Top court makes it costlier to sue al­leged on­line movie pi­rates

Calgary Herald - - FP CALGARY - EMILY JACK­SON

A new rul­ing from the Supreme Court of Canada will make it more ex­pen­sive for con­tent rights hold­ers to sue Cana­di­ans ac­cused of dis­tribut­ing pi­rated movies.

That could dam a tor­rent of law­suits threat­en­ing thou­sands of in­di­vid­u­als with $5,000 fines for shar­ing a sin­gle movie.

The Supreme Court of Canada sided with in­ter­net ser­vice providers in a battle be­tween Rogers Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Inc. and Volt­age Pic­tures LLC over who should foot the bill to track down the peo­ple ac­cused of il­le­gally shar­ing movies on net­works like BitTor­rent.

In a de­ci­sion re­leased Fri­day, the top court found that in­ter­net ser­vice providers are en­ti­tled to re­cover costs of find­ing and dis­clos­ing per­sonal in­for­ma­tion.

“This is an im­por­tant win for our cus­tomers and mil­lions of in­ter­net sub­scribers fac­ing open sea­son on their per­sonal in­for­ma­tion,” Rogers’ se­nior vice-pres­i­dent of reg­u­la­tory af­fairs David Watt said in a state­ment.

But the drama isn’t over. The Supreme Court or­dered a lower court to set a rea­son­able cost — which could make it pro­hib­i­tively ex­pen­sive or a bar­gain for movie rights hold­ers to sue peo­ple sus­pected of il­le­gal file shar­ing.

The le­gal battle stems from an at­tempt by Volt­age, the movie pro­duc­tion stu­dio be­hind films in­clud­ing Dallas Buy­ers Club and The Hurt Locker, to launch a re­verse class ac­tion law­suit against 55,000 in­di­vid­u­als at once.

When Volt­age sus­pects il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity on an IP ad­dress, it no­ti­fies the in­ter­net ser­vice provider, who must then pass the no­tice to the ac­count holder as­so­ci­ated with the IP ad­dress. Such no­tices typ­i­cally warn users to stop in­fring­ing or risk fac­ing le­gal ac­tion.

Copy­right law re­quires in­ter­net providers to par­tic­i­pate in and ab­sorb costs re­lated to the “no­tice-and-no­tice” regime. But Rogers ap­pealed a Fed­eral Court rul­ing that found it had to pay to find an al­leged in­fringer’s name and iden­tity — in­for­ma­tion Volt­age re­quired to move for­ward with its law­suit.

In­ter­net providers must hand over these de­tails if rights hold­ers such as Volt­age pro­duce court or­ders called Nor­wich or­ders. But Rogers said the in­for­ma­tion is not easy to find be­cause IP ad­dresses are dy­namic. It ar­gued it should be able to re­coup its costs for a process that it says takes 20 to 30 min­utes per in­stance and costs about $100 per hour.

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