Yesterday's jury verdict in Minnesota is unsurprisingly generating an enormous amount of attention – a $220,000 damage award for sharing 24 songs will do that. While Declan McCullagh and Ray Beckerman provide some good analysis about why and what next, it is worth noting that the Canadian context is very different.
First, as CRIA itself acknowledged in a recent court filing, the private copying levy has been interpreted to extend to personal, non-commercial downloading so that the $200 million generated by the levy provides real compensation for P2P downloading.
Second, the statutory damages provision in Canada is marginally better, with the prospect that a court would never arrive at this kind of award. Indeed, the Act allows a court to go below $200 per infringement. Statutory damages still have no place in these kinds of cases, but at least Canadian law is a bit more reasonable.
These differences may help account for the fact that we have not seen file sharing suits in Canada since CRIA was soundly defeated in its attempt to sue 29 alleged file sharers several years ago. Instead, CRIA has gone after intermediaries, as the recent demand notice against Demonoid demonstrate. Even those claims are suspect, however, since the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that providers of equipment (including websites) are entitled to presume that their equipment will be used lawfully and therefore not rise to the level of authorizing infringement.