A coalition of internet and media companies have put forth a proposal to the CRTC allowing them to create a panel which would determine what websites are acceptable for Canadian internet users. Although the proposed rules focus mainly on blocking piracy sites, media companies (who are in some cases also internet service providers) tend to have a very broad view of what constitutes piracy, along with an inflated view of the harm it creates.
In Canada the internet, cell phone service, and more are regulated by the CRTC. The CRTC is the governmental body that has created or upheld:
- net neutrality: a decision that your internet service provider (ISP) should treat all internet content you access the same way; no fast lanes, no censorship, etc.
- 2 year cell plans (plans used to be 3 years)
- forced cell-phone unlocking: companies must allow you to use your cellphone on the network of your choice – you can bring the phone you bought from Bell to Telus, for instance
- anti-spam rules
- and many others
Although they’re not perfect, the CRTC often sides with consumer choice, protection, and privacy. The case at hand threatens to throw all of these values out the window, and severely reduce the protection of net neutrality and Canadian internet freedoms.
Although the idea of reducing Canadian’s ability to access pirated content on the internet may not strike you as a big problem, the facts are that this committee would sidestep normal judicial processes, create a process which could be abused to silence political speech, and lead to site-blocking actions which are likely to have collateral damage, blocking other unrelated websites. What’s absolutely crucial to the danger of this proposal is that the initial blocking of a website by the review agency would occur outside of the court system - no crime would need to be proven, and the website owner may not get a chance to defend themselves. Only after the site has been blocked would the website owner be able to have due process, by fighting the block order in court.
Canadian law professor Dr. Michael Geist is writing extensively about the various reasons this change is unneeded, and the many negative consequences that would follow from an adoption of the proposal. According to Geist, this proposal:
- violates Canadian net neutrality rules
- promotes website blocking that is ineffective
- promotes website blocking that can create collateral damage, blocking unrelated sites
- ignores the fact that piracy in Canada is having little negative effect on our media
- creates a system whose lack of court orders is internationally uncommon
What You Can Do
The CRTC is currently consulting with Canadians via a comment form Open Media has a form for sending feedback to the CRTC which also gives a brief explanation of the issue.
unfairplay.ca also provides an easy-to-use comment form for sending feedback to the CRT. It also suggests contacting some of the companies behind the proposal on Twitter.
- Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)
- the Canadian governmental body responsible for regulating broadcasting and telecommunications: TV, Radio, telephone, internet, and wireless providers
- Open Media
- the most prominent Canadian advocacy/activist group working on internet and communication issues. They “work to keep the Internet open, affordable, and surveillance-free.”
- FairPlay Canada
- the group behind the proposal
The news of this proposal was originally uncovered by the Canadian investigative journalism site/podcast Canadaland.