Canadian Law

File Sharing Lawsuits In Canada ?

British Columbia based NGN Prima Production will soon be sending notices to individual Canadians who have illegally downloaded a film entitled “Recoil“.

This company has successfully sued to gain access to the identifiable information behind 50 IP addresses, that it suspected were involved in the illegal distribution of this Steve Austin action film.

Four internet providers (3 Web, Access Communications Co-Operative, ACN, and Distributel Communications) have been ordered by the Federal Court in Montreal to hand over information in regards to those 50 IP addresses to NGN Prima Production, by the beginning of December.

The maximum penalty for non-commercial infringement is $5000 now that Bill C-11 has come into force. But many experts suspect that it may be significantly reduced by the courts in some cases.

Doom & Gloom ?

Debate has recently heated up in regards to the effects of peer to peer due to a report published by The American Assembly at Columbia University.

Since its publication in October, arguments on whether the technology is detrimental to the industry have been going back and forth, some claiming that the users of this technology buy more music whilst others claim they do not.

This study found that peer to peer users purchased 30% more music whilst RIAA proponents claim they spend pretty much that same amount as non peer to peer users on music.

This is only one of the numerous reports that found that peer to peer users buy more music, concert tickets and artist associated merchandise. And numerous members of the industry have responded to this information by consolidating their operations into media companies like Live Nation. But one should notice quite a few issues with the industry’s response.

One has to wonder why peer to peer is being targeted when it’s usage does not result in a loss of sales :

“The truth is that P2P users spend about the same on the core music categories as non-users, on this basis. P2P users spend a bit more on digital downloads and subscriptions but it would be a tough argument that there is much of a difference. Six dollars extra on tracks is hardly half an album.” – NPD Group Blog Entry, dated October 18th, 2012

You will notice the last sentence on that statement emphasizes the industry’s preference when it comes to sales.

They prefer the sale of albums. And any argument in regards to concert ticket and merchandising sales fall on deaf ears because they haven’t secured those sources of income.

“There is a significant difference in spend on merchandise and concert tickets, where P2P users spend nearly twice as much as non-users. Are we saying that P2P file sharing promotes T-shirt sales, or show attendance? Of course not; that would be silly. What it says is that the people who download music illegally are generally more engaged in music, so they go to shows and they wear their favorite artists on their shirts. I have news for you: they would be doing this if P2P never existed.”

P2P is used to preview music for free and the operative word, free, also applies to new technologies that the blog entry also acknowledges.

The average P2P downloader spends $42 on these categories of music. No contest- P2P users spend more. Guess what- people who follow artists on Facebook spend more than that, as do people who use Twitter; and those who subscribe to Rhapsody or Pandora spend a whole lot more than any of these groups.

We are no longer in the late 90’s or early 2000’s. Numerous licensed services now offer free music, some of which do not require the installation of questionable software and/or the mass storing of music files. And individuals will not care in regards to the source of this music because it’s free.

The problem of course if that the music industry is slow to adapt and have not licensed their complete repertoire to the new services.

The labels failed to negotiate and obtain the rights to older recordings so people continue to use P2P for recordings that are not available for download through the legal services, some of which are not available on or have yet to be made available on compact disc.

These distribution issues are also what is driving people to use peer to peer networks to obtain films that are not available on or have yet to be made available on DVDs that are compatible with their home theater equipment.

Peer to peer services will likely be used less and less by people who are looking for music that can be found on the other free services but the above aforementioned rights issues will keep peer to peer alive until they are addressed.

Bill C-11 Is Now Law

Bill C-11’s amendments to our Copyright Act have come into force today.

This means we are now no longer able to perform private copies, copies for personal use, from copy protected recordings.

We can continue to make personal copies from legally purchased recordings that are not protected by digital rights management. But copy protected CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays can now no longer be copied, even for backup.

It should be noted that the vast majority of CDs are not copy protected anyway, copy protection having failed in 2005 because of the Sony BMG rootkit issues. And the music industry appears to have adopted the mp3, iTunesicon having included an ability to convert music into that format in their software. But some consumers are still concerned that they could be subjected to experimental copy protection schemes in the future.

