New Copyright Law May Have Made U.S. Netflix Illegal In Canada: Fasken Martineau

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Canada’s new copyright law may have made it illegal for TV viewers on this side of the border to access U.S. Netflix, a prominent law firm says.

As part of recent copyright law reforms, the government made it illegal to circumvent technologies that control access to copyrighted works, such as digital locks.

Accessing U.S. Netflix via a VPN could be considered circumventing this measure,” law firm Fasken Martineau says in a bulletin.

The firm notes that whether or not U.S. Netflix is illegal hasn’t been established because the courts have never dealt with the issue.

It suggests other things may also make using U.S. Netflix illegal in Canada — such as the fact that doing so violates the streaming service’s Terms of Use.

Some one in three Canadian households that have Netflix log into the U.S. service, largely because of the larger selection of movies and TV shows available. That’s some one million households that may be in violation of Canadian law.

But the Fasken Martineau report says it’s likelier the companies that provide access to U.S. Netflix would be targeted in any crackdown, rather than end users.

“About 20 years ago, many Canadians were using grey market satellite dishes to access U.S. channels. In that case, the law was ultimately changed to target the dealers selling the equipment, not the individual consumers,” the report said.

In this case, the “dealers” would be the operators of virtual private networks and proxy servers that allow people located in Canada to appear as if their IP address was located in the U.S.

News reports in recent months suggest that streaming services like Netflix are under pressure from copyright holders to stop viewers from jumping across virtual borders.

That may help to explain why Netflix recently stressed in the media that Canadians are not supposed to use the U.S. service.

Netflix recently sent a cease-and-desist letter to Turboflix, a virtual private network that offers access to U.S. streaming services and other geo-blocked sites.

Netflix issued the legal threat “both for mimicking our logo and for promoting ways to circumvent content protections,” the company said.

The Fasken Martineau report also offers an alternative scenario that would probably be the preferred one among Canadian Netflix users: Streaming services could eventually stop restricting content according to geography.

“The industry has in many ways structured itself around geographical divisions and, just as in other industries, those divisions are becoming increasingly irrelevant,” the report concluded.

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