Canadian ISP Teksavvy Fights Back Against Overbroad Copyright 'Blocking Order' For GoldTV

from the site-blocking dept

A few weeks back, a Canadian court issued a shockingly broad blocking order against GoldTV, an IPTV service that copyright holders allege are engaging in piracy by offering streaming access to unauthorized TV streams. The case itself is interesting in that Bell Media and Rogers Media sued GoldTV's owners (listed as John Does) as defendants, but then also had all Canadian broadband ISPs listed as "respondents," including Bell Canada and Rogers Communications -- which almost makes this a case where Bell and Rogers are effectively suing themselves. Wacky.

The plaintiffs in the case demanded that the various ISPs block GoldTV. Not surprisingly, Bell's and Rogers' ISP arms consented to the demand with no protest (as did Fido and Videotron). Most of the other ISPs "took no position" on the matter. I'm not familiar enough with Canadian civil process to fully understand this, but it sounds more or less like they would agree to whatever the court decided, and wouldn't advocate one way or the other. The only ISP to fight back was Teksavvy. The company's lawyers said that the federal court system lacks the jurisdiction to issue a blocking order. The company's argument was that this is a copyright issue, and Canada's revised copyright law has no provision for site blocking. Indeed, such a remedy was proposed but rejected by the Canadian Parliament. Teksavvy also pointed out that issues of site blocking for ISPs was not within the jurisdiction of Canadian courts, but rather the CRTC, the regulatory agency overseeing communications policy (roughly the equivalent of the American FCC). The argument here is that since the CRTC has a net neutrality-like rule that says that content must be treated equally, site blocking would violate that rule.

Indeed, Teksavvy made it clear that even if GoldTV is a bad actor and engaged in widespread infringement, a full site blocking order is a problematic statement for how the internet should work. In a statement given to the website Mobile Syrup Teksavvy explained its position as a principled one in favor of an open internet (and not as a defender of piracy):

“TekSavvy opposed the original motion because a blocking order is a grave violation of network neutrality and a fundamental change to what we do as Internet service providers,” a spokesperson told MobileSyrup in an email.

[....]

“As unsympathetic as GoldTV may be, TekSavvy’s view is that it does not represent such an urgent harm to the plaintiffs or to society that stopping its copyright infringing activities would justify such a fundamental change in the nature of the Internet in Canada,” the spokesperson said.

The Court rejects all of that. It says that site blocking orders "have proven effective." It also rejects Teksavvy's position that DNS-level blocking would run into problems when it comes to situations where higher level DNS security systems, like DNSSEC are in place. The court does not care and more or less says "nerd harder."

I accept Teksavvy's evidence to the effect that it currently lacks a system or business process to implement and monitor site blocking; however, that evidence does not establish that the cost and complexity of doing so tips this factor in favour of not issuing the order sought.

Of course, the issue is not really one of the expense of doing the blocking, but due to the fact that it would break other aspects of security. But the court ignores that.

Then there's the big one. Teksavvy, rightly, points out the concern that this site blocking order will overblock, and end up blocking legitimate, non-infringing material. The court completely ignores all that by saying that the site blocking order itself is limited, and if something non-infringing gets blocked, the court can always adjust the order, and also the order lets the ISP temporarily lift the block if it needs to "respond to technical or security concerns or to avoid overblocking." And that's it. No practical understanding or consideration of the problems, just "nerd harder."

Regarding the net neutrality question, again, the court rejects the argument. While the court doesn't go quite as far as the plaintiffs want in declaring that site blocking is never a net neutrality issue (which would be quite a horrifying conclusion), it does note that since this is targeting a site engaged in widespread infringement, that it is not covered by net neutrality rules, since those rules only cover "legal content."

Either way, it's a pretty complete loss for Teksavvy, but the ISP has already made it clear it's appealing the order. As Canadian copyright lawyer Howard Knopf notes in the linked story in the previous sentence, site blocking is a huge issue that, in most other places, has gone through a careful legislative debate. Yet, here, it's the court making up the remedy from scratch, and that should worry everyone:

If website blocking is a needed solution to a serious problem, then one would expect explicit and very carefully constructed legislation based upon extensive review and consultation. Other common law jurisdictions where the courts have blocked websites have enacted enabling legislation that merits study. In Canada, it is clearly the role of Parliament to devise and implement copyright legislation.

The job of our courts is to interpret and apply such legislation – not to effectively amend and extend the law to fill in perceived inadequacies.

Indeed, in the US, when site blocking was proposed in the form of SOPA and PIPA, people protested and Congress chose not to implement it. It would be hugely troubling for a court to then jump in and say "well, site blocking is okay because I said so." And, yet, that's more or less what this Canadian court did here.

Filed Under: blocking, canada, copyright, isps, site blocking
Companies: goldtv, teksavvy


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 1:47pm

    'Legislation? Bah, I'm a judge, that doesn't concern me.'

