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The Courts Canada Piracy

Why Copyright Trolling In Canada Doesn't Pay 98

Posted by samzenpus
from the loony-for-loonies dept.
An anonymous reader writes "In the aftermath of the Canadian file sharing decision involving Voltage Pictures that includes an order to disclose thousands of subscriber names, the big question is what comes next. Michael Geist examines the law and economics behind file sharing litigation in Canada and concludes that copyright trolling doesn't pay as the economics of suing thousands of Canadians for downloading a movie for personal purposes is likely to lead to hundreds of thousands in losses for rights holders."
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Why Copyright Trolling In Canada Doesn't Pay

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Maybe they should change the law. When someone infringes on your rights, shouldn't you have recourse to sue them for damages?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 24, 2014 @12:47PM (#46324189)

      Sure you do. And when those damages amount to $20, and your legal costs amount to a few thousand, it's just not profitable as a business model, which is what it is used as in the states.

      • Sure you do. And when those damages amount to $20, and your legal costs amount to a few thousand, it's just not profitable as a business model, which is what it is used as in the states.

        Someone did a study a while back and found that the amount of money the RIAA/MPAA has spent on legal costs far exceeds the amount of money they have received in settlements. Something that everyone (excecpt the RIAA/MPAA Mafia) already knew.

        • by TheCarp (96830) <[ten.tenaprac] [ta] [cjs]> on Monday February 24, 2014 @01:39PM (#46324727) Homepage

          Someone did a study a while back and found that the amount of money the RIAA/MPAA has spent on legal costs far exceeds the amount of money they have received in settlements. Something that everyone (excecpt the RIAA/MPAA Mafia) already knew.

          Then someone didn't look at the right numbers, because those are the wrong ones to think about.

          The RIAA is not its members. Its members publish music. The RIAA is an industry association which they contract to represent them and fight for them. The RIAA is, in some ways, little more than a merger of a law firm and a PAC. They do not sell music... they sell the idea that their services are good for the industry and their members.

          I garauntee you that somewhere in the occasional statements that the RIAA makes to its members about how effective it is, they quote the total damages awarded to them as evidence of their effectiveness. High damage totals mean more to them then whether or not the settlement pays out in the end.

          Those settlements are not what keeps the RIAA going, they don't have to be profitable any more than a department store's "loss prevention" (security) department needs to be profitable. All they really need to do, is convince their members that they are worth keeping around.

          So it doesn't really need to be cost effective so much as more cost effective than an individual label doing all their own investigation and lawsuits.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          They probably know. It's not about money (they've been getting record profits), it's about control.
          • by CCarrot (1562079)

            They probably know. It's not about money (they've been getting record profits), it's about control.

            ...pun intended?

        • by sconeu (64226)

          Someone did a study a while back and found that the amount of money the RIAA/MPAA has spent on legal costs far exceeds the amount of money they have received in settlements.

          Well, that's certainly business as usual for the members of the MPAA. After all, no Hollywood movie has EVER turned a profit.

          • Someone did a study a while back and found that the amount of money the RIAA/MPAA has spent on legal costs far exceeds the amount of money they have received in settlements.

            Well, that's certainly business as usual for the members of the MPAA. After all, no Hollywood movie has EVER turned a profit.

            I always wondered how they showed this in their SEC filings. If movies aren't making a profit, how do they account this to their shareholders? Merchandizing based on the movie? Wouldn't that be derivative profits?

            • by sjames (1099)

              It's just fine for them. Their wholly owned subsidiaries make a godawful fortune producing the movie.

        • But, they may believe that the publicity behind having a bunch of people pay large fines may deter other people from infringing on their copyright. They are probably right about that. I know several people who don't download movies/songs because they fear being sued for it.
      • by Bacon Bits (926911) on Monday February 24, 2014 @01:16PM (#46324461)

        It's also important to recognize that it's only profitable in the US because here, copyright laws haven't been updated to account for widespread personal copyright infringement. They were written with the intent of shutting down direct piracy for profit: copying a movie to thousands of tapes and reselling them for profit. That's why the penalty is so severe. Since the law doesn't qualify piracy, however, everything qualifies for this penalty. That's why jumping on a torrent for a movie can get you a fine for $250,000 and five years in prison, but walking out of Target with half a dozen games, CDs, or movies only gets you (in my state) up to a $500 fine and 3 months in jail.

        The punishment here so grossly exceeds the severity of the crime, it's actually laughable.

