When the Bell coalition filed its website blocking application earlier this year, the immediate response from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains was to point to the strength of existing copyright law:
We understand that there are groups, including Bell, calling for additional tools to better fight piracy, particularly in the digital domain. Canada’s copyright system has numerous legal provisions and tools to help copyright owners protect their intellectual property, both online and in the physical realm. We are committed to maintaining one of the best intellectual property and copyright frameworks in the world to support creativity and innovation to the benefit of artists, creators, consumers and all Canadians.
I emphasized the point in my first post making the case against site blocking, arguing that Canada already has many legal provisions designed to assist copyright owners. In fact, Canada has some of the world’s toughest anti-piracy provisions, which Bell and others have actively used in recent years. This includes lawsuits against set-top box distributors, mod-chip sellers, and websites such as TVAddons. Some of these lawsuits have resulted in massive damage awards running into the millions of dollars. Moreover, Canadian law already provides for injunctive relief in appropriate circumstances with the Supreme Court of Canada’s Equustek decision one of the more recent manifestations of courts issuing orders to non-parties in support of intellectual property rights.
The submission deadline for the CRTC on website blocking has now closed (a response from the coalition is expected by April 23rd), but last week the Federal Court of Canada released a decision that once again demonstrates that the current law can be used to target unauthorized sites and services. In this case, the court issued a default judgment that includes $5 million in damages against several defendants accused of streaming Greek television programs without authorization.
Much of this decision focuses on whether the judge, who happens to the same judge as in the York University v. Access Copyright case, should issue a default judgment. In his view, the defendants “exhibited an intention to delay” and the $5 million award was said to reflect “bad faith which is established through the Ellas Defendants’ delaying tactics, the need to deter others, particularly those infringers who benefit by delay, and the lack of response by Greek World Music.” The court indicated it will also issue an injunction in a forthcoming ruling.
The Bell coalition has made much of the need for site blocking on the grounds that Canadian copyright law is inadequate to address the issue. Yet with tough anti-piracy rules and courts willing to hand out multi-million dollar damage awards to sites with only partial connection to Canada, before entertaining the possibility of new site blocking measures, rights holders should surely be required to test the effectiveness of existing law.