Bell wants to create piracy blacklist through NAFTA

Critics call Bell's NAFTA piracy plans 'unprecedented'

Bell fibre internet montreal

Bell Canada is seeking to establish significant changes to Canada’s procedures for dealing with digital media piracy through NAFTA negotiations.

Canada’s second-largest carrier spoke at a meeting of the Standing Committee on International Trade (CIIT) on September 20th, 2017, to suggest creating an independent agency under Canada’s telecom watchdog (the CRTC) that would blacklist “egregious piracy sites” all Canadian internet service providers would be required to block, as a solution to Canada’s “piracy problem.”

“In our view, that’s the only way to stop it,” said Bell’s senior vice-president of regulatory affairs Rob Malcolmson told federal politicians, as a public transcript of the meeting reveals.

Rogers disagrees with Bell’s approach

Rogers’ vice-president of regulatory Pam Dinsmore — who was also present at the meeting — disagreed with Malcolmson’s suggestion, preferring to stay away from the subject until the upcoming federal review of the Copyright Modernization Act, which is set to begin in two months.

“Rather than dealing with it as a one-off in this exchange while this negotiation is moving very quickly and even the negotiators will tell you that they don’t really have a lot of time to think between rounds, there’ll be lots of time to consider these sorts of options in our own domestic forum and we think that’s where this discussion belongs,” said Dinsmore.

“In our view, that’s the only way to stop it,” said Malclmson

In this opinion, Dinsmore is supported by digital rights advocacy group OpenMedia and Michael Geist, an internet law expert and University of Ottawa law professor.

“Incredibly, Bell’s proposal involves no court oversight, hoping to create a mandatory system for blocking websites that excludes the due process that comes from judicial review (raising obvious Charter of Rights and Freedoms concerns),” Geist wrote in a recent blog post on his website.

OpenMedia’s Marie Aspiazu told MobileSyrup she believes using an international trade deal to make such a suggestion is highly unusual.

“This is not the first time Bell has done lobbying that goes overboard,” said Aspiazu, “But in terms of trying to influence domestic policy through an international trade agreement, I would say it is unprecedented.”

Tougher criminal sanctions on copyright infringement

Both Aspiazu and Geist also noted Bell’s comments about introducing further criminal liability for commercial copyright infringement, as a result of Malcolmson’s that “Canada should also create a criminal provision for any infringement of copyright, including facilitating and enabling piracy where it is undertaken for commercial purpose.”

In his blog, Geist writes that, since Canada already has a provision to target sites that enable infringement, “Bell’s goal is to dramatically expand the prospect of criminal liability for infringement by opening the door to criminal sanction for all commercial copyright infringement.”

He adds that these controls could conceivably spill over into non-commercial infringement — a prominent concern for Aspiazu and OpenMedia.

“Though we don’t have the specifics, we might see something similar to [the Trans-Pacific Partnership] where you have the definition of commercial purpose applied to non-commercial everyday activities,” said Aspiazu.

“In terms of trying to influence domestic policy through an international trade agreement, I would say it is unprecedented,” said Aspiazu

“For example, if you uploaded a video of holiday photos with a copyrighted song, you could face criminal repercussions.”

She said she’s worried that this sort of plan would lead to people self-censoring online.

Meanwhile, Rogers mainly expressed support for Canada’s current ‘notice-and-notice’ system used for copyright enforcement.

The notice-and-notice approach requires internet service providers to forward any infringement notice from copyright owners to its subscribers. The notice-and-notice provisions are merely a warning that a copyright infringement may have taken place, and are not formal charges or legal sentencing.

When MobileSyrup contacted the CRTC about Bell’s suggested plan, the commission replied that it had no comment on the matter. Rogers and Bell both indicated they had no further comment beyond the statements of Malcolmson and Dinsmore.

MobileSyrup has also reached out for comment to Global Affairs Canada and the Standing Committee on International Trade and will update this story if comment is provided.

Canada, Mexico and the United States have just wrapped up the third round of NAFTA negotiations, with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland stating that “meaningful advances” have been made in telecommunications and digital trade.

The next round of NAFTA negotiations will take place in Washington, D.C. from October 11th to 15th, 2017, with a planned deadline of late December 2017.


  • Rev0lver

    There are a lot of disagreements on this site about Apple vs Samsung, iOS vs Android etc. But I think we can all agree that Bell can eat a bag of hairy sticks!

