Media Advisory: BCCLA at Federal Court of Appeal to defend free expression in website blocking case

Posted on

For Immediate Release

WHAT: BCCLA at Federal Court of Appeal to intervene in case of Teksavvy Solutions Inc v Bell Media Inc. to raise free expression concerns against “site-blocking” orders

WHEN: March 24, 2021, at 9:30 am EST / 6:30 am PST

WHERE: Federal Court of Appeal (Ottawa)

Ottawa, ON (Unceded Algonquin Anishnaabeg Territory) – On March 24, 2021, the Federal Court of Appeal will hear the case of Teksavvy Solutions Inc. v Bell Media Inc., which will determine whether Canadian courts have the power to force internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to websites or internet services by issuing a “site‑blocking” order.

This case involves streaming television services that infringed on the copyrights of major Canadian media companies. In 2019, the Federal Court ordered Canadian ISPs to block access to the infringing sites. This was the first time that a Canadian court had ordered an ISP to block access to a website.

One of the ISPs, Teksavvy, appealed, saying the Court does not have the authority to issue a site‑blocking order. If the Court does grant a site‑blocking order to prevent copyright infringement, it could open the door to site blocking for other purposes as well.

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) filed submissions asking to the Court to preserve Canadians’ rights to freedom of expression if the Court forces ISPs to comply with site-blocking orders. These orders violate the Charter rights of website operators, the ISPs’ customers, and the Canadian public.

The BCCLA argues that site-blocking orders should only be issued when the harm of not blocking the site outweighs the harm of blocking it. If the Court does issue site-blocking orders, we suggest that the Court should minimize the infringement of Canadians’ Charter rights by making the order as narrow as possible. This is critical given that the rules the Court uses to block copyright infringement could be used in other cases as well.

Megan Tweedie, Senior Counsel at the BCCLA: “Used incorrectly, site-blocking orders violate Canadians’ rights to freedom of expression and can have serious consequences. The ability of artists, journalists, politicians, and scientists to express themselves freely online are at stake. If the Court is going to permit site-blocking orders, then it must also provide strict limits on their usage, taking into account the impact on free expression.”

The BCCLA is represented by Gib van Ert and Neil Abraham of Gib van Ert Law.

The BCCLA’s factum is available here.

Media Contacts:

Megan Tweedie, Senior Counsel at the BCCLA, [email protected]