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Canadian domain registry urges the country’s courts to reject web-blocking

By | Published on Friday 7 August 2020


The Canadian domain registry CIRA and the University Of Ottawa’s Internet Policy And Public Interest Clinic have submitted their intervention in Canada’s big web-blocking court case. They’d both like it to be known that web-blocking is all kinds of evil and anyone who even thinks about supporting it is going to hell. Well, I’m paraphrasing slightly.

Web-blocking, of course, is where courts or government agencies order ISPs to block access to copyright-infringing websites. In some countries, like the UK, securing such web-blocks is a common tactic employed by the music and movie industries to discourage people from accessing unlicensed sources of content. But in other countries, it’s still an innovation. And that includes Canada.

When some internet and content companies suggested a couple of years back that Canada’s tel-co regulator the CRTC should set up a web-blocking agency, said regulator ultimately decided it didn’t have the power to do so. But that didn’t stop the Canadian Federal Court last year issuing a web-blocking order against, an unlicensed video service.

Some ISPs in Canada are actually pro-web-blocking, while most of the others seemed likely to comply with the order against But one net firm, TekSavvy, is appealing the ruling.

Given the precedent this dispute will set, plenty of parties not directly involved in the case – including the music industry – asked to make official interventions. The CIRA and University Of Ottawa’s IP Clinic are also intervening, but very much on the other side of the debate.

In their submission to the court, the two organisations present various arguments against allowing web-blocks to occur. The IP Clinic says that web-blocking goes against the balance Canada’s Copyright Act is trying to achieve between the rights of copyright owners and the rights of internet users. While CIRA argues that the country’s telecommunication laws constrain the power to order blocking.

The submission also notes that web-blocking has been controversial in other countries. Which is true, although – in the main – only when it is first introduced, and not once it is underway. Nevertheless, it considers web-blocking debates in other places and to what extent that should influence Canada, in particular noting how in Australia web-blocking came about because of specific new laws passed by its parliament and which constrained the web-blocking process to an extent.

The music, movie and wider content industries will be keen to stress why CIRA and the IP Clinic have it wrong, of course, and will also talk up how uncontroversial and – in their minds – effective web-blocking has been in countries like the UK. We await to see who has the most influence over the appeals court judges.