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Bell allegedly lobbied Ryerson University to support FairPlay website-blocking coalition

More documents unearthed by Michael Geist point towards Bell lobbying Canadian post-secondary institutions

fairplay canada

More documents unearthed by University of Ottawa internet law professor Michael Geist point to the fact that Bell lobbied post-secondary institutions to support the FairPlay Canada website-blocking coalition.

Geist was able to obtain these documents through Canada’s access to information laws. MobileSyrup has not had the opportunity to review original copies of the documents.

According to a blog post Geist published on August 8th, 2018, TSN senior vice president Mark Milliere lobbied Charles Falzon, dean of Ryerson University’s Faculty of Communication and Design (FCAD), to support the FairPlay Canada coalition.

“There are as always varying views allowed to nurture at a University” — Charles Falzon, dean of Ryerson University’ Faculty of Communication and Design

FairPlay Canada is comprised of approximately 25 Canadian media companies — including Bell and Rogers Media — whose goal is to convince the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to establish an Independent Piracy Review Agency (IPRA) to review websites that “blatantly engaged” in content theft.

The agency would be able to block websites without seeking out a court order, but would still be subject to review by the Federal Court of Appeals (FCA).

According to the documents obtained by Geist, Falzon initially responded to Milliere by stating that “there is a significant possibility of receiving criticism and counter-opinions publicly from staff and faculty at Ryerson,” in response to the FairPlay Canada coalition’s goals.

However, Falzon nonetheless provided Bell with a draft of Ryerson’s position, despite an earlier message stating that he could not “formally represent the entire faculty at Ryerson.”

“there is a significant possibility of receiving criticism and counter-opinions publicly from staff and faculty at Ryerson” — Charles Falzon

“There are as always varying views allowed to nurture at a University,” wrote Falzon, in an email to Milliere.

Falzon ultimately filed an intervention to the CRTC on behalf of FCAD stating that the faculty’s support for FairPlay Canada is a result of the fact that Ryerson has “been known for providing much of Canada’s new talent for the cultural and communications industries.”

MobileSyrup has reached out to Bell and Ryerson University for comment. This story will be updated with a response.

Past lobbying efforts

Geist revealed in May 2018 that Bell successfully lobbied Brock University to support the FairPlay Canada coalition.

Interestingly enough, Bell was reportedly able to connect with Brock University through former Ryerson University professor Cheri Bradish.

Geist later revealed in June 2018 that Bell had also successfully lobbied George Brown College.

TSN senior vice president Mark Milliere was responsible for lobbying both Brock University and George Brown College.

FairPlay opposition

Despite the support that FairPlay Canada has seemingly amassed, a number of groups — including digital rights advocates OpenMedia and members of the federal government — have expressed opposition to the coalition.

OpenMedia even went so far as to stage a day of protest to raise support against the FairPlay coalition.

The group was able to submit 60,809 comments in opposition to FairPlay Canada to the CRTC.

Canada’s House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics (ETHI) also released a report recommending that the government request the CRTC reconsider its decision, in the event that the Commission issues a ruling in favour of the FairPlay Canada application.

“Therefore, the Committee is concerned that, in the event that the CRTC accepts FairPlay Canada’s application, net neutrality may be eroded in Canada by allowing Internet content blocking and censorship,” reads an excerpt from the May 9th ETHI report.

“…in the event that the CRTC accepts FairPlay Canada’s application, net neutrality may be eroded in Canada by allowing Internet content blocking and censorship” — ETHI committee report

Bell has also been accused of inappropriately reviewing the FairPlay Canada application with the CRTC, though the Commission responded to those accusations by stating that the meeting was in-line with standard procedure.

“The CRTC staff meet with all stakeholders, including consumer groups, on a regular basis,” wrote CRTC spokesperson Patricia Valladao, in a previous email to MobileSyrup.

“In doing this, [the stakeholders] are free to raise any issues that are not before the commission. So there is nothing procedurally unusual in this case.”

As of May 14th, 2018, the CRTC is no longer accepting reply comments for the FairPlay Canada file.

The Commission is expected to move to an analysis phase before coming to a final decision.

Source: Michael Geist

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