It is worth noting that the industry was specifically asked about the prospect of Hurt Locker lawsuits coming to Canada earlier this year. At the Bill C-32 hearing, NDP MP Charlie Angus had the following exchange with movie industry representatives:
Angus: The issue of safe harbours comes up again and again. I’m trying to get a sense of where we would want to have our legislation come down, because the issue of enabling massive copyright infringement is something we all have a stake in stopping. There is concern about sweeping up all kinds of people in the wake. In the U.S. we saw 5,000 John Doe lawsuits on The Hurt Locker. That was followed by 20,000 lawsuits for five films, followed by 30,000 lawsuits. This is being brought by the U.S. copyright group. In their John Doe lawsuits, basically they track anybody and they go after the ISPs. Would you support provisions like that here in Canada?
Ted East: We’re not interested in sweeping up the John Does. We’re looking for legislation that basically stops online piracy and illegal file sharing, which requires changes to the bill that exists. Whatever laws we have here are going to be different from those in the United States. As Patrick referred to earlier, we need massive education, because a significant portion of the population in Canada, particularly younger people, have grown up in an environment where piracy seems to be okay, where it has no consequences. We have notice and notice, but everybody that they know is doing it, so changes have to be made.
The prospect of thousands of Canadian peer-to-peer file sharing lawsuits – with potential liability of tens of thousands dollars per person for a single movie – highlights why the government was right in Bill C-32 to reform the statutory damages provision to distinguish between commercial and non-commercial infringement. Non-commercial infringement was capped under the bill at $5000 for all infringements, though it can go far lower. This case confirms that mass lawsuits with the threat of thousands in liability is a real possibility in Canada and why changes to the law are needed.