  • DownwithRobellus

    Listen here Bell…if you try to pull this shyt everyone will just get VPNs so you going to try and block that too?

    • Ryan Stanfield

      Exactly. And if you block one website that distributes pirated content, another will just popup with a new domain name, etc. And typically people who own these websites are using VPNs to host the data. It’s almost like Bell doesn’t know how the internet works.

    • It’s Me

      No one ever accused better and Rogers of understanding networking technology.

  • Ryan Stanfield

    How about instead of fighting piracy, you change the way content is offered to consumers and provide content at more reasonable prices. Oh and make sure apps like CraveTV actually have a usable interface like Netflix does.

    • Nundo

      If prices were more reasonable, less people would result to piracy. It wouldn’t get rid of the problem, but it would reduce it.
      CraveTV has gotten better over the years, but just like Netflix it’s a MESS to find things.

  • JD

    I call for the dissolution of Bell and imprisonment of their board of directors under Treason.

  • Bill___A

    I don’t like piracy and I don’t engage in it. But I do understand that a lot of people do engage in it. The problem is compelling content, a large part of the world’s population that really can’t afford it, and an exceptionally greedy industry. When I read about things like Di$ney deciding to stop distribution via netflix and come up with their own distribution channel, only one word comes to mind, and that is greed.

    However, I have a long memory. One of the most unjust things I have seen is the private copying levy on cd’s, dvd’s, storage media and other blank storage devices that *could* store pirated material. As long as we have media industry supported programs which punish everyone,whether they have committed a crime or not, I think companies like Bell that make such a big deal out of this can go pound sand.

    If you want to have people listen to you, don’t put in such unfair things like the private copying tax. I store data, do backups, download licensed computer software, etc, and I am punished by this tax for something I didn’t even do. And that, to me is unfair. It seems that the industry that is so adamant about not wanting people to steal content from them is perfectly fine with stealing fees from people who do not steal copyrighted material.

  • Andrew

    So Bell is still GARBAGE, good to know.

  • vn33

    The pirates I know are the Big Media Companies that gouge the consumers, and their weak-minded goverment overeers. Monopolize the content to make it your exclusivity, make consumers pay for levy on removable storage (CD, DVD…), what do you expect when you squeeze hard?

    Go pound some sand!!

  • Ricky Bobby

    This is hilarious

    Bell wants to censor the internet but the ones who’ll take the blame for the mess is CRTC. CRTC hired a Robellus yes man so I won’t be surprised this goes through.

    Even if you defy Bell, they’ll send their own Police force and go Anton Pillar on Canadian Citizens anyway

  • bigshynepo

    If they want to do this, then they should allow Canadians to buy all their cable channels individually and mandate unlimited data usage for wireless customers – then we can talk.

    • Bill___A

      I agree with the suggestion of being able to pick and choose which cable channels we pay for….

  • ChrisPollard77

    Here’s an idea to reduce piracy … make live streaming services (like Shaw’s Freerange … which I actually used to like when I had cable) NOT tied to having cable service! Forced redundancy is stupid. Especially when the cable service is overpriced, filled with HUNDREDS of crap channels full of re-run content. I actually tried to get the CRTC required ‘skinny’ package earlier this year – not available. (What they didn’t tell the country is that they don’t have to offer it in communities under a certain size!)

    So I’ll stick to my Netflix and Amazon Prime. I don’t watch much TV anyway. What the big N and AP don’t offer … there are other ways to see things. They need to look at the popularity of streaming services and their own offerings. They CAN do live streaming (Freerange proves it, and works quite well) – but if I can just watch it on the cable they make you buy to access it, what’s the point? I’d cheerfully pay for a Freerange-style “skinny” package of the networks and CBC/CTV news. But I’m not buying 300 channels I’ll never tune into to view the 3 or 4 I might. That’s just stupid. If they want to complain that paying for the bundles is what funds all the specialty channels, maybe they need to visit whether those ‘specialty’ channels have a business model to even exist.

  • Richie_Peterson

    I have a question for people that read this.

    1. How many of you still download shows, movies and or any visual media and also have a netflix account or watch YouTube or other free video streaming content?

    2. In the same breath, how many of you download songs or audio content and have a paid subscription to something like Spotify or Google Music?

