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Music industry wants right to intervene in Canadian web-blocking court case

By | Published on Friday 15 May 2020


The Canadian music industry has asked for permission to intervene in an ongoing legal battle between some internet companies which is testing whether web-blocking should be available as an anti-piracy tool in the country. The record companies and music publishers think that it definitely should be and are therefore keen that Canada’s Federal Court Of Appeal doesn’t overturn an earlier court ruling that led to piracy site being blocked.

Web-blocking, of course, is where courts or government agencies issue orders that force internet service providers to block their customers from accessing websites that prolifically infringe other people’s copyrights. Such blockades aren’t yet available in every country but, where they are, they have become a preferred anti-piracy tactic of the music and movie industries.

Web-blocks weren’t available in Canada, and when various groups lobbied the country’s tel-co regulator – the CRTC – to set up a web-blocking agency in 2018, it ultimately decided it didn’t have the power to do so. However, last year the Canadian Federal Court issued a web-blocking order against, an unlicensed video service.

Whenever web-blocking is first proposed in a country there are usually plenty of opponents to the principle, especially among internet companies, which generally don’t like being forced to police the net. That said, those internet companies that are also cable TV companies – and who therefore have a vested interest in stopping movie piracy in particular – can be among the biggest supporters of the web-blocking approach.

And that was the case in Canada, where some of the big cable companies were among those calling on the CRTC to instigate some web-blocks. And when that didn’t work, it was those companies that went to court to get a web-block injunction against

But there are still some ISPs in Canada opposed to web-blocking, they mainly relying on the classic arguments against the anti-piracy tactic: ie that it’s open to abuse and doesn’t really work.

Shortly after last year’s web-block against was issued, one of those ISPs, TekSavvy, appealed the ruling. Allowing web-blocks would violate network neutrality and undermine the open internet, it claimed.

That appeal is now going through the motions, and a plethora of copyright owners not part of the actual litigation now want to get involved in the case, to ensure the strongest possible argument is presented in favour of web-blocking.

And that includes the International Confederation Of Music Publishers and the International Federation Of The Phonographic Industry. As noted by Torrentfreak, both the music industry trade bodies have requested to become so called intervenors in the appeals court case.

The ICMP and IFPI tell the Canadian appeals court that they have “significant international experience” when it comes to what anti-piracy practices actually work.

And, “as representatives of the music industry, which has long been at the forefront of the battle against online copyright piracy, [we] seek to assist the court in understanding the broader impacts of its decision across the cultural industries”.

An international perspective is relevant in the case, given the lower court considered the implications and effectiveness of web-blocking in other countries, especially the UK that has a similar copyright system to Canada.

But whether ICMP, IFPI and other copyright groups who have likewise requested involvement are allowed to do a little in-court web-block-championing remains to be seen.