Culture Beat / June 29, 2017

Canadian Supreme Court Imposes Its ‘Authority’ Over the Internet

Canada orders Google to comply with its ruling world-wide. That isn’t exactly going to work.

Is the Canadian Supreme Court seeking to impose its authority over the entirety of the internet? Well, on Wednesday, Canada’s highest court ruled on an intellectual property case, saying that Google must scrub its site’s search results for the pirated products in question not just within Canadian borders, but world-wide. The court attempted to defend itself against the obvious objection to the ruling’s international implications on freedom of speech, stating, “This is not an order to remove speech that, on its face, engages freedom of expression values, it is an order to de-index websites that are in violation of several court orders. We have not, to date, accepted that freedom of expression requires the facilitation of the unlawful sale of goods.”

There are at least two glaringly obvious problems here. First, Canadian law is not universal, and therefore, however legitimate and legal the court’s ruling might be within the confines of Canada’s borders, it is an imposition by a foreign government on all other nations. Second, even though the Canadian court denies it, this ruling does indeed encroach upon freedom of speech. The ordering of Google to scrub its site, world-wide, of any reference to the pirated product in question is a ban on speech.

Imagine if France ruled that Google must scrub its search indexes world-wide of any material depicting an image of the Prophet Mohammad due to the fact that Muslims deem it as blasphemous. Would Google in the U.S. be obligated to comply with a ruling from a foreign government that obviously violates Americans’ First Amendment rights? The obvious answer is, no. Because borders matter.

Further defending itself from the international implications of its ruling, the Canadian court referenced the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) as precedent. The problematic law was designed to fight online piracy by making it easier to remove copyrighted materials from the Internet at an owner’s request, but the Canadian court’s ruling only further demonstrates just how easily the law can be misapplied. If theft matters, then so does a nation’s borders as well as its citizens’ sovereignty rights to abide by their own country’s laws.

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