Federal government proposes website-blocking system for piracy websites

The move would allow internet service providers to block access to websites that host pirated content

The federal government has launched a consultation regarding a modern copyright framework for independent service providers and online platforms.

Among the proposed actions is a move that would allow internet service providers to block access to websites that host pirated content, such as movies and TV shows.

The government notes the Copyright Act could be amended to “provide expressly for injunctions against intermediaries to prevent or stop online copyright infringement facilitated by their services even where they are not themselves liable for it.”

The proposed move would allow internet service providers to disable access to infringing content, which would mean blocking piracy websites. The move could also allow internet service providers to suspend users’ access to their service for accessing the websites.

Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said in a statement that “in the area of copyright, we need a more up-to-date framework to ensure more accountability and better remuneration and transparency.”

Further, Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne outlined that “we must protect copyright online. With this consultation, we aim to strike the balance between facilitating broad, lawful access to copyright-protected content, and safeguarding individual rights and freedoms in an open internet.”

“We have launched this process to hear the diverse perspectives of stakeholders, from online intermediaries to those holding copyrights, as well as any Canadian who wants to share input, to make sure Canada maintains a balanced copyright framework.”

The proposed move will likely face significant backlash from Canadians. Similar proposals in the past have received pushback from the public, as arguments have been raised about website-blocking systems being an attack on net neutrality.

Other possible actions outlined in the consultation documents look at internet service providers’ safe harbour protections against liability for copyright infringement.

The government says it welcomes comments regarding the potential moves as part of the consultation. Comments will be accepted until May 31st, 2021.

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