Preventing website piracy has become a hot debate in Canada. There are some organizations in the country, including Rogers and BCE Inc. that are pushing the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to take measures for blocking offending websites. The FairPlay Canada Coalition that comprises over 25 companies in the music, entertainment, TV, Film, Radio, and sports sector is playing a major role in this campaign.
On the other hand, various researchers and internet companies are of the opinion that the CRTC is not responsible to block websites. In fact, they believe that it is pointless to do anything about it.
Debate Over Blocking Access to Pirated Content
Despite the ongoing argument, no one is denying the existence of online piracy that enables internet users to download a pirated content without spending any money. The debate is centered around whether CRTC is responsible to take action against stolen TV shows, movies, and music or should it leave the matter to copyright laws.
Telecom giants, including Quebecor Inc., Rogers Communications Inc., and BCE Inc. are a part of the coalition. These companies have joined hands to convince the CRTC in forming an independent agency that would order internet service provider to block access to the pirated websites.
The petition has been signed by almost ten thousand parties. However, many have shown concern over blocking access, saying that it might lead to the over-blocking of a content by the agency. They further added that it could create a bias that would encourage internet service provider to block the websites they do not like. In fact, it may also lead to censorship.
Concerns Over the Access to Pirated Websites
There are so many others who expressed their opinion by saying that it is nothing more than a waste of money. Simple and easily available tools like VPN (Virtual Private Networks) allow internet consumers to bypass these rules easily and access pirated material.
Canada is a hub of some of the best internet service providers that offer a variety of services to its customers. A survey revealed that daily internet usage frequency in Canada is 89 percent as of January 2018, which shows that a wide majority of Canadians frequently use the internet on a daily basis. Piracy has been deeply rooted in the online world, which makes it harder for internet companies to block the access that can easily be breached via VPNs.
Arguments by the FairPlay Coalition in Favor of Independent Agency
Dismissing the concerns related to over-blocking, FairPlay argued that internet companies will not have the discretion to block any website. The purpose of creating an agency is to address offenders and not platforms like YouTube or best snapchat marketing agencies.
Furthermore, it also stated that when the governments of Portugal, Australia, and the UK blocked access to the piracy websites, the traffic gravitated toward the consumption of legal services while a decline was observed in piracy.
Initial Response by CRTC
Amidst all the noise and heated debate over creating an independent agency, the CRTC has recently released ‘Access to Information’ documents, which reveals its initial response.
One of the staff members asked a question in a memo about the application filing by the FairPlay, especially when the access can easily be breached by via VPN and there are copyright laws in place. The response was stated in the memo that it might be due to the fact that revenue and subscriptions in the TV sector o3are declining much faster. It further highlighted the absence of Netflix tax that gives a boost to the production returns.
The Forum for Research and Policy in Communications got the documents in which it was revealed that the idea of website blocking was initially pitched by Bell Canada months before the FairPlay submitted the application. In response to that, the CRTC’s commissioner suggested a meeting, but no commissioner attended that meeting. Instead, Bell and CRTC said that it is a routine for staff members to have meetings with stakeholders.
Despite the argument that the Copyright Act is not enough to tackle the piracy issue, the former CRTC Commissioner, Tim Denton, said that it doesn’t come under the jurisdiction of the CRTC. He furthered it by calling it a stupid idea, which is very costly, hard to achieve, and hard to achieve.