts with net neutrality.
“ISP-based website blocking orders have a significant potential to disrupt communications networks and interfere with network innovation,” CIPPIC writes.
“Any ISP-based website blocking order must therefore ensure it does not undermine the CRTC’s role, legislatively mandated under section 36 of the Telecommunications Act, for monitoring net neutrality and ISP interference with transmitted content”
Both motions to intervene have yet to be reviewed by the Court and more may still be filed, also from rightsholders.
Given the interest of these parties, it’s clear that the matter has triggered much broader interest than during the initial proceeding.
A copy of CIRA’s motion to intervene is available here (pdf) and CIPPIC’s motion can be found here (pdf).
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