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  1. Canada is a relative newcomer when it comes to pirate site blocking. At the moment it remains unclear how most ISPs will technically implement these blocks and whether they'll communicate this information to the public. To find out more we reached out to nearly a dozen providers. Unfortunately, only one took the time to respond. Last November, Canada’s Federal Court approved the first pirate site blockade in the country. Following a complaint from major media companies Rogers, Bell and TVA, the Court ordered several major ISPs to block access to domains and IP-addresses of the pirate IPTV service GoldTV. These types of blocking efforts are common in quite a few countries. However, in Canada they are new, which means that developments are closely watched by both supporters and opponents. One of these newer developments is the expansion of the blocklist with new domain names. After the initial injunction was ordered GoldTV became accessible through new addresses, effectively circumventing the court’s measures. This was dealt with by blocking the new domains as well. This extension of the court’s order was permitted under the injunction and signed off by the court. This order is also public to those who pay to access it, which allows us to report on it. However, as more and more blocks are issued this process may become harder to follow. It would be more transparent if ISPs published a list of blocked domains and IP-addresses. This would make it possible for the public to see what’s going on and report errors. If there are any. This transparency idea isn’t too far-fetched. Canada’s current net neutrality regulations require ISPs to disclose what traffic management practices they use. Disclosing a list of blocked domain names and IP-addresses could fall into the same category. As we were unable to find any ISP publicly listing this information on a page that’s available outside its network, we decided to ask them whether they had any plans to provide one. In addition, we also asked what technical means the ISPs use to block domain names. Is it a simple DNS redirect, or are there more invasive techniques in use? After waiting for several days, we still only have a response from one Internet provider. The ten remaining companies simply stayed quiet and didn’t even acknowledge receipt of our questions. The company that did respond is TekSavvy, which also happens to be the only ISP that appealed the blocking injunction. TekSavvy’s vice-president of regulatory affairs, Andy Kaplan-Myrth, informs us that they already provide detailed information to blocked users. This includes links to all the blocked domains and the court order itself. In the future, TekSavvy plans to make this available to outsiders as well. The ISP shared a copy of the info page (pdf) with us but it’s not linked from the ISP’s website yet. The information shows that TekSavvy is using DNS blocking. It effectively changes the DNS entry so the domains point to the blocking notice instead of the regular page. Kaplan-Myrth notes that this works but adds that the blockade can be circumvented when subscribers switch to alternative DNS providers such as Google, Cloudflare, or OpenDNS. While we are pleased with TekSavvy’s openness, the lack of response from the other ISPs isn’t very encouraging when it comes to transparency. We contacted Bell, Rogers, SaskTel, Cogeco, Eastlink, Distribitel, Fido, Shaw, Telus, and Videotron, without hearing back. Although more transparency is welcome, the Canadian system is quite open compared to some other countries. In the UK for example, none of the blocklist changes are publicized beyond the initial court orders. This means that it’s more or less a guess how many are blocked. Source
  2. A group of major broadcasters and telco giants, including Rogers and Bell, have obtained the first Canadian pirate site blocking order. The Federal Court approved a request that requires several major ISPs to block access to domains and IP-addresses of the pirate IPTV service GoldTV. The order paves the way for a broader site blocking push, that may target traditional pirate sites as well. Last year, a coalition of copyright holders and major players in the telco industry asked the Canadian Government to institute a national pirate site blocking scheme. The Fairplay coalition argued that such measures would be required to effectively curb online piracy. Canada’s telco regulator CRTC reviewed the request but eventually denied the application, noting that it lacks jurisdiction. The driving forces behind the request, Bell, Rogers, and Groupe TVA, were not prepared to let the blocking idea slip away, however. A few months ago the companies filed a lawsuit against the operators of a ‘pirate’ IPTV service GoldTV.ca. The companies argued that the service provides access to their TV content without licenses or authorization. Among other things, the rightsholders requested an interim injunction to stop the operators, who remain unidentified, from continuing to offer the allegedly-infringing IPTV service. This was granted, but despite the order, some of the infrastructures remained available. This resulted in a follow-up request from the media giants, which became the setup for the first-ever pirate site blocking order in Canada. Specifically, the companies requested an interlocutory injunction order that would require several Canadian ISPs to block GoldTV domain names and IP-addresses. Late last week this request was granted by a Federal Court in Ontario. An order, issued by Judge Patrick Gleeson, requires most of Canada’s largest ISPs, including Cogeco, Rogers, Bell, Eastlink and, TekSavvy, to start blocking their customers’ access to GoldTV within 15 days. The order is unique in North America and relies heavily on UK jurisprudence, can be extended with new IP-addresses and domain names, if those provide access to the same IPTV service. The court doesn’t prescribe a specific blocking method but mentions DNS and IP-address blocking as options. Since Rogers and Bell are also ISPs, these companies didn’t object to their own demands. Several other Internet providers didn’t protest either. However, TekSavvy did, listing a broad range of objections. TekSavvy, for example, argued that blocking websites isn’t very effective, as subscribers have plenty of workarounds they can try, including VPNs. In addition, the company pointed out that many smaller ISPs are not affected by the order, which means that they don’t have to block the service. Judge Gleeson recognized that blocking measures are not foolproof. However, based on the evidence provided, he concluded that it’s effective enough to make a difference. “It’s clear from the evidence that site-blocking will not eliminate user access to infringing services. However, the evidence does establish that in those jurisdictions where site-blocking measures have been implemented there has been a significant reduction in visits to infringing websites. “I