Supreme Court of Canada refuses to strike down nation’s first anti-piracy web block

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By Chris Cooke | Posted on Wednesday March 30th, 2022

The Supreme Court of Canada has refused to hear an appeal by internet service provider TekSavvy seeking to overturn the first copyright-based web blocking order to be issued in the country.

Web blocking – where ISPs are ordered by courts to block customers from accessing copyright-infringing websites – has become an anti-piracy tactic of choice for the music industry in countries where such blocks are available.

While it’s usually music or movie companies that initially seek web blocking orders against pirate sites in a given jurisdiction, in Canada it’s actually certain internet companies that have led the charge.

Although these are internet companies that are also cable TV companies, and therefore have a vested interest in stopping the unlicensed distribution of online content. This included Bell Media, Groupe TVA and Rogers Media.

After failing to persuade the CRTC, the nation’s telecommunications regulator, to incite web blocking, internet and media companies went to court to seek a big old web block against GoldTV, a video service without license. And they succeeded, with the Federal Court of Canada issuing the web-blocking injunction they sought in 2019.

However, rival ISP TekSavvy was unimpressed with this development and took the case to Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal. He argued that Canadian copyright law does not specifically allow web blocking, that web blocks don’t really work, and that this particular anti-piracy tactic raises concerns about free speech and net neutrality.

But last May, the appeals court refused to overturn the web blocking. In response to that ruling, last August, TekSavvy asked the Supreme Court of Canada to intervene, raising the same concerns about web blocking that it expressed in its original appeal. However, last week the Supreme Court declined to consider TekSavvy’s arguments, meaning the web blocking remains in place.

In a recent blog post summarizing the case, a law firm that represented Bell, TVA and Rogers – Smart & Biggar – said, “This decision confirms once and for all that site blocking orders are available in Canada. and is another major victory for Canadian copyright owners in the fight against online piracy”.



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