Shaw Joins Bell in Calling for Internet Censorship

Just days after Bell’s plan to censor the Internet was exposed, new details are emerging that says Shaw is joining the call to censor the Internet. The caveat here is that Shaw wants court oversight.

We’ve been bringing you news about the growing calls from major corporations to censor the Internet in Canada. Earlier, we helped to break the story that Bell is drafting a proposal that would call on the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to institute Internet blacklists. The proposal would call on the CRTC to create a non-profit corporation called Internet Piracy Review Agency (IPRA) to maintain a list of censored websites accused of copyright infringement.

Based on these concepts, we delved deeper into the story and looked at examples from other countries faced with similar calls to censor the Internet. We uncovered our coverage from 2011 when we discussed a similar concept from the US over the PROTECT IP act. In conclusion, we found that not only are blacklists ineffective, but also pose a grave security risk to the Internet.

Today, we are learning of new developments in the story. Shaw, a second of Canada’s three major ISPs, is joining calls to censor the Internet. The difference here is that Shaw wants court oversight to such censorship. Michael Geist is pointing to a submission to the CRTC by Shaw in which the ISP is calling on the CRTC to institute Internet censorship. In the submission (PDF), Shaw comments extensively on KODI boxes and so-called “illegal” streaming from black and grey markets. Shaw contends that Canadians are posing as Americans and purchasing subscriptions to authorized legal streaming services like Netflix not available to Canadians. In response, the submission states the following:

(Page 17)

What is needed to give effect to this framework are the specific tools and remedies to counter the availability of illegal streaming services in Canada. One approach is to give rightsholders the ability to obtain court orders requiring ISPs to block access to streaming services that infringe Canadian copyright, an approach that has been taken in other jurisdictions;

(Page 18)

Shaw submits that the CRTC should consider using its authority under section 36 to approve court orders for ISPs to block access to online services infringing Canadian copyright law. While the Telecommunications Act’s objectives articulated in section 7 do not refer directly to the promotion or protection of a Canadian rights market, there is a clear case that blocking access to illegal streaming services responds to the “economic and social requirements of user of telecommunication services”, in furtherance of paragraph 7(e).

Geist notes that the call for Internet censorship is sparking swift backlash as Conservative MP Matt Jeneroux asked the government about the calls for Internet censorship with no court oversight. The question is clearly in reference to the Bell proposal as that proposal suggested such censorship orders shouldn’t require court oversight. Liberal MP David Lametti reiterated earlier comments about the Canadian governments commitment to network neutrality.

This is by far not the first digital rights battle Canada has ever seen. In fact, the battle to protect Internet rights extends clear back into the beginning of my journalism career in 2005. Times were definitely different, but the issues remain similar. Back then, digital rights advocates were fighting what was then known as Bill C-60 and Bill C-74. The bills at the time would allow major record labels and movie studios to sue Canadians en-mass and put in place mass Internet surveillance.

On the copyright side of things, the battle was largely seen as a fight between foreign multi-national corporate record labels and Canadian’s. The efforts to bring in a then referred to Canadian DMCA largely failed after considerable backlash. Of course, the thing to note about the debates back then is that Canadian ISPs were much less keen on playing the roll of the copyright police. This is because they knew the considerable cost of doing business being tacked on just to please a few foreign corporations.

The question then becomes, what has changed between the Canadian copyright debate of the past back then and today? One can speculate that the same groups fighting against user rights back then likely knew that in order to crack down on innovation and digital rights in Canada, they would need to bring the ISPs on side. Indeed, things have been pretty quiet in recent years with a few flashes of developments, but nothing really significant until now. It’s possible that foreign record labels and movie studios quietly spent time trying to sway ISPs to abandon Internet users and join their side. Who really knows what happened in the last few years? What we do know is that ISPs have grown increasingly interested in stifling the Internet today.

While we do have a ways to go before things start looking critical in Canada, the ball has certainly started rolling. Geist alluded to this in these remarks:

While it is encouraging that the government is defending net neutrality, the prospect of website blocking extends beyond just the issues of net neutrality into freedom of expression and other fundamental rights. With the carriers apparently lining up to support blocking, this is shaping up to be one of the defining digital rights issues of the coming year.

Indeed, it will be interesting to see if the Canadian government sticks to their promise of keeping the Internet open or if they will eventually flip-flop and suddenly start taking an anti-Internet approach once the lobbying begins to intensify.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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