Canadian fans of torrenting sites, we’re sorry – the country’s communication and entertainment industries have united to block torrenting websites. The coalition, known as Fair Play Canada, is seeking an Independent Piracy Review Agency to find and block torrent sites – and warn previous users of their past infractions. Could this spell the end of torrenting in Canada?
It’s your turn, Canada – this week, the battle for net neutrality turned northwards, as Canadian’s found themselves at the forefront of the row surrounding torrenting and streaming online.
Canada’s biggest communication companies, among them BCE Inc., Rogers Communications Inc., and Quebecor Inc. have filed a request with the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commissions (CRTC), demanding they take action to block illegal torrenting sites.
The coalition, known as Fair Play Canada, argue that torrenting sites illegally steal content – and that this is damaging to Canada’s entertainment and cultural industries to the tune of $55 billion and 630,000 jobs.
What’s All The Fuss About?
Canadians watched wearily as their neighbor to the south voted to repeal net neutrality last December –
and the continuing struggle to reinstate it. After all, it’s estimated that over 1 million Canadians own (legal) Android boxes, allowing them free access to torrented TV.
Some may consider this a one-way street to internet censorship, and with good reason: after the UK chose to implement a ban on torrenting sites back in 2012, it took under a year before the ISP filters began blocking porn sites – alongside sites detailing safe sex practices and domestic abuse support sites.
What’s Legal, and What’s Not?
Even though Netflix continues to be popular in Canada (with around 6 million subscribers reported), revenues from television subscriptions are dramatically dropping as more and more Canadians turn to cord cutting- some 200,000 households a year.
Yes, almost half of Canadians considered cord cutting (in 2016) – double that of the rate seen in 2012. Which just goes to show, they are a serious bunch when it comes to streaming digital content online, with a huge number of streaming services on offer to choose from.
Bar Netflix, much of their streaming services direct from Amazon Prime Video and Crave. But there are also more niche services out there including OUTtvGO, Sundance Now, and Mubi to name a few. While all of these services are legal and shouldn’t be affected by the new proposed ban – it is the legally questionable streaming sites that will be hit with full force. These include the likes of Putlocker, WatchSeries, WatchTV, Kodi and Popcorn Time, among others
So for all of those who currently don’t pay for the legal streaming services and are used to streaming from these sites as well as downloading torrents from places such as The Pirate Bay – we’re afraid you’ll be most affected and may have to find other ways to get your daily dose of TV.
The Death of Canadian Net Neutrality?
While there’s substantial support for the proposed legislation across the entertainment industry, the actual methods of implementing it have struck fear into the hearts of libertarians. They argue that it’s impossible for internet service providers to treat all content equally, when the most prominent members of the Fair Play Canada coalition – Bell, Rogers, and Quebecor – both own the content and the distribution channels for it. If they have the means and ends under their control, surely it flies in the face of the core principles of net neutrality, in that not all content or distribution channels are treated fairly and equally?
And these fears come with proof; only last year, these same three companies obtained a civil search warrant to (allegedly) interrogate Adam Lackman, the founder of plugins library TVAddons, for over 9 hours, and afterward forcing him to hand over user information. With this type of precedent already established, the future of Canada’s torrenting sites – and whole online ecosystem – looks quite uncertain.
Say Goodbye to Freedom of Expression – Funded by Your Taxes
The proposed creation of a banned website list is stirring digital rights activists the wrong way. By creating mandated blocking across all ISPs leads to questionable online freedom of expression (according to Michael Geist, a professor and expert on the Canadian telecom industry). A lack of oversight could also spell trouble down the line as the definition of what is blocked balloons over time. Legitimate content and speech may end up being censored, thus violating Canadians right to free expression and even the principles of net neutrality.
According to a 2017 MUSO Global TV Piracy Report, Canada ranks 8th in the world when it comes to piracy visits, with almost 1.9 billion visits to piracy sites recorded in 2016. Despite that, Canadians are using legal services (such as Spotify and Netflix) more and more, showing that civilians are willing to pay for the ease and convenience, though there is still that 12% of the country that accesses torrent sites.
Another issue is that by introducing this new ban, there could be an uncomfortable burden on taxpayers – after all, this is where the funding will come from given that CRTC is a public entity. If an anti-piracy agency was created, it would need both advanced tools and manpower (perhaps a whole new department) to flag websites for piracy, not to mention time to deliberate what is considered pirated and what isn’t.
The Solution: Fight the Proposed Ban
For those who want to take a stand and regain power, there is something you can do. To regain freedom of expression online, and keep streaming and torrenting in exactly the same way, the solution you are looking for is a VPN.
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A VPN is a Virtual Private Network that will allow you to gain access to any blocked websites in your country. Gaining access to blacklisted websites is simple as a VPN securely encrypts your internet data and changes the IP address of your device. Using a VPN you can latch onto a server in another country where the streaming/torrenting site you are looking for is attainable.
You can effectively gain access to geo-restricted content and do so privately – without having to worry that the government or any third parties are watching over your shoulder.