CRTC Shuts Down Ill-Considered Website Blocking Proposal in Win for Innovation and Free Expression

| October 02, 2018

The CRTC rejected a proposal for a mechanism that could be used to block websites accused of copyright infringement, in a definitive victory for digital innovation and free expression in Canada. As we pointed out in our joint intervention with OpenMedia, the proposal was deeply flawed for its lack of effective procedural safeguards, which could have led to the censorship of websites and online services that were not engaged in copyright infringement. The proposal also disturbed a carefully calibrated series of trade-offs that sits at the heart of Canada's balanced copyright regime and conflicted with long-standing principles of net neutrality by compelling ISPs to interfere with customer access to content. On the other hand, claims advanced in justification of the website blocking proposal dramatically overstated the harm caused by online copyright infringement. While such infringement does continue to occur, its detrimental impact does not rise to such levels as to justify the adoption of an extraordinary remedy of this sort, with its many attendant unintended impacts.

As CIPPIC/OpenMedia and many other public interest interveners urged, the CRTC denied the claim on the basis that it lacked legal authority to interfere with copyright policy by ordering extreme website blocking remedies. However, as both the government undertakes comprehensive reviews of Canada's telecommunications, broadcasting and copyright regimes, those who have most strenuously advanced this form of expedited website blocking mechanism are sure to continue to do so in these other fora.