MPAA Pushes for Further Internet Censorship in Canada

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is calling for further censorship powers through the copyright reform debate.

The debate over wholesale censorship in Europe through article 13 may seem like a world away for Canadians, but Canada is at the beginning stages of their own censorship debate.

The MPAA through it’s Canadian arm, MPAC (Motion Picture Association of Canada) is pushing for Internet censorship in Canada. The organization, which represents foreign corporate interests, made their case at the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. In part, they say the following:

allow rights holders to obtain injunctive relief against online intermediary service providers. Internet intermediaries that facilitate access to illegal content are best-placed to reduce the harm caused by online piracy. This principle has been long recognized throughout Europe where Article 8.3 of the EU copyright directive has provided the foundation for copyright owners to obtain injunctive relief against intermediaries whose services are used by third-parties to infringe copyright. Building upon precedents that already exist in Canada in the physical world the act should be amended to expressly allow copyright owners to obtain injunctions, including site-blocking and de-indexing orders, against intermediaries whose services are used to infringe copyright.

While it is unclear whether or not they want to evade court oversight, Michael Geist points out that Canada already has injunctive relief options. Geist also comments:

In other words, the MPAA/MPAC has previously argued before the Supreme Court that Canadian courts already have the power to issue injunctions that could include site blocking or site de-indexing. There is no guarantee that courts will issue such an injunction – courts around the world have consistently identified the challenge of balancing protection of intellectual property rights with the implications of site blocking on freedom of expression – but a comprehensive, impartial court review with full due process is precisely what should be required before the power of the law is used to block access to content on the Internet or require the removal of search results. That is one reason the Bell coalition site blocking proposal is so problematic and why the movie industry’s latest call for additional site blocking injunction rules in the Copyright Act are, by its own admission, unnecessary.

It is, however, certainly probable that the aim is to just get a blank check to censor the Internet without court oversight. This is certainly something that Bell Canada explicitly asked for at the Canadian regulators. While Bell Canada is part of a coalition of corporate Interests demanding Internet censorship, Bell Canada appears to be the only one wanting there to not be court oversight in all of this. The larger coalition wants there to be Internet censorship and some have specifically asked for some form of court oversight.

What this highlights is the fact that corporate Interests are conducting a two pronged approach to censor the Internet. On the one side, they have a handful of corporations operating within Canada to get the CRTC to implement censorship. The other prong is to have foreign lobbyists push for it at the Federal level through the Copyright reform process. The idea of course being that if one side fails, the other will provide that backstop and get the job done anyway.

At the moment, there is fierce resistance at the regulators towards censorship, but at the end of the day, the regulators have the final say regardless of how many Canadians say “no” to Internet censorship. So, if they reject the will of the Canadian people, then it is up to Canadians to pressure the Canadian government to put a stop to it. Given past Liberal governments, that is going to be an uphill battle even if the Canadian government is currently making promises that they will respect network neutrality.

At the end of the day, Internet censorship is not going to make any additional sales. It is not going to magically somehow put an end to all piracy. In fact, there is no evidence that points to that other than what has been paid for by these corporate Interests. There is, however, significant evidence pointing to the fact that Internet censorship is a major threat to free speech and innovation in general. It remains to be seen if the Canadian government or Canadian regulators will heed those warnings or just rubber stamp the risky corporations theory.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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