Are Canadians About to Be Prosecuted for File Sharing?
As of late, a company named Canipre has been drumming up a lot of shadily defined fear mongering against “one million Canadians” who they insist are illegally downloading copyrighted material. If you have never heard of Canipre, they’re a new company that's looking for record label and film studio clients they can work with to suck the cash out of Canadian citizens. Canipre has teamed up with two god-awful movie studios to begin their noble journey. The first is Voltage Pictures, who has released a ton of movies that are barely bargain bin worthy, plus a film you may know called The Hurt Locker. Canipre’s other companion in this shakedown mission is NGN Productions, who has released such gems as Paparazzi Princess: The Paris Hilton Story, a made-for-TV program, and Recoil, an action movie with Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Not only is it bullshit that Stone Cold Steve Austin has been dragged into this mess, the tactics behind Canipre’s lawsuits seem to be bullshit as well. On Canipre’s website, they proudly advertise to potential clients that “when asked, 95%” of accused file-sharers “stop” downloading entirely. Evidently, they like to brag about their bullying tactics. Their front page also has a randomly generating slogan that spouts out wisdom like, “it’s an arms race, and your bottom line is the target,” “your audience isn’t rational,” and “if they keep thinking it’s free, when do you go out of business?”
A screenshot from Canipre's friendly website.
As for Canada’s copyright laws, a close reading of the penalties detailed in our new amendment to the copyright act, C-11, leads to some uncertainties. For example, if you are found guilty of “circumventing” a “technological protection measure” you can be fined up to $25,000 or sentenced to a maximum of sixth months in jail. Would that include breaking the iTunes DRM off an album that someone purchased, then sending that newly “unprotected” digital copy to a friend?
In addition, the amount that one can be fined in “statutory damages,” a financial penalty based on guesswork that is brought into a court case when no one can figure out the value of what the alleged damage amounts to in the first place, ranges between $100 and $5,000. This is a somewhat reasonable fine when compared to America, whose own recording industry tried to sue Limewire for $72 trillion, also known as nearly all of the Earth’s money. They even sued a dead grandma in the midst of a mass lawsuit against over 700 American citizens.
Last August, Canipre’s buddies over at Voltage Pictures launched a series of lawsuits in Canada against individuals (that they claim) downloaded their only good movie, The Hurt Locker. Voltage obtained a list of IP addresses of users that they say downloaded the film, got a court order to have the ISPs identify the individuals behind those IPs, and then instead of pursuing the next steps within a court of law they withdrew their case. After all that, they’re back at it again.
As the Huffington Post reports, Canadian ISP Teksavvy (who is famous for their bandwidth generosity) received a request from Voltage Pictures to obtain the personal information from “2,000 IP addresses” that it claims downloaded their content illegally. Again, based on Voltage’s list of movies, it’s hard to imagine that any of their films could possibly have been downloaded by 2,000 people unless it was in fact The Hurt Locker, which leaked onto the internet in January of 2009. Voltage has also launched these kinds of legal assaults in America where it sought damages from 24,583 IP addresses in connection to illegal downloads of The Hurt Locker. It seems as if their game is: find IP addresses of illegal downloaders, get court order to find the names behind the IP addresses, contact the offenders, threaten them all, collect money from some, officially abandon legal pursuit, then repeat.
The guy from The Hurt Locker is coming 4 u.
The people who follow file sharing closely call this type of lawsuit blitz “copyright trolling,” a phrase used to describe the scare tactics of skeezy middle-men who issue thousands of threats in the hopes that enough terrified users will quiver their way into paying a fine without ever going to court. Luckily, these cases have been met with resistance.
In Massachusetts, Judge Leo Sorokin told a porn company that was using copyright trolling techniques they were demonstrating a “lack of interest in actually litigating.” In this particular case, the porn company was looking to sue 11,570 individuals who they allege had illegally downloaded their sexy movies with naked people in them. According to Ars Technica, the company has been unable to turn any of the over 11,000 accused individuals “into named defendants.” Though I bet they scared a few people into sending them cash, in exchange for the luxury of not having to go to court for their illegally downloaded anal porn.
Evidently, there’s a profit to be made from the fear of file-sharers. These studios seem to be going after such large numbers of people, not so they can win a court case, but so that some of the individuals that they threaten will admit to wrongdoing and pay up to avoid a legal proceeding. These trolling lawsuit blitzes must lead to a pot of dirty money for companies like Canipre and Voltage Pictures, but they do not lead to convictions. Plus, these legal offenses have not been launched in Canada by any studios that make worthwhile films to begin with. Evidently, these pushers of mediocre films have found a darling of a partner in the smoke and mirrors watchdog that is Canipre. Hopefully their attempts to exploit the legal system and extort civilians will be met with a very critical eye and smart legal defense. Otherwise, you can always just buy that Stone Cold Steve Austin movie you were going to steal from NGN Productions over here at Amazon and avoid the whole thing.
Follow Patrick on Twitter: @patrickmcguire
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