CIPPIC, OpenMedia Praised by CRTC During Web Censorship Debates

Canadian regulator, the CRTC, gave organizations like CIPPIC and OpenMedia praise for their role in the Internet censorship debates.

It was one of the biggest copyright debates Canada has faced. The question: whether or not rightsholders should be able to censor websites they don’t like in Canada. In one corner, Bell’s so-called “FairPlay” coalition which featured a small handful of companies wanting to push forward with Internet censorship. In the other corner, digital rights advocates and organizations who fight for free speech and keeping the Internet open for all Canadians. The arena? Canada’s regulator, the CRTC.

The debate itself was hard fought, but ultimately, the CRTC wound up rejecting the Internet censorship proposal. This victory arguably marks the biggest digital rights win since the multiple defeats of various copyright reform proposals in years past. Those proposed laws could have imported the notorious file-sharing lawsuits that have plagued the American justice system.

Now, more fallout is coming out of Canada as a result of the free speech victory at the CRTC. One of the arguments made by the FairPlay coalition is that citizen engagement rising from efforts by CIPPIC and OpenMedia shouldn’t be considered in the debates because it is a misleading campaign. They even accused CIPPIC of being irresponsible because they questioned the harms of alleged piracy. Canada’s regulator blasted those accusations. From Michael Geist:

The CRTC soundly rejected these arguments, ordering the FairPlay coalition to pay over $130,000 in costs as part of four applications (OpenMedia/CIPPIC, PIAC, FRPC, UDC). The Commission’s analysis on the value of the OpenMedia/CIPPIC public campaign is particularly noteworthy given efforts by some commentators to question it:

the Commission considers that their respective public interest mandates and the online engagement campaign demonstrate that they represent the interests of Canadian Internet service subscribers. CIPPIC/OpenMedia have also satisfied the remaining criteria through their participation in the proceeding. In particular, the Commission considers that the online engagement campaign facilitated the broad and direct participation of thousands of Canadians in the proceeding. Importantly, a significant number of those who used the online engagement campaign to submit an intervention to the Commission also customized the text to include their personal views on the proposal put forward by FairPlay. This broad facilitation, as well as the opportunity for an individual response, created a diverse evidentiary record that contributed to a better understanding of the issues before the Commission. While FairPlay may consider certain content of the campaign to be misleading, the overall participation encouraged by the campaign contributed to a better understanding of the issues before the Commission and did not constitute irresponsible participation by CIPPIC/OpenMedia.

Further, the fact that CIPPIC/OpenMedia did not expand on the online engagement campaign evidence in their own intervention does not mean that they participated in the proceeding in an irresponsible way. Additional interpretive analysis of the evidence from the campaign within CIPPIC/OpenMedia’s intervention would have been preferable, both in assisting the Commission in analyzing the numerous individual interventions, and in making the direct link between the campaign and the content of CIPPIC/OpenMedia’s intervention. However, the failure to do so in this case was not irresponsible, and the clear link between the campaign and the content of the intervention on issues such as network neutrality ensured that the entirety of CIPPIC/OpenMedia’s participation contributed to a better understanding of the issues before the Commission.

The CRTC similarly rejected claims that PIAC’s participation was irresponsible:

PIAC’s copyright submissions, although novel, remained relevant and assisted the Commission in developing a better understanding of the matters that were considered. FairPlay’s application itself proposed a novel use of the Telecommunications Act, so the proceeding should have been expected to result in the advancement of unconventional or otherwise innovative arguments by interveners.

(emphasis by Geist)

What this does is isolate the complaints made by pro-censorship players. The regulator in all of this simply didn’t buy it. The fact that a chunk of change is being lost by those making those accusations will no doubt be an added bonus for those who support free speech.

What this also does is add that extra bit to organizations like OpenMedia and CIPPIC as a major player in debates surrounding digital rights in Canada. CIPPIC already earned that during the debates surrounding file-sharing lawsuits years ago, but it looks like OpenMedia is also going to enjoy that same elevated status as being a more credible organization. More specifically, these organizations can impact real positive regulatory change in the Canadian system. If we were someone within that organization, that would be a point of pride.

What’s more is that Canadians can rest easier knowing that their digital rights are being protected with the aid of these organizations in the first place. Obviously, as we’ve seen in this debate, there will always be a major copyright battle in Canada sooner or later, but as long as those organizations stick around, Canadians will have strong allies should the need arise again.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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