      • by Jason Levine (196982) on Monday February 24, 2014 @01:54PM (#46324917)

        Not only that, but suing for $20 isn't going to be a threat to someone. Saying "if you don't settle with us for $3,000 and signing a one-sided statement saying you are a dirty, stinking pirate then we'll sue you for $10,000,000" is a threat that would be unsettling for most people. In the case of the former, you could fight it and the music companies would need to pay for thousands of lawsuits. In the case of the latter, people get scared (rightfully so since fighting a multi-million dollar lawsuit is scary business) and wind up settling. This means that the music industry doesn't need to pay massive legal fees and can make an example out of anyone foolish enough to take them on.

        If personal copyright infringement (as opposed to pressing and selling DVDs) was limited to some reasonable multiple of the actual market cost of the item, copyright law could be used as intended (to fight said DVD press operations) and not to bankrupt home users based solely on an IP address in a list.

      • But even so, I am not so sure.
        There is a huge huge difference between using someone else's idea to get rich, and a kid singing happy birthday or drawing a picture of spider-man or simply looking at something that is copyrighted without paying the rights holders. And that does not change when it is a kid sharing a VHS with a friend or a ripped DVD with 100.

    • The law doesn't prevent that. It caps the potential damages. The whole point was to avoid the situation as it has evolved in the US.

      The real solution here is for rights holders to get off their fucking asses and start giving consumers what they want.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The real solution here is for rights holders to get off their fucking asses and start giving consumers what they want.

        Everything for free?

        • by CCarrot (1562079)

          The real solution here is for rights holders to get off their fucking asses and start giving consumers what they want.

          Everything for free?

          DRM free, certainly.

          Y'know, like mp3's, which are still pirated but are at least available for purchase, unlike any DRM-free video that I am aware of...give true customers access without all the PITA usage restrictions, and the true fans will buy it simply to support the media they love. Yes, there will always be freeloaders, but those are the same people who would bum the DVD's from their friends instead of buying it anyways. At least you'd have the freeloaders telling their friends (who may be more fl

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by carbonUnit42 (1698328)
            Available for purchase is one of the reasons I used to use software like Limewire, or, in actuality, not available in my country. Living in Canada, iTunes US and iTunes Canada had different collections of music available for purchase. I could find a song on iTunes US, but not available on iTunes Canada, and because I do live in Canada, I could not easily order it off of iTunes US. If the right's holder decides to maintain the rights to a song, and not allow me to purchase it legally in my own country, then
            • by CCarrot (1562079)

              I could find a song on iTunes US, but not available on iTunes Canada, and because I do live in Canada, I could not easily order it off of iTunes US. If the right's holder decides to maintain the rights to a song, and not allow me to purchase it legally in my own country, then why should you be allowed to sue for copyright infringement, considering you're not making it available for me to purchase legally?

              Interesting thought.

              I wonder how exactly they would assess 'damages' if the material in question was never available for purchase in the first place?

            • " It never made much sense to me for a rights holder to not allow a consumer to legitimately purchase a song, and then bitch and complain when the frustrated consumer finds other means to acquire the same song that you refused to make available for purchase."

              Same goes for free stuff too. Wanted to watch some episodes of Trophy Wife and The Goldbergs on ctv.ca (like I can do for free on src.ca and tout.tv owned by Radio-Canada), and *surprise,surprise*. I have to enter my Bell TV account in order to do so. W

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That's the whole point ... damages are negligible. They shouldn't be able to sue for thousands because you skipped paying them 25 cents in royalties. The law in Canada is based on fairness (doesn't always work out that way, but it's based on that).

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Canada just changed the law. There is a massive distinction between copyright infringement for commercial and non-commercial purposes. In Canada, the penalties are still massive if you're profiting off of someone's copyright.

      Copyright infringement for non-commercial purposes have a low fixed cap.

      Mind you, you would have known this if you actually followed the updating of the Canadian copyright law.

    • When someone infringes on your rights

      Unjust privileges, more like it.

      shouldn't you have recourse to sue them for damages?

      You do, but you can't forgo the justice system to do it.

  • by GigsVT (208848) on Monday February 24, 2014 @12:47PM (#46324183) Journal

    A studio enforcing their copyright against personal-use downloads might be a somewhat crappy and ill-advised practice, but it's not "trolling". To me if you were going to call something "copyright trolling" it would be more like using copyright letters to silence people, aka SLAPP, not using copyright the way it was intended, to prevent people other than the owner from making copies of the entire media as a substitute to buying it from the media holder.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 24, 2014 @12:56PM (#46324283)

      Actually, copyright trolling is a process more akin to the original meaning of trolling (ie: like they do in fishing, rather than the modern "internet" meaning of "being an asshole"), where they send out several thousand letters to people demanding that they pay a settlement for downloading copyrighted materials, usually at a cost drastically inflated over the actual "damages" incurred, and threaten much more expensive legal action should the recipient fail to pay up in a timely manner.

