Recently, a Federal Court of Canada judge ordered internet service providers in the country to block certain websites. Lawyers for the ISP TekkSavvy Solutions says that this move was a mistake, as it was not only overreaching the court’s jurisdiction, but a violation of the freedom of expression, as protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
TekkSavvy lawyer Colin Baxter, speaking to a Federal Court of Canada appeal panel, says that the judge saw an issue and understandably wanted to fix it, but in legislative context the judge made a mistake, something that they and law firms like Donich Law would clearly see.
The judge in question rejected an earlier appeal from lawyers, Baxter included, that stated that only the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) had the jurisdiction to handle site-blocking orders. The lawyers noted that the Copyright Act’s statutory scheme didn’t allow for that, something that would be obvious to anyone like Donich Law with a proper reading.
The original verdict by the Federal Court of Canada required 11 ISPs, Teksavvy included, to prohibit access to sites like GoldTV, which were giving users access to copyrighted content without the proper authorization.
The order was sought out by Bell, Rogers and Quebecor’s Groupe TVA and others following two injunction orders didn’t accomplish much against the sites’ anonymous operators. The content remained on the sites and broadcasters wanted to stop people from accessing these sites, which were providing access to their copyrighted content without authorization.
The sites used third-party ISPs, including TekSavvy, Eastlink, Cogeco, Rogers, Communications, Bell Canada, Videotron, and Shaw Communications. Out of these ISPs, Four accepted the blocking order, with the rest taking no position on the matter.
TekSavvy is notably the only ISP fighting against the order, though intervenors like the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association have also gotten approval.
The blocking order was issued back in 2019, and was set to last for 2 years. The Federal Court of Canada will be reviewing the order by the end of 2021. The ISPs have the list of sites that are blocked, with sites being added or removed as deemed necessary.
As of early 2021, none of the original sites the order was targeted at remain on the list.