Canada – Bloc Leader Wants ISPs Liable for Copyright Infringement

The copyright reform debate in Canada has a new twist – and it comes from the party that wants to separate Quebec from Canada.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe answered a concerned Canadian’s letter over bill C-61 with what his stance is.

It may highlight what could be something that would send chills down the spines of many users of digital media and technology. After the Liberal party’s Bill C-60 and the Conservatives Bill C-61, some may have hoped that the Bloc (the third largest party currently sitting in the Canadian House of Commons) would oppose the current legislation and offer something a little more pro-consumer. Those hopes were very likely dashed after the leader of the Bloc made his stance clear on the legislation.

The response was posted on a blog called ‘I Never Knew’. Patrick Tanguay writes, “I got a letter on Friday answering my letter to Duceppe concerning the crapiness of C-61”

He offers a translation of the letter and one of the bigger portions of interest is this:

And so, even though the main winners of illegal download are the internet providers who charge money to those who download, nothing in the bill restrains that practice. Only consumers are perceived as breaking the law and creators, to have their rights respected, have to do the work themselves.

Tanguay comments, “Making ISPs responsible for illegal downloading is a step toward traffic shaping (blocking torrents) and the emphasis shouldn’t be in people suing people but on a balanced solution. Doesn’t look like that’s what the Bloc is advocating.”

It might be a bit difficult to understand what Duceppe is suggesting here. Is it requiring ISPs to block BitTorrent/ED2K/etc. or is Duceppe suggesting ISPs do something else? Currently, ISPs are being legislated to participate in a notice-and-notice scheme under Bill C-61. It’s possible that Duceppe might be advocating a notice-and-takedown system, but what is offered in the response doesn’t seem to be headed in that direction.

Take, for instance, what France is currently trying to put in place (three strike policy). The French separation could possibly also be wanting to emulate what the French president is currently trying to impose on citizens in France given that it might satisfy what Mr. Duceppe is advocating.

Then there is what a few British MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) have proposed which appears to make ISPs become copyright police – it’s a piece of legislation that has a deadline coming up in two days. The proposal has been very controversial.

What doesn’t appear to be addressed is who is going to pay for policing the networks if ISPs were to be liable for copyright infringement in some form or another. Canadian ISPs have made it clear that policing their networks is going to require much more manpower – and therefore, more money particularly during the CRIA (Canadian Recording Industry Association) discovery case back in 2005. Clearly, the Bloc’s opinion on copyright reform would be fiercely challenged by the countries ISPs because it’s a financial issue.

It is worth noting that even the much hated Digital Millennium Copyright Act says that ISPs are merely conduits and not liable for what goes on in their networks.

“We need to be aware of the thinking of these ISPs and marketing companies when discussing things like ISP liability. A technical person will look at the end-to-end principle that was intended to be the design of the Internet,” Russell McOrmond of Digital Copyright Canada comments, “and think it is wrong to force these folks to inspect and/or modify (filter) traffic. But we need to realize that not all companies marketing services called “Internet access” are actually offering a service we technical people would recognize as an Internet service.”

McOrmond also points to a recent series on a TWiT podcast called Security Now. Episode 149 talks about ISP privacy while episode 151 talks about Phorm. He seems to suggest that there will also be a major privacy issue when it comes to either getting ISPs to monitor or “shape” different forms of traffic as hinted by Duceppe.

McOrmond also points to a previous letter from the Bloc suggesting that the Bloc thinks C-61 doesn’t go far enough.

Either way, it’s one thing to want ISPs to be liable for copyright infringement, but legislating such a thing without getting an earful from them would be quite another – especially when there is no ISP compensation involved. Either way, this arguement is going to be a difficult sell particularly with ISPs, let alone a broad range of Canadians who have already come out to oppose the bill for being too restrictive.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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