CRTC denies FairPlay website blocking proposal

The CRTC has denied the FairPlay Canada coalition’s website-blocking proposal to address copyright piracy.

The commission says it does not have the jurisdiction under the Telecommunications Act.

FairPlay Canada, comprised of more than 25 organizations spanning film, TV, radio, sports entertainment and music, includes Bell Media, Rogers, Corus, CBC, Cogeco, eOne, Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA), ACTRA, Directors Guild of Canada (DGC), as well as unions and other artists groups.

It had requested that the CRTC create a regime that would identify websites and online services engaged in copyright piracy and order internet service providers to block access to those sites.

In a Tuesday morning news release, the commission said while it acknowledges copyright piracy causes harm to the Canadian broadcasting system and the economy, it is of the view “other avenues are more suitable to address the issue”, citing the ongoing parliamentary review of the Copyright Act, as well as the expert panel review of the Telecommunications Act and the Broadcasting Act.

Submitted in January, Fairplay’s proposal suggested the CRTC establish an “Independent Piracy Review Agency” that would make recommendations to the commission on which piracy sites ISPs should block. The group proposed site owners would have have recourse to judicial review by the Federal Court of Appeal.

Critics of Fairplay’s strategy suggested site blocking could trigger a Charter of Rights and Freedoms challenge, among other potential legal concerns.

More than 70,000 comments were collected from Canadians against the proposal by OpenMedia, a Vancouver-based group concerned that what they saw as an over-reaching application would lead to censorship of legitimate content and erode the principles of net neutrality.

“This is a big win for the open internet and a true demonstration of democracy in action. Bell’s FairPlay proposal would have seen innocent content knocked off the internet without any court oversight or due process,” said OpenMedia executive director Laura Tribe. “Today, the CRTC protected the open internet in an important victory. But we still have a long way to go in protecting our digital rights after the concessions Canada made in the renegotiated NAFTA earlier this week. All eyes will now turn to the Copyright Act Review to see the final act of this play.”

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