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Canadian ISP Fights Back Against Copyright Trolls 66

An anonymous reader writes "Distributel, an independent Canadian ISP, has fought back in a file sharing lawsuit by opposing a motion to disclose the names of subscribers alleged to have engaged in file sharing. The company did not oppose a similar request in November 2012, but says in court documents filed on Friday that several factors led to a change in position after it received another request for more names. Those concerns include evidence of copyright trolling, privacy issues, and weak evidence of actual infringement by its subscribers. The decision to fight back points to mounting ISP frustration in Canada with file sharing lawsuits that come after the Canadian government sent clear signals that such actions were unwelcome."
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Canadian ISP Fights Back Against Copyright Trolls

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  • by eksith ( 2776419 ) on Saturday February 09, 2013 @07:10PM (#42846459) Homepage

    From part 11 of the "Statement of faccts" in that motion :

    An IP address does not identify a specific individual or even a specific computer. As such, it is not analogous to a driver's license, a Social Insurance Number, or a fingerprint. On the contrary, an IP address can be used as a shared component to access the internet for multiple users. For example, it may be used to create a wireless network shared by multiple persons in a household, or in an office local area network, or an Internet coffee shop.

    Now I've seen many of the summaries for a lot of these motions (not one against them 'till now, since most ISPs offer resistance with a wimper) and not once have I seen an ISP actually explain what an IP is with layman-friendly clarity and how fickle a method of identifying a user it is. If this is how everyone treats IP addresses, there really wouldn't be any standing for disclosure of personally identifying information on any user unless law enforcement is already conducting surveillance on that IP.

    But that's not what happened here.

    They (copyright/troll folks) basically used a piece of software that flagged (apparently) content matching some signature of theirs to a bunch of addresses with no corroborating evidence like which P2P network was being used, if that, pseudonyms (although, I was under the impression most networks don't require them now), protocols or anything remotely grounding their assertion that their copyright was violated.

    This is basically a fishing exepedition and this time, the ISP called on it. I don't know what they're normally like or if they offered resistance like this in the past. TFA says they didn't fight a notice back in November 2012. But these guys asking for subscriber info has no standing at all. Kudos to them for standing up to this!

  • extortion? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zentigger ( 203922 ) on Saturday February 09, 2013 @07:17PM (#42846509) Homepage

    a notice claiming that subscribers could face up to $20,000 in damages

    Considering the law now features a cap of $5,000 for non-commercial statutory damages would this not count as extortion?

  • Re:extortion? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Saturday February 09, 2013 @07:42PM (#42846667) Journal

    It's a $20,000 ceiling for commercial infringement and $5,000 for personal. Does this mean that the entertainment industry is going to claim all infringement in Canada is commercial?

    Here's my tip folks. If you get a letter that claims you could be on the hook for up to $20k, retain a lawyer. Might cost you a few hundred bucks, but with these companies now prepared to jump to commercial claims, I imagine they'll be prepared to walk away from any defendant who retains a lawyer.

    Perhaps interested Canadians should band together to create a legal fund to fight such civil suits.

  • Re:Trolls... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by king neckbeard ( 1801738 ) on Saturday February 09, 2013 @08:55PM (#42847095)
    The US court system is full of feet dragging as well. The profit is made by threatening to sue in order to get a settlement. They won't make money in court, but they can scare would-be defendants into settling for a few grand each in order to not be named as a defendent and to not bear the costs of a court case.
  • by ruir ( 2709173 ) on Saturday February 09, 2013 @09:40PM (#42847317)
    Nah, they are building an war chest, and create critical mass volume and precedents on law to go after some bigger fish. However, they dont want to mess with people with vast resources, that have more to gain taking them to court then settling.
  • Re:Trolls... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @01:32AM (#42848279) Homepage Journal

    People defending their IP become trolls when they start with the millions upon millions of John Doe warrants.

    To put things in perspective, when a burglar steals my precious (to me) thingamabob, it doesn't give me the right to perform an armed door-to-door search of my neighborhood, and my hometown. Nor does it give me the right to expand that search to neighboring towns, if I don't discover my thingamabob in my own hometown.

    Further, the court cases make many of those "defenders" into trolls. In perspective, my precious thingamabob is only precious to me. Market value of my thingamabob is only ten bucks. You can get one at Wally's World of Whacky Weird Shit brand new for fifteen, and my used thingamabob is depreciated. The ONLY thing that makes it precious is, that it is MINE. So, if/when I discover the thief, comparable behaviour to these "defenders" would be to ask the judge to imprison the thief for life plus sixty years, to be served consecutively.

    Jim Baen, of Baen books put things in perspective, when he said that "pirates" are comparable to children stealing penny candy. You don't gun down a child for stealing a piece of bubble gum! At most, you talk to the kid's mommy, and let her know how her little precious behaves when she is not watching.

    Defending IP? No, not at all. If I had knowledge that I needed to defend, I'd lock it up, in my head, so that no one could take it from me.

    The business model is broken, and a lot of very intelligent people have already made that observation. The people defending the business model are those who lack both intelligence and imagination.

  • Re:Trolls... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @01:37AM (#42848307) Homepage Journal

    "And I gather that it's effective in the US. Doesn't mean the rest of the world functions in the same way."

    It seems to me that your statements are the underlying premise of TFA. Someone is attempting to manipulate your legal system in a manner similar to what the US tolerates - and the ISP is fighting back!

    Two thumbs up!

  • by Svet Ivanov ( 2837497 ) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @11:08AM (#42850041)
    Some things to consider in Canada:

    First, in general, the losing party pays legal costs of the successful party. The amount is usually from 50% to 60% of what the successful party should have paid its lawyers.

    Second, foreing plaintiffs may be required to post “security for costs” before they proceed with an action. This is to protect the costs of a successful defendant.

    Third, courts are ill-equipped to deal with multiple defendants, especially if there is a likelihood that they may be self-represented. It is diifuclt to see how a court would allow a lawsuit against hundreds of unrelated defendants identified only by IP addresses obtained by a third party (an ISP).

    With the new changes in the copyright law, it only takes one case of non-commerical infringement to set damages at $100 for the whole “trolling” enterprise to be a questionable proposition. On the other hand, if the target defendant collecting on judgments in Canada is usually difficult and expensive unless the debtor has real estate. So all that makes the Canadian legal landscape somewhat inhospitable for US-style litigation.

    In Distributel's case, it looks like this is the second motion they were served with. They did not oppose the first one and it looks like as a result of the first disclosure, only threatening demand letters were sent. There were no actions before the courts.

    Following this case and the Voltage vs. Does case (involving the ISP Teksavvy), reminds me of the UK case of the ACS Law firm ( where the lawyers set up loval shell corporations to own the rights (to avoid security for costs likely) and then send around 40,000 misleading letters to customers identified by IP addresses from ISPs not opposing motions for disclosure. The firm collected about a million pounds in several years. The lawyer behind it was eventually suspended because of the misleading demand letters and it seems his case killed any future litigation in the immidiate future. It remans to be seen whether this will play out in Canada.

"No, no, I don't mind being called the smartest man in the world. I just wish it wasn't this one." -- Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, WATCHMEN