      The problem is, many of these letters are sent to people who haven't actually violated that copyright, and to further muddy the waters, in Canada, all writable media (tapes, CDs, DVDs, etc...) has a levy added to it because the government assumes the only reason you'd ever buy a burnable CD/DVD is to pirate music, so you've already paid for it, and the money has already been sent off to the Canadian version of the RIAA. Hell, I've paid for it, and not even downloaded the music I technically "bought" alongside the stack of burnable DVDs I needed for backups at work.

    • by sumdumass (711423)

      I think the trolling comes into play when a copyright holder seeds his own or has someone seed their works in order to collect IP addresses which they then attempt to sue but settle out of court. This seems to be common practice with the **AAs in the US at one point in time.

    • by sinij (911942)
      The key difference is motive - it is trolling because Voltage's profit is not deterrence, not recovering damages from potential loss of a sale, but judicial extortion for profit.

      Consider following - you are 100% innocent person that got "mistakenly" targeted by these lawsuits. It will cost you considerable sum to simply defend yourself, if Voltage prices settlement offer just under that amount then rational decision is to always settle.

      Again, copyright trolls are called so because they only care to get
    • by Zalbik (308903)

      To me if you were going to call something "copyright trolling" it would be more like using copyright letters to silence people, aka SLAPP

      And that is exactly what is happening here. See here [michaelgeist.ca] for more details.

      Specifically, they are using a scheme called "speculative invoicing", described as:
      "sending hundreds or thousands of demand letters alleging copyright infringement and seeking thousands of dollars in compensation. Those cases rarely - if ever - go to court as the intent is simply to scare enough people

    • http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki... [wikipedia.org]

      1. (v) a method of fishing where one or more fishing lines, baited with lures or bait fish, are drawn through the water.

      2. (v) a method of profiteering where one or more letters, baited with intimidating threats and a lure of protection, are drawn through a pool of internet users

    • by sjames (1099)

      Due to their generally shoddy evidence, the way even the 'settlement' vastly exceeds any reasonable damages, and their suits en masse, it rises to the level of trolling.

  • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Monday February 24, 2014 @01:06PM (#46324375)

    wasn't this to compensate media companies for data copying?

    why pay a blank media tax and also restrict what they do online, re: copying?

    look, if you start out assuming I'm guilty and force a penalty fee on me, I see no reason to not make the best of it and copy as much as I can, just to make USE of the money you forced out of me.

    canada: you used to be cool. what happened?

    • by RobinH (124750)
      The media surcharge/tarriff/whatever was only applicable to music, not movies/videos.
    • by MobyDisk (75490)

      Technically, the US has a blank media tax too, but it is very weak:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P... [wikipedia.org]

      This only applies to CDs which are labeled and sold for music use;

      Only once have I ever seen CDs labeled in this way.

    • by CCarrot (1562079)

      canada: you used to be cool. what happened?

      Have you been up here lately??

      -47 Celsius with the wind chill this morning...and we're getting damn tired of it already!

  • Why don't they just give them all an introductory offer on Netflix or similar? Build some good will and encourage them away from downloading for free.

    • by CastrTroy (595695) on Monday February 24, 2014 @01:42PM (#46324759) Homepage
      Personally I find I don't have much of need to pirate content now that I have Netflix. Sure there's some movies that aren't available, but I'm not the kind of person that just "has to" watch a specific movie. If a movie isn't available for agreeable terms, then I just simply won't watch it. If there's a movie that I really want to see and it isn't avaialble on Netflix, I can go to the theatre, rent it from iTunes/Play/Cable Company/etc, or even buy the DVD.
      • by Jason Levine (196982) on Monday February 24, 2014 @02:07PM (#46325077)

        And yet the content companies act as though Netflix is Public Enemy #2 (right after pirates). They seem to think that putting their content on Netflix will kill their ability to make tons of money off of the content by selling it to customers multiple times. This might be true to an extent, but the more content they make available via Netflix (and other, similar services), the less incentive people have to pirate. Yes, there will always be people who pirate. You could offer movies in a DRM-Free format for $1 each and some people would insist on pirating it instead. My advice to the content companies would be to forget about those people. They aren't potential customers. However, the guy who wants to watch Game of Thrones online [theoatmeal.com], is willing to pay money for it, but finds that piracy is the easier (or only) option is a potential customer that you lose by not making your content readily available.

        • by jonwil (467024)

          The #1 cause of the industries woes right now is that the industry as a whole is unwilling to give up the "TV" model of linear channels in favor of a model where people can watch what they want when they want and don't have to pay big dollars for content they dont want just to get the content they do.

          They are fighting tooth and nail to hold onto a dying distribution method when they should be embracing the internet and finding ways to sell their content to as many people as possible.

