Online pirates continue looting, despite Bill C-11

Downloaders across the nation may have rung in the New Year with an email from their Internet Service Providers, or ISPs, saying that their online activities are being monitored due to alleged copyright infringement. But do users need pay attention to them?

ISPs such as Shaw, Bell, and Telus are now legally obligated to inform their customers if their IP address is seen partaking in pirate-like behaviour, such as downloading movies, or music, illegally, or sharing these products on peer-to-peer programs such as Vuze.

But now, those who are caught allegedly infringing copyright will be informed as part of the Harper Government’s Copyright Modernization Act, or as it is otherwise known, Bill C-11.

Open Media is a non-profit advocacy organization for open and innovative systems of communication within Canada. Their campaign coordinator, Meghan Sali, said that these notices are cause for concern for Canadians.

“This is certainly an alarming situation for many Canadian internet users because after the recent changes to the copyright rules, we now see that particularly large U.S. media companies are already abusing the law to send threatening and misleading notices to Canadians,” she said.

“Some of the worst ones we’ve seen have threatened a $150,000 lawsuit, some have even threatened that they’ll kick you off the Internet if you don’t stop your infringing behaviour,” Sali said, noting that neither of these are permitted under Canadian law.

In fact, the maximum fine for a non-commercial infringement under Canadian law is $5,000, and there is no legislation that would permanently boot a user off of the web.

The emails are a warning to those who download, or illegally share downloaded files on peer-to-peer programs. However, Sali said that Canadians who are unfamiliar with the law might leave themselves vulnerable.

“Open Media has been telling people, ‘don’t contact these people, and don’t click on any unique links that they give you [in the email]’ because that would be giving them your private information that they previously would have had to go through the courts to get,” she said. “It is pretty sneaky.”

Websites such as Kick Ass Torrents, or the Pirate Bay, allows anyone to download movies and music and stay current on media trends, but at what cost?

Photo by Caitlin Clow

Meanwhile, Vancouver’s Bradley Freedman, a partner in Borden Ladner Gervais’ national intellectual and information technology group believes that these emails will slow online piracy.

“I think lots of Canadians use downloading services, not appreciating the legal risks and we’ve seen that these kinds of notices should have a deterrent effect—that’s the purpose of them,” Freedman said.

Freedman said that piracy creates a large fiscal loss for creators in the music and movie industries.

“Generally speaking, copyright law is designed so that creators are in control of what is done with their works and to get paid fairly for their works,” Freedman said.

Freedman said that the changes to the copyright laws and through the new Notice and Notice Regime of the Copyright Modernization Act “isn’t changing anything, it’s just—maybe—increasing the likelihood that copyright holders will go after Canadians who are participating in this kind of misconduct.”

Chris Gerritsen, a media relations contact from Telus Alberta, said that Telus has been issuing notices for nearly a decade now, and that nothing about their policies has really changed since Bill C-11 has been introduced.

Websites such as Kick Ass Torrents, or the Pirate Bay, allows anyone to download movies and music and stay current on media trends, but at what cost?

Photo by Caitlin Clow

“Our customers can be reassured that their identity is never revealed,” Gerritsen said, adding that if an IP address continues to infringe on intellectual property, it is up to the copyright holder to go through the courts to gain access to personal information of the alleged infringer.

However, Gerritsen said that these notices “strike an appropriate balance between customer privacy and intellectual property.”

So, what does this mean for BitTorrent clients? The notice itself may not strike fear in online pirates, but the idea of paying $5,000 for a $14 movie may not seem like a good idea now that Big Brother is watching. 

Meghan Sali of Open Media, on the other hand, urges users to password protect Wi-Fi Internet connections so other downloaders cannot utilize personal IP addresses.

Freedman suggests that clients who receive these notices should consider them carefully and even seek out legal counsel. He also recommends subscribing to an online streaming website, such as Netflix or Hulu.

cclow@cjournal.ca