To prevent music recordings from being leaked prior to their release date the labels could experiment with copy protection schemes within the industry and later attempt to adopt this format in their distribution to consumers, causing compatibility and security issues.

The technological protection measure provisions were primarily added to protect the film and software industries, but we have yet to see their interpretations in action. And as consumers we will need to remain vigilant.

I will be keeping an eye on these issues and will post additional information as it becomes available.

Update to “Scammers On The Prowl”

In June 2011 I had posted a somewhat off-topic warning about a security issue I had been encountering for months.

I had been receiving unsolicited calls from individuals with thick Indian accents claiming to be “Software Maintenance Department of Online PC Care” asking me to give them access to my computer because of some alleged virus infection.

This was of course a common con by that time, which also involved individuals claiming to represent Microsoft calling random numbers in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Basically they gained access, altered settings without the user’s knowledge and then proceeded to extort $49 to $450 from the user to “repair” the damage they had caused.

The Federal Trade Commission in the United States have taken legal actions against these fraudsters yesterday, freezing their assets and demanding a halt to this activity.

The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission have also penalized the companies involved in this tech support scam in respect to Canada’s no call list legislation.

If you have received a call of this nature, please file a complaint with the CRTC via this form.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

The Copyright Modernization Act passed through the legislative process and obtained royal assent in June of this year. And though I am critical of the technological protection measure provisions, the bill is still a step forward. But it appears that the lobbyists in the United States are attempting to reverse many of the provisions in this legislation through the Trans Pacific Partnership trade negotiations.

The International Intellectual Property Alliance want to circumvent our democratic processes in order to force our government to enact RIAA style prosecutions in Canada.

They are demanding new penalties for intellectual property violations, new processes in which internet providers are forced to police the internet on their behalf and the removal of the $5000 liability cap on non-commercial infringement.

But their demands don’t end there.

They want an extension of the copyright term up to the American standard and want our customs officers to search people for copyright violations upon entry, without a search warrant.

At the moment copyright is limited to life plus 50 years, meaning an author will own his works up to his death and his estate would retain copyright on these works for 50 years after the author’s death.

The Americans extended their copyright term to life plus 70 years and added additional provisions to their Copyright Act extending copyright on published works to 95 years from publication, which could be renewed resulting in a term of 120 years in some instances.

So, not only do they want to practically eliminate our public domain
but they also want us to be burdened with longer lines at our airports and border crossings so searches can be performed on laptop hard drives and media players.

These amendments were ineffective in the United States, having failed to prevent 96.68 million BitTorrent downloads in the first half of 2012 according to the Musicmetric Digital Music Index, so why would they work in Canada ?

Parliament Is In Session

So, Parliament is now in session and several issues are back on the table.

Quite a few of the more controversial bills have passed through, some changed slightly like the Copyright Modernization Act. But the primary issue I’m having now is related to privacy in the internet.

We have progressed, the Office Of The Privacy Commissioner of Canada offering an online form for complaints. And the debate persists in the media, as it’s been since Bill C-12 was introduced in September 2011 by the Minister of Industry and Ministry of State (Agriculture).

The issue of course is the wording of the proposed amendments to Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act in Bill C-12 and other documents, which could cause problems later on in its interpretation and enforcement.

At the moment the member of parliament are concentrating on the budget, which will be tabled next week. But quite a few citizens are also wondering if they will be required to pay for technology to spy on every day citizens through their internet providers. And others wonder what will qualify as “probable cause” to start an investigation of an individual.

For example, will the past downloading of files from services like Megaupload result in an investigation in regards to piracy because of the accusations made against the service by the United States ? Will the viewing of a fundamentalist video on Youtube result in an investigation related to terrorism ?

Some people assume that they will be determined innocent with little to no effort if they were ever exposed to these issues. But what will be the due processes and how inconvenient will they be to the accused and the system ?

I am concerned about the mass prosecution of people and financial toll this will take on our internet providers and legal system. And having avoided the use of peer to peer transfer programs because of malware and spyware, I do not appreciate being exposed to the possibility of security issues through the implementation of a system that could have security issues of its own.

“Haste makes waste”. We need to tread slowly and thoughtfully through the process.