The Federal Court of Appeal has upheld a lower court’s order instructing Canada’s internet service providers to block access to an online streaming service offering pirated content.
TekSavvy Solutions Inc. had appealed the Federal Court order against IPTV service GoldTV – the first such website-blocking order ever issued in Canada – in late 2019. The Chatham, Ont.-based independent internet service provider argued in court documents that the order infringes on the free-speech rights of Canadian internet users and amounts to a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
However, in a decision issued Wednesday, Justice George Locke wrote that Federal Court Justice Patrick Gleeson made no legal errors in his original ruling.
“A key part of TekSavvy’s position is that concerns for freedom of expression relate to the possibility of overblocking,” Justice Locke wrote. “However, the judge considered this and was satisfied with the measures to limit overblocking contained in the order. I see no error here.” Justice Locke dismissed the appeal with costs.
The site-blocking order stemmed from a legal application by Bell Media Inc. , Rogers Media Inc. and Groupe TVA Inc . The broadcasters requested that a number of third-party respondents – including TekSavvy, Telus Communications Inc. , Distributel Communications Ltd. and Videotron Ltd. – block access to websites run by the anonymous operators of GoldTV.
The broadcasters alleged that GoldTV was selling subscription services that provided customers with access to programming content to which GoldTV did not own the rights. The court had granted two injunctions ordering GoldTV to cease its operations, but the injunctions were ignored.
Justice Gleeson’s website-blocking order sparked criticism from some industry observers and consumer advocates, who cautioned that the ruling could lead to a flood of other site-blocking cases and ultimately create a burden for the courts.
The president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, one of the intervenors in the case, said many Canadians will be disappointed by Wednesday’s ruling.
“All participants in internet governance – Parliament, administrative agencies, and courts – need to tread lightly when it comes to telecom-level blocking,” Byron Holland said in a statement. “There is a real risk of impeding the rights of Canadians, and even trampling on what has made the internet such a transformational force for good in our society.”
Guillaume Lavoie Ste-Marie, a lawyer at Smart & Biggar LLP who represented the media companies, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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