Bell, Rogers and Cineplex are among a number of Canadian media companies attempting to push the CRTC to create an anti-piracy not-for-profit organization.
According to a story published by the crowdfunded news site Canadaland, Canadian national telecom Bell is leading a coalition comprised of Rogers, Cineplex and Quebec theatre chain Cinemas Guzzo to petition the CRTC to create an organization that would be called the Internet Piracy Review Agency (IPRA).
IPRA would be responsible for maintaining “a list of websites it had determined were peddling pirated materials, and force all internet service providers in the country to block access to them,” according to the Canadaland report.
Canadaland learned about the coalition’s plans through privately obtained emails, as well as a CRTC draft proposal that was also privately obtained.
The draft proposal mirror comments delivered by Bell to the Standing Committee On International Trade (CIIT) in September 2017.
During the CIIT talks, Bell proposed establishing an independent agency under the CRTC that would similarly blacklist “egregious piracy sites.” Bell further proposed ensuring that Canada’s internet service providers would be required to block these sites.
Canadaland also reported that the coalition plans on filing its application to the CRTC on December 19th, 2017.
Internet policy expert Michael Geist spoke with Canadaland.
“This is a dramatic shift,” said Geist. “This is a prospect of significant internet regulation being done by the CRTC and without any court oversight.”
Geist also pointed out that the CRTC has previously stated that it would only exercise its ability to block website “in exceptional circumstances, and it doesn’t happen in furtherance of other laws.”
The existence of the IPRA would also stand in direct conflict with innovation minister Navdeep Bains’s previous statement to maintain Canada’s commitment to the values of net neutrality.
IPRA would also stand in conflict with Prime Minister Trudeau’s previously stated commitment to Canadian net neutrality.
MobileSyrup has reached out to both Bell, Rogers, and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada for comment. This story will be updated with a response.
Update 5/12/2017 (1): Rogers responded to our request for comment:
“We’re currently reviewing the proposal. On the issue of online piracy, we’re all for streaming and new ways of watching content, but pirating content means that content creators don’t get paid for their work.”
Update 5/12/2017 (2): ISED responded to our request for comment:
“Our Government supports an open Internet where Canadians have the ability to access the content of their choice in accordance to Canadian laws. In other words, our government believes that all legal content must be treated equally by internet service providers (ISPs). Net neutrality is a critical issue of our times, much like freedom of the press and freedom of expression that came before it. That’s why our government has a strong net neutrality framework in place through the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). We are aware that some stakeholders in the cultural industries, including Bell, are calling for additional tools to better fight piracy, particularly in the digital domain.
Canada’s copyright system has numerous legal provisions and tools to help copyright owners protect their intellectual property, both online and in the physical realm. In the digital space, this includes a notice-and-notice regime and measures targeting those who enable infringement. Our government is committed to maintaining one of the best intellectual property and copyright frameworks in the world to support creativity and innovation to the benefit of creators, consumers and all Canadians.”