    1. I am guilty of all of this. and I do have a Netflix account as well. Plus I watch Youtube videos once and a while. I pay about $20 a month for how I have this all set up.

    2. I gave up. I have a spotify account for $10 a month and can listen to ALL the music I ever wanted to. Plus free pod casts if I feel like it from elsewhere.

    Point is, with Rogers or Bell or Shaw I would have to pay upwards of $100 for all this and can’t watch the shows when I want to watch them. I do NOT want to have a certain time of night where I sit down and watch a certain show. If we had something like Hulu in Canada I am certain the piracy of shows would be reduced significantly. But for some reason we are stuck behind a copyright and broadcast rights wall where Bell and Rogers hold all the rights for broadcast of all the shows. I was completely frustrated last year by this as I was going to pay for NHL streaming until I found out that I would not see 1 single Maple Leaf home game on the service due to people holding the rights to broadcast it.

    And Bell wonders why people pirate shows. Maybe its because you want to hold the rights to everything we watch and not offer alternative methods of watching on a budget.

    • Marshall Davidson

      Precisely. In the U.S. people have choices to watch by subscription what they want and on their own terms and gladly pay for it but up here the determination of who has the rights to broadcast what and when is the outdated model that these cable outfits still use and expect to continue using well into the 21st century.
      In my view its high time that the CRTC truly opened the doors to competition here and outlawed the notion of broadcast rights or who can show what, when and where. Services like HBO Now should be available in Canada along with Hulu, Showtime etc. and people can decide on their own what content they want to spend their money on. At a minimum we won’t be giving it to these pig companies.

    • Richie_Peterson

      I agree, Services like HBO Now needs to be available to everyone who doesnt want to subscribe to Bell or Rogers. Currently you can only use HBO GO in Canada but need to be subscribe to use it, which is completely ridiculous. I dont have cable, but I do want to watch my Game Of Thrones or other HBO movies/shows. Why do I need to pay for a subscription to do this?

    • Marshall Davidson

      Well HBO is also to blame for entering into agreements like this in Canada however in fairness these agreements were likely made before the advent of HBO Now and other assorted subscription apps.
      Going forward that needs to change but whether there is a will to make it happen is entirely a different story.

    • carloadunicorn

      You have no right to just download something because you feel like it. I fully support criminalizing your behaviour.

    • Rev0lver

      Does Bell allow lube when they bend you over?

    • Richie_Peterson

      Exactly, but give me an option where I can pay a small fee for the few shows I do download outside of Netflix and other free streaming services and I will be all for it. I WILL NOT pay $60 a months for something I rarely use.

  • Can’t Fix Stupid

    More reason to never, ever, under any circumstances give any of your business to Bhell.

  • Marshall Davidson

    This is just further proof of how out of touch Bell is with the realities of the Internet but more importantly the obtuse attitude they have when it comes to offering consumers choices that they would pay for on their own terms. Piracy exists for good reasons and the greed of this company and its peers is key to understanding that.

  • Can’t Fix Stupid

    More reason than ever we need to separate the content owners/distributors (media) from the pipeline owners (wireless, Internet, data, etc).

    Break up Bell, break up Rogers and do what’s is the best interests of Canadians. The cartel has gotta go!

  • carloadunicorn

    This would solve the problem. A lot of people are ethically challenged and choose to steal content they feel entitled to access, but that doesn’t mean they should allowed to do so. If we sent a few people to prison for downloading a season of GoT I bet people would suddenly start acting like mature adults instead of entitled brats.

    • Marshall Davidson

      You sound like a shill for the industry. People pay enough as it is and no one is feeling entitled. Maybe you enjoy having your money hoovered out of your wallet by Robellus but I can assure you you’re in the minority.

    • carloadunicorn

      “People pay enough as it is and no one is feeling entitled.”

      That sentence is amazing in that it CONTRADICTS ITSELF! haha.

    • Rev0lver

      No it doesn’t. If there was an open market then you could possibly make this argument; however, with a controlled market that favours the incumbent players there’s no conflict.

      I’ll keep proudly pirating content until the prices come into line with the quality of the product.

    • carloadunicorn

      You’ll never pay because you’re a morally flawed person. What thief has ever stopped stealing because suddenly they decided they are happy with how the market has shifted. Not only do you steal, but you’re plainly a liar too.

      You’re the reason the rest of us have to put locks on our doors.

