On April 14, the federal government launched a “Consultation on a Modern Copyright Framework for Online Intermediaries”. In their accompanying policy paper, the government suggests giving itself sweeping powers to create enforceable website block lists, shutting off access to any parts of the web accused by rights-holding media giants like Bell Media and Shaw’s Corus Entertainment of hosting content that infringes on their copyright.3
But that’s just the start of the censorship that could be coming our way — and chillingly, the government wouldn’t even be doing most of their own dirty work. According to the proposal, intermediaries like ISPs and libraries could lose many of the protections they currently enjoy from frivolous lawsuits from rights-holders, exposing them to considerable legal risk.
Solution? The government helpfully suggests intermediaries develop their own censorship policies to avoid being sued, suggesting they consider options like handing out suspensions to users, proactively blocking websites that are named in infringement notices, and even permanently banning users that rights-holders have complained about. The inevitable result? Thousands of people disconnected and websites blocked to avoid legal risk — all without a real court ever considering the merits of their case!
And let’s remind ourselves: all of this is to address an ‘urgent’ copyright infringement problem that doesn’t exist. Piracy has steadily declined in recent years around the world, including in Canada — not because of website blocking, but because of the growth of legitimate streaming services. The reality is that when rights holders give us a fair deal for the creative content we want on platforms that work, most of us prefer to pay for it.4,5
That’s no justification for giving this kind of sweeping power over what we see online to the federal government and Big Telecom.
But if we swamp the website blocking consultation RIGHT NOW urging the government to drop this censorship scheme, we can stop it in its tracks. If you haven’t already, send your comment to the consultation: NO government website blocking powers!