Supreme Court to decide if ISPs are broadcasters

The CRTC is off the hook in determining whether internet service providers should be compelled to support Canadian content creation.

The CRTC is off the hook.

The Supreme Court of Canada is to decide whether internet service providers (ISPs) are broadcast undertakings.

The CRTC in 2009 referred the question of whether ISPs are subject to the Broadcasting Act to the Federal Court of Appeal, which ruled in July 2010 that they are not ‘broadcasters’ compelled to support Canadian content creation.

The lower court instead ruled ISPs are content-neutral when they offer online access to audiovisual content.

The Supreme Court on Thursday gave a coalition of guilds and unions leave to appeal the Federal Court of Appeal ruling on ISPs as broadcast distributors, which involved major carriers like Bell Canada, Cogeco, Rogers Communications and Shaw Communications, and the CRTC.

The coalition, including ACTRA, the Canadian Media Production Association, the Directors Guild of Canada and the Writers Guild of Canada on Thursday said they will appear before the highest court when it takes up the case.

‘The coalition looks forward to presenting their arguments before the court on this critical issue for the future of the broadcasting system in Canada,’ it said in a statement.

The Supreme Court will need to consider whether the lower court erred when considering ISPs content-neutral, and so not operating like broadcasters.

The coalition of unions and guilds contend ISPs, by enabling consumer access to an exponentially growing supply of video content online, are subject to the Broadcasting Act and should contribute to content production.

The status of ISPs in the broadcast system, and whether they should be regulated by the CRTC, is key because Canadians increasingly go online to pull video off of websites like YouTube and iTunes.

Accordingly, content creators argue not deeming ISPs as broadcasters will leave a growing hole in the distribution system from where contributions to homegrown production do not come.

From Playback Daily