am satisfied that a site-blocking order is an effective means of limiting access to GoldTV Services,” Judge Gleeson added. TekSavvy further argued that it could become very costly to implement a site-blocking system, which would put a significant financial strain on the company. In addition, the order would set a precedent that could lead to hundreds or even thousands of site-blocking orders Judge Gleeson didn’t agree with this assessment. TekSaffy can rely on DNS and IP-address blocking, which it’s already technically capable of. That wouldn’t require any new hardware investments. In addition, ISPs don’t have to pay the costs of the implementation, as that will be covered by the rightsholders. TekSavvy also pointed out that site-blocking measures violate net neutrality and freedom of expression. But again, the Court was not convinced that this weighs stronger than the interests of the rightsholders. “I am satisfied, in the face of a strong prima facie case of ongoing infringement and a draft order that seeks to limit blocking to unlawful sites and incorporates processes to address inadvertent over-blocking, that neither net neutrality nor freedom of expression concerns tip the balance against granting the relief sought,” Judge Gleeson writes. All in all, the Federal Court sided with the copyright holders. This means that the first-ever pirate site blockade in Canada will soon be in effect. Whether TekSavvy or any of the other ISPs plan to appeal the decision is not known at this point. The site-blocking question has been a point of debate in Canada over the past several months. While local authorities and lawmakers have spoken out against a non-judicial site-blocking regime, Judge Gleeson’s ruling shows that site-blocking injunctions certainly are an option. Interestingly, this approach was previously raised by opponents of Fairplay Coalition’s site blocking push. At the time, the rightsholders countered that the legal process could take up to 765 days, but in this case, it went a lot quicker. A copy of Judge Gleeson’s order is available here (pdf). source
  3. Representatives from the music, publishing, and sports industries have submitted their arguments in favor of Canada's court-ordered pirate site blocks. The groups intervene in TekSavvy's appeal and argue that site blocking is one of the few options to stop rampant copyright infringement on the Internet. Two years ago, Canadian broadcasting giants Groupe TVA, Bell, and Rogers took the relatively small pirate IPTV service GoldTV to court. What started as a simple copyright lawsuit soon became much more than that. With the pirate service failing to respond in court, the rightsholders requested an injunction to require local ISPs to block several related domain names. This request met pushback from some ISPs but to no avail. Late 2018, Canada became the first North American country to require an ISP to block a pirate site or service. Site Blocking Appeal This blockade is still in place today but Internet provider TekSavvy has continued to object. The company filed an appeal at the Federal Court, which is ongoing. This raised the interest of several third parties, who all want to have their say in this important matter. Earlier this month, the .CA domain registry and CIPPIC filed their interventions, arguing that blocking injunctions violate the Copyright Act and Telecoms Act. On the other side of the spectrum, several copyright holders also asked the court to be heard. This request was approved under the condition that they would file a joint submission. Copyright holders Intervene TorrentFreak obtained a copy of the memorandum, submitted on behalf of the Premier League, Music Canada and the Publishers Association, among others. As expected, they back the blocking efforts. In their submission, the copyright holders paint a grim picture of an Internet that’s full of illegal activity. This includes pirate sites and services that are nearly impossible to stop. Site blocking is one of the only options they have to counter the threat. “Offenders operate under cloaks of anonymity, operating download and streaming sites and servers typically from outside Canada, flouting court orders, and undermining the rule of law. Voluntary takedown requests are ignored or deteriorate into a futile game of whack-a-mole,” the submission reads. “Claimants have few if any direct means of enforcing court orders against such offenders. Blocking orders to be implemented by Internet service providers (‘ISPs’) are one of the only means available to disrupt these and other illegal business models.” In isolation, these comments will do little to convince the court, but they represent just the introduction to a series of legal arguments. TekSavvy’s appeal challenges whether the court has jurisdiction over this matter, but the rightsholders believe that this critique is unwarranted. The blocking order is in line with international treaty obligations, they counter. In addition, they don’t see the Copyright Act as a stumbling block either. No Net Neutrality for ‘Unlawful’ Traffic The same is true for net neutrality. Canada’s net neutrality policy doesn’t allow Internet providers to block domains or specific traffic types. However, the copyright holders note that this doesn’t apply to ‘unlawful’ traffic. “Although the precise scope of net neutrality is not universally agreed upon or well-defined, it is clear that the international consensus is that it does not operate to protect unlawful conduct. “There is no basis to suggest that Canada has diverged in that respect from analogous jurisdictions,” the copyright holders write. Copyright Trumps Freedom of Expression Aside from the jurisdictional matters, TekSavvy and other interveners also raised concerns about freedom of expression, which is a human right. The copyright holders, for their part, counter that copyright is a human right as well. They don’t believe that freedom of expression is at stake here, but even if it is, copyright would weigh stronger in this particular case. “Even if free expression interests were engaged, which they are not, they would be outweighed in this case by the harm to expression from massive global piracy of creative industries. “Courts around the world with strong freedom of speech rights have found that blocking orders do not violate those rights,” the intervention adds. Based on these and other arguments the copyright holders ask the court to uphold the federal court ruling and keep the blocks in place. It is now up to the court to go over all submissions which will then lead to a final decision. Whatever the outcome, the case is no longer just limited to the GoldTV service. It will determine if other ‘pirate’ sites and services can also be blocked in the future, which has the potential to impact millions of people. A copy of the intervening memorandum of fact and law, submitted on behalf of the copyright holders, is available here (pdf). Source
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