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Rightsholders Seek Broad and Flexible Sports Piracy Blockades in Canada

By iptv.legal , in Anti-Piracy canada Site Blocking , at April 9, 2024

canada flagThree years ago, Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal upheld the first pirate site-blocking order in the country.

The landmark decision opened the door to additional and more advanced blocking requests. Indeed, it didn’t take long before NHL broadcasters asked the court for a pirate streaming blocking order of their own.

This NHL blocking action was followed by a FIFA World Cup blocking order, which was also granted without further hassle. Following up on these successes, sports rightsholders added MLB among their targets.

These blocking injunctions were not filed in isolation. Instead, the interlocutory orders are part of lawsuits against the operators of the pirate streaming servers. On paper, the goal of the lawsuits is to pursue claims against these defendants and the blockades are a temporary measure to limit the damage these services cause.

This approach made sense, as filing a lawsuit simply for blocking purposes wasn’t common. However, after several injunctions were granted over the past three years, change is on the horizon.

NHL, NBA and Premier League Piracy Blockade

Last Friday, rightsholders including Bell, Fubo TV, Rogers, and The Sports Network, filed a notice of application at Canada’s Federal Court. This time, they seek an order requiring Internet providers to block live streams of NHL, NBA, and Premier League games.

This is a notable change compared to earlier blocking requests, which all focused on single sports. Combining multiple sports leagues and events makes sense, the rightsholders argue, as the targeted piracy servers typically offer a broad selection of sports as well.

“This process is also more efficient for the parties and the Court than initiating separate proceedings for each professional sports league and every time new content is broadcast…,” the rightsholders write in their application.

This isn’t the only change in this blocking proceeding. The defendants, the protected content, and the procedural blocking approach are also subject to change.

Defendants Unlimited?

None of the blocking targets listed in the application includes a name. Instead, it targets three “John Doe” defendants who are identified by their IP addresses. These addresses were offering pirated sports streams in the past.

Does 1-3

does

The IP addresses are not linked to a single service. They appear to be used by several piracy operations, including publicly available pirate streaming site ‘epllive.net’ and paid subscription platforms including ‘TVSmarters’ which are mentioned by name.

Pirate streaming example

epplive

Before requesting this blockade, the rightsholders identified thousands of illicit streaming instances. They subsequently alerted the associated hosting providers, asking them to forward the notices to their customers, but that didn’t yield the desired response.

With seemingly no other viable option to target the problem, the rightsholders believe that a blocking order is warranted. Notably, this applies to the three “John Doe” defendants, but also “Other John Doe Respondents” who are linked to streaming servers for which the IP addresses are not mentioned.

“The other John Doe Respondents are other unidentified persons unknown to the Applicants who operate Unauthorized Streaming Servers providing unauthorized access in Canada to Protected Live Content, and that are located at a large number of IP addresses that change continuously,” the rightsholders write.

This means that there could, in theory, be thousands of IP addresses that are subject to the request. Not just that, the list can change over time because rightsholders are seeking a “dynamic” injunction.

New ‘Streamlined’ Blocking Approach

Thus far, all Canadian site-blocking measures have come in the form of interlocutory injunctions as part of ongoing legal procedures against the alleged pirate operators. That’s about to change as well, if the recent request is granted.

The court previously noted that the lawsuits against the operators lingered on while the blocking orders were in place. To address this, and streamline the blocking procedure, the rightsholders now request a permanent and final injunction.

“The Applicants seek a permanent injunction in order to bring finality to the proceedings and propose to proceed by way of application instead of by action, as it is a more streamlined process,” they write.

‘Flexible’ Blockades Covering ‘Future’ Content

This procedural “streamlining” and the fact that multiple sports leagues are covered in the application are clear deviations from earlier blocking requests. However, it doesn’t end there. Other tweaks could have broad implications too.

For example, the proposed order doesn’t only apply to content that’s listed in the application. If the rightsholders acquire new content in the future, that may be added in as well, expanding the blocking scope.

A broad injunction would make it possible to add new seasons for existing sports leagues, but also completely new sports, or other content for which they obtain the rights in the coming two years.

“This process is also more efficient for the parties and the Court than initiating separate proceedings for each professional sports league and every time new content is broadcast and/or when the Applicants secure new rights,” the rightsholders add.

One Universal IP-address Blocklist

If granted, the blockades will only be active for specified time windows surrounding the live sports events. This is similar to earlier injunctions and in part put in place to prevent overblocking.

However, another key change is that the rightsholders now ask for a single IP-address blocklist during all ‘live’ windows, regardless of whether that server was previously used to stream pirated broadcasts of the specific event.

“Given that the same IP addresses are associated with the infringement of multiple sporting leagues and events, the use of a common IP address list for blocking would be more efficient in implementing the Order sought,” they write.

Universal Blocklist

common blocklist

The above logically means that an IP address that streamed pirated copies of an NBA game will also be blocked during Premier League matches.

Overall, it is clear that the rightsholders are trying to make the blocking process more streamlined and efficient, while also expanding the scope of the process.

The application has yet to be approved by the Federal Court. The rightsholders hope that, by abridging the deadlines, an order will be issued before the current sports seasons end. Several ISPs have indicated that they don’t plan to object, but others still have room to do so, which could slow down the proceeding.

A copy of the Application filed at the Federal Court by Rogers, Bell, Fubo, et al. is available here (pdf)

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