Bell-led FairPlay Canada “proposal would weaken Canada’s economy”, says Internet infrastructure coalition

We believe that it would be a mistake for CRTC to adopt the FairPlay Canada proposal.

Bell Media building on 87 George Street in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Photo credit: Obert Madondo / Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

By Obert Madondo |  | Mar 29, 2018

A global coalition of Internet infrastructure companies opposes the Bell Canada-led FairPlay Canada plan to block websites. In a recent submission to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), Internet Infrastructure Coalition stated that the “FairPlay Canada proposal would weaken Canada’s economy, as well as its Internet leadership globally”.

The FairPlay Canada campaign is about Internet censorship. It proposes the creation of a website-blocking system in the name of fighting piracy websites. If allowed to succeed, the plan would create the so-called “Internet Piracy Review Agency” (IPRA), a dictatorship-style Internet policing agency that would scour the Internet and compile a list of offending websites. The agency would then submit its “hit list” the the CRTC. Using sections 24 and 24.1 of the Telecommunications Act, the CRTC would order all ISPs to block Canadians’ access to the blacklisted sites.

According to the Internet Infrastructure Coalition:

The not-for-profit organization envisioned by the FairPlay Canada proposal lacks accountability and oversight, and is certain to cause tremendous collateral damage to innocent Internet business owners. There is shockingly little judicial review or due process in establishing and approving the list of websites being blocked — and no specifics of how this blocking is actually to be implemented. Then, once the block is established, the appeals process envisioned afterwards is too slow and costly for small businesses who have found themselves caught up in this blocking mechanism to bear. For these reasons and those further described herein, we strongly believe that the FairPlay Canada proposal would weaken Canada’s economy, as well as its Internet leadership globally…

After careful review of the FairPlay proposal, we believe that it will lead to significant loss of high-wage, high-tech jobs in our industry and other industries that are directly or indirectly supported by our industry. These impacts will diminish the attractiveness of Canadian companies to foreign customers, while also reducing the Canadian Internet industry’s ability to compete with foreign competition within its own borders.

Check out the Internet Infrastructure Coalition’s full submission to the CRTC.

In a recent blog post, Michael Geist, the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, wondered why Canadian telecom and cable giants think we need a draconian government-approved Internet policing system. That’s because “Canada already has some of the toughest anti-piracy laws in the world with unique “enabler” provision that makes it easy for rights holder to target Canadian-based sites that are perceived to facilitate piracy. Moreover, industry data suggests that Canada has lower rates of piracy than many other countries.”

Under the Copyright Modernization Act, rights holders can sue for copyright infringement. According to the Internet Infrastructure Coalition, the Act is “an effective tool to address copyright infringement” because it “provides almost immediate results for owners of intellectual property interests.” The FairPlay Canada plan would undermine the Act.

The Internet Infrastructure Coalition brings together some of the biggest names on the Internet, including Amazon, Google, Verisign, software developers, domain registries, websites hosting companies, and data centres. Canadian members of the coalition include CogecoPeer1, Tucows and Tuangru.

Canadians have until Thursday, March 29, 2018, to submit their comments on the FairPlay Canada proposal to the CRTC.

Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based blogger, activist, photographer, digital rights enthusiast, former political aide, and former international development administrator. He’s the founder and editor of these blogs: The Canadian ProgressiveZimbabwean Progressive, and Charity Files. Follow him on Twitter: @Obiemad