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BCCLA Reacts: Federal Court of Appeal Rules that Site-Blocking Orders are Constitutional 

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For Immediate Release

Ottawa, ON (Unceded Algonquin Anishnaabeg Territory): the BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) is disappointed by the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision in Teksavvy v. Bell Media Inc. The Court determined that the Federal Court has the authority to issue orders requiring internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to certain websites. This is also known as a ‘site-blocking order.’

This case involved streaming television services that infringed on the copyrights of major Canadian media companies. In 2019, the Federal Court ordered Canadian ISPs, including Teksavvy, 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.

The BCCLA intervened in this case to urge the Courts to preserve Canadians’ rights to freedom of expression. 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 suggested 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: “This is a very disappointing decision. Like the Federal Court, the Federal Court of Appeal does not seem to have given much consideration to the serious potential for infringements of Canadians’ Charter rights to freedom of expression. The ability of artists, journalists, politicians, and scientists to freely express themselves online may be at stake if overly expansive site-blocking orders are issued in the future. We are also disappointed that the Court failed to provide a test for issuing site-blocking orders that would be workable in all circumstances. Without a clearly defined test for issuing site-blocking orders, there is too high a risk of overly broad restrictions being placed on internet content.”

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

Media Contacts:

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