    • Rev0lver

      You’ll just delete your comment in a second but I’ll respond anyway.

      Piracy isn’t stealing. Stealing deprives someone of something, piracy doesn’t.

      Now that that’s out of the way, I’ve never stolen anything in my life so no reason to lock your door.

    • Richie_Peterson

      Damn. think he got blocked and I totally missed what he said.

    • Marshall Davidson

      He’s was basically saying those who pirate should all go to jail and that they are ‘entitled’ Doesn’t seem to understand the difference between willing to pay for content and being gouged for it. You can see he’s either a troll or a paid shill for Robellus

  • fidorulz

    To combat piracy the only option that would work is for content to be easily accessible for everyone. Have the CRTC mandate all media companies that operate in Canada (Bell, Amazon, Netflix etc) supply their content and make that content accessible to everyone in Canada via 1 location/application/web portal. Have this service available at a reasonable rate as a subscription.

    In terms of making money the providers would be paid based on amount of viewed content. Thus if one show like Game of Thrones is watched more the provider who owns the rights gets paid more. This is fair as it would still encourage better content for more viewers and thus more revenue. Also it would still make high cost content purchases still worth it for them as they would bring more views

    Blocking sites will not work and provides a very dangerous precedent. Most people who pirate content know how to bypass blocked sites with proxies and dns and many other ways

    This is just an attempt to allow bell to block content it may not like provided no safeguards vs abuse

    • Stephen_81

      I can’t get behind this idea for many reasons.
      A single Portal for all content, would be a monopoly situation, innovation in UX, would be stagnant as no one would have choice but to use the UX provided. Delivery of the content would also be restricted to a single algorithm so discovery of new content would be greatly reduced. Netflix is a pretty good example of a mediocre user experience with no competition to really improve upon it.

      The problem with viewership dictating revenue is, the impossibility of management of that. If I watch half a show does the content creator get half a full show rate? how does that rate scale? is there a pool of ALL revenue that comes in divided across ALL content viewed by the Hour? minute? second? How does advertising come into play? is it permitted? how does the time spent viewing advertising get factored? The management of such a service while good intentioned just isn’t realistic, budgeting would be impossible. NEW content would have a greater barrier to creation.

      The “reasonable rate subscription” is as easily defined as Trudeau’s “Middle Class” It is too vague.

      Ideally for a reasonably priced product they’d bill us based on hours of usage, that would make it fair to the people who say “I won’t pay $100’s for something I barely use” but the people who use a lot would still be driven to piracy for things they want to view over and over.

      If I could have
      ALL NHL games in the current season
      International Sporting events ( World cup, Olympics, etc)
      Canadian Politics News Broadcasts
      The Full Disney Catalogue
      a Scifi based service

      I’d be happy to spend $100/mo for that. so is that reasonably priced? to subjective.

  • Stephen_81

    Bell, Your idea is foolish, New websites can be generated hourly, how can you block them without a sweeping censorship, All that would be accomplished is a short term break, but the liability would be off the carrier, it wouldn’t solve piracy.
    Want to address piracy head on? you need to make content more compelling and easier to access for the majority, Piracy will still exist, but right now it is easier to pirate content than obtain it legally.
    If I want to watch a movie I’ve purchased via BluRay I need to go through menus and warnings, if I download a pirated copy ALL the stuff except for the movie is stripped away. So naturally I do both, I purchase and download a lot of my content.
    Content providers give me the option to digital download when I purchase a combo pack, problem is the quality of that download is 720p… I want a 4K quality download and the 720p download, without the FBI warning, without previews and menus, Just the movie. This isn’t available easily even after purchasing content so one must go to piracy.
    Streaming services limit your access regularly, So Karate kid was on netflix, now I want to watch the sequel , or wait it isn’t available… Off to torrents…

    I am not even really complaining about price. Content creators aren’t giving the content in the way I want to consume it. So I will look for alternatives. and creating a black list of well known sites will just increase the use of VPN and shared FTP servers like we did before torrents.

  • Anonymous Agent

    This is Canada not North Korea. We shouldn’t be controlling what people do on the internet. The internet should be free to do what you please in a country with freedom. Government needs to stop telling us what to do. Government doesn’t own us as people. They are there to manage our finances for the services we use and they should know their place.

    • Omis

      So child porn is ok?

  • abc123

    And Bell subscribers will help bankroll the effort…