Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal is allowing several high-profile groups and organizations to intervene in the country’s first pirate site blocking case. This includes rightsholder representatives including IFPI and the Premier League, as well as blocking opponents such as Canada’s domain registry and CIPPIC. In a novel ruling, parties with a similar stance are instructed to work together to file joint submissions.
Last year Canada’s Federal Court approved the first pirate site blocking order in the country.
Following a complaint from major media companies Rogers, Bell and TVA, the Court ordered several major ISPs to block access to domains and IP-addresses of the pirate IPTV service GoldTV.
There was little opposition from Internet providers, except for TekSavvy, which quickly announced that it would appeal the ruling. The blocking injunction threatens the open Internet to advance the interests of a few powerful media conglomerates, the company said.
Soon after, the landmark case also drew the interest of several third parties that all wanted to have their say. These include copyright holder groups, which are in favor of site blocking, as well as legal experts, civil rights activists, and the Canadian domain registry, which oppose the injunction.
All groups shared their arguments with the Federal Court, asking to be officially heard. This week, the Court granted this request, but with a twist.
Interveners Are Grouped Together
In a sixteen-page order (pdf), Justice David Stratas applauds his own Court for various procedural innovations, the current case included. The overall conclusion is that all six groups are allowed to intervene. However, some will have to work together to come up with a joint filing.
The Court has divided the interveners into three groups. The first includes rightsholder representatives such as Music Canada, IFPI, which already filed a joint submission, the Premier League, and representatives from the local movie industry. These are all in favor of site blocking.
The second group consists of the University of Ottowa’s legal clinic CIPPIC and the Canadian Internet Registration Authority. These are both against site blocking. That’s also true for the third ‘group,’ the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, whose opposition mainly revolves around freedom of expression.
“Allowing all six to intervene separately with separate counsel would result in lack of economy and duplication,” Justice Stratas notes, adding that the collaborations will “create useful synergies and a more compact submission.”
Court’s Advance Warnings and Critique
The order is also rather critical at times. For example, the initial submission from the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association is described as “problematic” and “rather vague” when it comes to international law.
Also, the order stresses that the intervening parties are not allowed to bring up new evidence or make statements without supporting evidence. Again, this comes with a sting, although it’s not clear who this is directed at.
“We enforce this strictly and for good reason. We have seen some try to dupe us by smuggling academic articles containing untested social science evidence into a book of authorities,” Justice Stratas writes.
“We have seen others try to slide submissions of mixed fact and law past us without any supporting facts in the evidentiary record,” he adds.
CIPPIC is Pleased With the Order
TorrentFreak reached out to several of the parties involved for a comment on the ruling. None of the copyright holder groups we contacted responded, but the counsel of CIPPIC informed us that the clinic is happy with the order.
“CIPPIC is pleased to have been afforded the opportunity to speak to the important legal issues raised in this case, which is the first of its kind in Canada,” CIPPIC counsel James Plotkin tells us.
“CIPPIC’s position is that, given the balance struck in the copyright act and the legislated role of intermediaries therein, site blocking orders are not the sort of remedy courts should grant, and certainly not on an interlocutory basis.”
Many thanks to TorrentFreak for the breaking news.