the television will not be... by aesthetics of crisis (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

the television will not be... by aesthetics of crisis (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)


Canada’s Tough Anti-Piracy Copyright Law: Federal Court Awards Millions in Damages Against Unauthorized Streaming Site

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.


  1. Anyone care to guess what that civil litigation cost the plaintiff? I would say at least $50,000, and quite possibly twice that. Against one site. The law is not a deterrent to criminal behaviour if access to justice is out of reach financially, a problem may legal commentators have pointed to in society with respect to any sort of civil litigation in today’s society.

    And yet the site is presumably self-evidently a pirate site, which anyone with eyes could ascertain – just like hundreds of others, which could easily and safely be shut down by administrative fiat without recourse to prohibitively expensive litigation. Put the onus on the site to litigate an appeal. This way, not just Bell et al. but also individual rights holders could fight back against the piracy of their work.

    • There is also, of course, the huge question of being able to collect and the cost of collecting Canadian court judgments against foreign pirate sites, based in remote Indian Ocean islands and small landlocked African countries the like.

  2. Pingback: Sale of Android boxes To Obtain "Free TV" Is Now Illegal In Canada. - Page 34 - Canadian TV, Computing and Home Theatre Forums

  3. Rob McCleave says:

    It seems like the law works, and Bell et al are trying to gain extraordinary powers to control Canadian’s access to the internet. Their record of throttling and deep packet inspection to interfere with legitimate access to signals like Netflix that compete with their content is a good argument against them having such power.
    Justice may grind slow, but I don’t want Bell et al. to have a toggle switch that they can use any time they like.

    • It’s not Bell with the power to shut down a site, it’s a federal administrative body. Jeez, try to do better than this.

      • Hey, you wouldn’t happen to be George Cope would you? I’ve always wanted to meet him.

        • I guess you have nothing to add to the discussion. Are you Eric Lindros?

          • Nope, but I’m not a obvious shill like you. Rob McCleave said “Bell et al”, ala referring to the current collective that has Bell at the forefront, and you immediately assumed he was referring to Bell Canada, singular. And this is just one mere comment occurrence of less-than-subtle intentions that you have graced this blog with.

            I’ve lost count at how many times some news-worthy legislation/policy event regarding internet/copyright/et al. brings the shills from the either, who spam Geist’s blog, with the same old talking points and hatred of Mike Mansick when some Techdirt article is linked to. Every. Single. Time.

          • Re the comment by Eric Lindros below: duh, precisely, “Bell et al.”, meaning the commenter was claiming that the industry could just flick a switch of their own design and shut down a site, when in fact that decision would be made by a federal government administrative tribunal. Tha was my point, which you seem incapable of grasping.

          • By the way, if you’d read my initial comments, you’d see that it was I who said “Bell et al.” to refer to the collective you mention. The other commenter was quoting me. I know exactly what he was saying, because he was quoting what I said.

            “This way, not just Bell et al. but also individual rights holders could fight back against the piracy of their work.”

            Learn to read before you try to write.

  4. indeed copyright law must be upheld

  5. The federal government regulates copyright through a key piece of federal legislation: the Copyright Act. First passed in 1921, this law outlines what sorts of objects may be covered by copyrights, how ownership of these objects is determined, and what sorts of entitlements are attached to this ownership. Under the Copyright Modernization Act, people who own the rights to movies, television shows and music have the right to protect their property from illegal downloads. Copyright holders can request Internet service providers to relay warnings to people who have been monitored participating in illegal downloading. Downloading can include streaming services or torrents.

  6. I download pirated content all the time and am very proud of it. Fight real crime like pedophiles and leave the internet pirates alone. The only reason they say it’s wrong is because they’re not making as many millions. Boo fucking hoo.