    The company's argument was that this is a copyright issue, and Canada's revised copyright law has no provision for site blocking. Indeed, such a remedy was proposed but rejected by the Canadian Parliament.

    The fact that site blocking was proposed and rejected by parliament really should have been sufficient to tank the whole thing, but I guess this judge has decided that if the politicians can't get it 'right' it's up to them to take up the slack and craft the law to their tastes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Gorshkov (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 2:04pm

      Re: 'Legislation? Bah, I'm a judge, that doesn't concern me.'

      Just because Parliament did not include site blocking does not mean a judge can't find a justification for blocking from common or case law.

      That being said,I think this judge is seriously out to lunch and this was a seriously bad decision. Knowing the law doesn't mean you know squat about technical issues. I've had this argument many times with one of my sisters, who is a lawyer.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2019 @ 2:22pm

        Re: Re: 'Legislation? Bah, I'm a judge, that doesn't concern me.

        Just because Parliament did not include site blocking does not mean a judge can't find a justification for blocking from common or case law.

        Parliament didn't just "not include" site blocking, they explicitly considered and rejected it. The judge is ordering an action that Parliament chose not to enact.

        I struggle to see how the judge can justify "Parliament thought about this and chose not to make it law, but I'm going to order it anyway."

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2019 @ 2:36pm

          Re: Re: Re: 'Legislation? Bah, I'm a judge, that doesn't concern

          Is that what an activist judge is?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            keithzg (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 4:33pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: 'Legislation? Bah, I'm a judge, that doesn't con

            Funny enough, you never see the folks complaining about "activist judges" come out of the woodwork when a judge does something like this for large corporations. Wonder what that's about!

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Gorshkov (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 6:14pm

          Re: Re: Re: 'Legislation? Bah, I'm a judge, that doesn't concern

          The judge is not there to worry about what laws Parliament did NOT pass - His job is to interpret the laws that they did.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 5 Dec 2019 @ 6:54am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: 'Legislation? Bah, I'm a judge, that doesn't con

            I am interested in what makes you hold this opinion.
            Where is it stated that judges shall not consider the intent of a law but rather they shall only interpret the letter of the law .... where does this appear in official governmental policy / procedure?

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              Gorshkov (profile), 5 Dec 2019 @ 10:32am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 'Legislation? Bah, I'm a judge, that doesn't

              It doesn't. But just because a judge can consider the intent of the law, doesn't mean he has to.

              Case in point - and one that has been discussed here many times: laws regarding child pornography. Every one of those laws were intended to protect children - I'm pretty sure we can all agree on that. But that hasn't stopped many judges from interpreting the letter of the law strictly and convicting 15 year old children from sending naked pictures to a bf or gf, has it?

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 5 Dec 2019 @ 1:12pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 'Legislation? Bah, I'm a judge, that doe

                "It doesn't. But just because a judge can consider the intent of the law, doesn't mean he has to."

                Oh sure, and a judge does not even have to consider the law. However, that judge may find out that others disagree.

                The prosecution of CP is a bad example in this case.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 6 Dec 2019 @ 11:31pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: 'Legislation? Bah, I'm a judge, that doesn't con

            The judge is not there to worry about what laws Parliament did NOT pass - His job is to interpret the laws that they did.

            But in interpreting those laws and considering the remedies that are available, a potential remedy that Parliament explicitly rejected shouldn't be an option.

            I could agree with your point if Parliament had never considered the option, but knowing that it had, it seems like this judge is legislating from the bench.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2019 @ 1:58pm

    Bell Media and Rogers Media should just block those copyright infringing enablement sites like bellmedia.ca and rogersmedia.com.

    That will teach em

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2019 @ 2:28pm

      Re:

      People should just switch their DNS provider to a DOH provider, and bypass the blocks. If that happens, can Bell Media and Rogers Media be sued for failing to implement the block?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    keithzg (profile), 4 Dec 2019 @ 4:41pm

    Not surprisingly, Bell's and Rogers' ISP arms consented to the demand with no protest (as did Fido and Videotron).

    A bit of a repetition there, as Fido is owned by Rogers.

    Videotron used to be elsewhere in Canada, but gave up and now operates only in Quebec as far as I know.

    I see Telus and Shaw (the remaining big ISPs) decided to take no position on these matters, which is at least better than enthusiastically consenting to them I guess.

    And that's basically all the ISPs we actually have here in Canada. Good on Teksavvy for once again being the sole ISP we have here to actually stand up for its customers and the proper functioning of the internet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Dec 2019 @ 2:07am

    and if something non-infringing gets blocked, the court can always adjust the order

    I can only hope that the original response or argument included at least one instance of non-infringing content - because that alone would indicate the inconsistent, self-contradictory and inherent over-reach of the judges' order

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Copying Is Not Theft
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.