Canadians who download content may receive more warning notices if they are suspected of downloading copyright infringing content in the New Year.
As of January 1, 2015, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will be legally required to pass along notices of any allegations of copyright infringement from copyright holders.
Previously, ISPs had the choice of whether or not to notify customers if they were suspected of copyright infringement.
“The change is just a codification of the Notice and Notice regime, that had already been put in place by Canadian ISPs, and the content industry had pretty much acquiesced too,” explains David Fewer, director, Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic. “The Notice and Notice system in Canada is kind of similar to the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown system in the United States, but the major difference is that we don’t have a takedown system in Canada. You provide a notice and the ISPs’ obligation isn’t to take it down, it’s instead to past the notice on, and as long as the ISP does pass that notice along, then their can be no question of liability under the copyright act, it’s kind of a safe harbour.”
True intermediaries are not liable for copyright infringement, and most ISPs were already passing along any notices they received. Fewer says that the notices are aimed mostly at people who put up infringing content.
Rogers and Bell have said that they will be adhering to the change and stress that the consumer’s privacy will still be protected.
In a statement from Rogers, the company says: “The new legal requirement won’t change how we forward notice to our customers. This process has been followed by Canadian ISPs for more than ten years. When it comes to enforcing copyrights, rights holders may monitor sites where their content is being viewed, downloaded or shared without consent, a process we’re not involved in. If a copyright holder (like a movie studio) identifies an act of infringement (i.e. downloading a movie without consent), the rights holder will notify the customer’s internet service provider. If we receive a notice that one of our customers has infringed on a copyright, we will forward the notice to the customer, but we will not to disclose the identity of the customer to the copyright holder without a court order.”
The official changes are separate from the ongoing dispute between Teksavvy and Voltage Pictures, in which the latter sued the ISP to provide the identities behind 2,000 suspected downloaders of the film, The Hurt Locker. Teksavvy refused to comply, but were ordered to do so by a federal court order.
Teksavvy also made a motion to ask that Voltage reimburse the company for all “reasonable legal costs, administrative costs and disbursements” arising from collecting that information about its subscribers, and submitted a bill of costs in the amount of $346,480.68, which Voltage described as “outrageous.”
A decision in the case is expected soon and Fewer said it could be an important one, as depending on how the court rules. If the court supports Teksavvy’s motion for costs, the ruling could become a significant barrier to similar types of lawsuits in the future.