John Laskin comments on Supreme Court decision that Internet service providers do not qualify as broadcasters and are not covered by Canada's Broadcasting Act

ISPs Are Not Broadcasters, Canada's High Court Rules

February 10, 2012

Canada's highest court ruled Thursday that Internet service providers do not qualify as broadcasters and are not covered by the requirements of Canada's Broadcasting Act, rejecting an appeal from the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists and others.

The Supreme Court of Canada tackled the question of whether ISPs carry on "broadcasting undertakings" subject to the Broadcasting Act when they provide Internet access to broadcasting requested by end users, and answered in the negative.

The high court handed telecom respondents including Bell Canada, Cogeco Cable Inc., Rogers Communications Inc. and Shaw Communications Inc. a win, but had the decision gone the other way, it could have set the stage for ISPs being compelled to fund Canadian content.

Though it's not an explicit requirement of the Broadcasting Act, the CRTC generally requires broadcasters to subsidize Canadian programming, according to John Laskin, an attorney for some of the respondents.

If the appellants — ACCTRA, the Canadian Media Production Association, the Directors Guild of Canada and the Writers Guild of Canada — had prevailed, the ruling would have given the CRTC the ability to charge ISPs levies to support Canadian programming, John said.

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