Embarrassing private members bill to license Internet Service Providers tabled again.

I was watching CPAC yesterday when Conservative MP Joy Smith (Conservative, Kildonan--St. Paul) tabled a private members bill C-427. This is the same type of bill that has been tabled many times by various MPs of various parties. Chris Axworthy (NDP, Saskatoon--Clark's Crossing) tabled Bill C-396 in 1997 and Peter Stoffer (NDP, Sackville - Eastern Shore) introduced Bill C-234 in 2002, Bill C-254 in 2004 and Bill C-214 in 2006

Ms. Smith, like her NDP predecessors, claimed this bill would help reduce child pornography on the Internet. This bill really has nothing to do with child pornography, other than this disgusting activity (as well as others) being abused as a justification to back up the clock to eradicate decentralized/democratized new media as a competitive threat to highly concentrated (and thus easier to centrally control) old media. Hopefully people will not get distracted by the unrelated emotional issue that is being abused here, and see this bill (in its many forms) for what it really is.

These bills suggest that ISPs should be "licensed" like legacy broadcast media, demonstrating a total lack of understanding of the differences between new media and old media. While publishers should have some responsibility for material which they authorize to be published, with special consideration for the differences between amateur and corporate publishers, an ISP should only be held liable for any publication in the very narrow cases where they are also the publisher and not just an innocent intermediary. ISPs should not need to be licensed any more than owners of photocopiers or computers should be licensed. In fact, we don't even require licenses of print media publishers, and most would think it offensive if the government tried to require licenses for print media or handing out pamphlets. It is sad to see how out-of-touch some politicians are about what the Internet is to even suggest that online publishers should be licensed, leave alone ISPs.

In a past letter to Peter Stoffer I wrote:

It is important to understand that the Internet is a citizen-to-citizen medium, not a broadcast medium, and thus attempts to use similar regulation and licensing as broadcast will not have the same effect. Licensing ISPs to control speech is like licensing private home owners to control speech, given that conversations the government may wish to control may also happen in the privacy of ones own home. Most people recognize this as movement into areas that will violate human rights.

ISPs should not be either responsible for or required to be aware of communications happening over their wires. The Internet works best when these mere intermediaries are kept hands off. If anything, the government should be regulating ISPs to disallow them to monitor or filter content without the expressed permission of their customers.

See also: CBC, Michael Geist, SlashDot , p2pnet, Ars Technica, Zeropaid, Slyck

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Bills brought forward from last session.

This private members bill is available for debate in this session.


2nd Session, 39th Parliament

This bill was introduced during the First Session of the 39th Parliament. Pursuant to the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, it is deemed to have been considered and approved at all stages completed at the time of prorogation of the First Session. The number of the bill remains unchanged.

Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) consultant.