Mon, 28 Sep 2020

The Canadian federal courts officially blocked a website from offering its services to Canada, marking the first time that such an instance has occurred in the country. Efforts in the past to get websites blocked have been slapped down as unconstitutional due to them infringing freedom of expression and net neutrality.

However, Gold TV has become the first website to be blocked in Canada. The complaint about Gold TV, which spurred the decision, was brought to the federal court by a coalition of some of the country's biggest telecommunications companies. Since the ruling, people have started to worry that it would set a precedent for any other websites that large Canadian corporations disagree with.

The first website to be blocked across Canada

Gold TV, specifically, the web address GoldTV.ca, caught the attention of Bell Media, Rogers Media, and Groupe TVA due it offering thousands of television channels as a subscription service. In a world where entertainment is increasingly online, companies that offer television channels through more traditional means, such as via cable or as the broadcaster, are bound to clash with the online providers.

Bell Media and Rogers Media are internet service and cable providers, so them bringing the complaint to court will always be met with some level of skepticism, especially with the court ruling in their favour to seemingly oust some competition. But the most important factor of the case is that Gold TV was offering the thousands of television channels for a fee and without owning the rights of those channels, as you can see detailed in this piece.

People appear to be fearing the worst due to the federal court siding with the large Canadian companies which opposed another company competing with them via the internet. The key takeaway is that Gold TV simply didn't have a licence to offer the products that those Canadian companies do have a licence to offer. It is for this reason that other entertainment providers operating under good practices should be fine, as has been proven in the past.

A precedent already set in Quebec

One of the largest entertainment sectors in Canada that gets much of its platforms from international providers is that of iGaming. In Canada, casino gaming is huge and even surpasses the spectator sports, movie theatres, and the sales of books and magazines in revenues according to this article page. So, as the industry has moved increasingly online, it shouldn't come as a surprise that iGaming has become a major player in the Canadian entertainment and that some land-based providers wanted to block those online.

International online casinos offer games to Canadian players having been licensed by other leading governing bodies, such as that of the UK Gambling Commission or the Malta Gaming Authority, without impeding or drawing from the services already in place in Canada. As you can see in this source link, there are many international online casinos that offer their games and bonuses to Canadian players and have been backed by province rulings to do so.

Back in 2018, Loto-Quebec, which runs the provincial online gambling monopoly, attempted to have internationally licensed online gambling operators blocked in Quebec. The Quebec Superior Court ruled that blocking any of these websites per the language used in Bill 74 would be unconstitutional. The difference between this case and that of Gold TV was that allowing the online television show service to continue in Canada would have caused irreparable harm to the plaintiff due to the copyright infringements in play.

It was a bold move for Canada's federal court to outright block a domain within its borders, but a step that shouldn't usher in a wave of website bans, particularly when it comes to those that are licensed and aren't breaking copyright laws.

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