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CIRA warns against website blocking in copyright consultation

By Josh Tabish
Public Affairs Manager

OTTAWA, JUNE 1, 2021 –Yesterday evening, one of Canada’s leading internet advocates submitted comments into the government’s consultation on the role of online intermediaries in combatting copyright infringement. In its submission, the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) outlined a set of principles that would help policy-makers design a framework to ensure that internet service provider-level (ISP) website blocking would only be used as a measure of absolute last resort. 

“Website blocking should never be used when more proportionate responses are available,” said Byron Holland, president and CEO of CIRA. “While the courts have asserted their ability to issue blocking orders, the government’s consultation offers Canadians the opportunity to re-draw the boundaries around when—if ever—website blocking is acceptable. In our submission, we outline a set of principles that we believe will help policy-makers ensure that website blocking only happens as a measure of last resort, and doesn’t violate net neutrality or harm the technical functioning of the global internet. We thank the government for the opportunity to share our perspective, and we are on standby to assist them in their understanding going forward.” 

CIRA’s comments come on the heels of a Federal Court of Appeal ruling to uphold Canada’s first-ever court-ordered website blocking framework. While the Court’s decision did not grant ISPs the power to block websites at will, it demonstrated the Court’s position that website blocking is not a remedy of last resort, where CIRA believes that it should be. The government’s consultation offers all internet governance experts the opportunity to establish a new set of tests for when ISP-level blocking is acceptable. 

Summary of CIRA’s Submission 

  • ISP-level website blocking should only be used as a measure of last resort to combat online piracy, and only after a process of substantive and procedural due diligence has been pursued.  
  • CIRA’s view is that there are intermediaries and control points closer to the alleged offender that can be engaged before resorting to website blocking. 
  • CIRA submits the Internet & Jurisdiction Policy Network’s “content complaint referral path” as a roadmap for or how to ensure proper due diligence and proportionality in addressing copyright infringement. 
  • Blocking should not be permitted until the rightsholder has tried and failed to secure redress from the website owner and efforts to have the hosting provider remove the content have failed. 
  • Defaulting to website blocking violates net neutrality, impedes the technical functioning of the internet, and is not the most effective remedy for dealing with copyright infringement. 

You can find CIRA’s full submission here

About CIRA

CIRA, the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, is the national not-for-profit best known for managing the .CA domain on behalf of all Canadians. CIRA also develops technologies and services—such as CIRA DNS Firewall and CIRA Canadian Shield—that help support its goal of building a trusted internet for Canadians. In the course of our work, CIRA develops and implements policies for the .CA domain that support Canada’s internet community and represent the .CA registry internationally.