          I bet a big chunk of peo

          • Exactly. They are looking at their business as "The TV Model" and think anyone that disrupts this is The Enemy. Thinking like this, it is perfectly reasonable to see Netflix as The Enemy. Of course, the content industry once saw VHS tapes as The Enemy. Once they accepted them, they made a ton of money off VHS tape rentals and sales. If the content industry were to accept the Internet in the same way, they would make tons of money, customers would get the content they want, and everyone would win. Pira

      • by Zalbik (308903)

        Personally I find I don't have much of need to pirate content now that I have Netflix

        Really? I've tried both canadian and american netflix, and I find the quality / quantity of movies available to be pretty crappy. Other than a few TV series, it seems to be pretty much the same as cable: "500 channels and nothing on".

        That being said, at $7 a month, it's definitely worth it for the 2-4 hours of entertainment I get per week. I just wish the rest of the content producers would realize that there are virt

    • by dryeo (100693)

      Canadian Netflix is pretty crappy compared to the American version and we don't have much else. It's not like the content companies want to sell their products here, at least in an easy to purchase downloadable format

      • by Yaztromo (655250)

        Canadian Netflix is pretty crappy compared to the American version and we don't have much else. It's not like the content companies want to sell their products here, at least in an easy to purchase downloadable format

        Pro tip:

        Netflix is fully IPv6 enabled, which is actually great news for Canadian Netflix users. Just setup an IPv6 tunnel to the nearest Hurricane Electric [he.net] tunnel server farm (if you have a router that supports this, you can enable IPv6 invisibly for your entire home quickly and easily. Apple's routers all support this out of the box, for example), and presto -- you'll have US Netflix.

        Note that this only works on IPv6-enabled devices, of course, so your set-top box or smart TV may not benefit. And you ha

        • by Zalbik (308903)

          unlike VPN/proxy solutions. It's also fast -- even though the IPv6 is tunnelled, I can't perceive any speed issues when watching content this way.

          Most of the VPN/proxy solutions for Netflix are also pretty fast (e.g. unblock-us.com). The trick is they only need to proxy during the initial authentication. Once that is done, data is streamed directly to your PC. That's why most of the services only work with a (large) subset of streaming sites....they have to be setup on the proxy providers site to han

          • by Yaztromo (655250)

            I was using unblock-us for a while, and it worked flawlessly. I only stopped as there wasn't enough additional content on US netflix for me to justify paying for it.

            IPv6 tunnels are fortunately free. And as I mentioned, if you have router support for it, then every Mac, PC, and Linux box in your house will automatically be provisioned for end-to-end IPv6 access to Netflix (and anything else IPv6 accessible on the Internet), along with any set-top boxes which may use IPv6 (Apple TV apparently does, but I don't own one to be able to confirm this).

            Yaz

  • Lawyers will be the only ones making the money in this case. The settlement will be less than what it will cost for a day in court as the damages are capped.
  • by Kris Warkentin (15136) on Monday February 24, 2014 @02:13PM (#46325165) Homepage

    Apparently I'm actually one of the IP addresses named in the original suit. Funny thing is, I don't know, nor have I downloaded any of Voltage's list of crappy films. They actually have 'The Hurt Locker' (which I haven't seen) in their list but the rest are pretty much B movies. What's even more funny is that the time during which I was alleged to have downloaded some of their stuff was the same time I was in Europe on a two week vacation. There were people looking in on our house and we also have neighbors and such who use our wifi so certainly others might have downloaded movies but not me.

    A fun fact about Canadian jurisprudence is that typically the loser pays court costs so if they DO try to take me to court, I think I might exhaust ever single possible legal argument, drag the whole thing out as long as I can before dropping that bombshell. I'm pretty sure that being on the other side of the Atlantic in the middle of the Adriatic on a cruise ship with no internet access proves that I didn't download anything... If I can cost Voltage a fortune in legal fees then it will be a good day.

    • Just looked closer...apparently Hurt Locker isn't in the list. I thought it was based on the original letter I got.

    • I usually just tell the MPAA I have a cousin who works at Monsanto. Considering they show up at farmers' houses with guns to talk about how it would be in your ... ahem ... best interest to grow their new line of soy, it's best to stay away.
  • Some people seem to forget that every member of the public is "rights holder" as well, and that our collective rights are more important than those of a corporation (especially one seeking to enforce an obsolete business model at the expense of everyone else).

    I'm glad Canada's judiciary knows this.

  • economics of suing thousands of Canadians for downloading a movie for personal purposes is likely to lead to hundreds of thousands in losses for rights holders."

    They just have to sue the one or two that doesn't pay the expensive settlement demand, in order to make examples out of them.

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