Earlier this fall, I wrote about the return of file sharing lawsuits to Canada as the copyright owners of the film the Hurt Locker obtained a court order requiring three major ISPs – Bell, Videotron, and Cogeco – to reveal the identities of dozens of subscribers alleged to have downloaded the movie. I noted that the targeted Canadians would likely face the prospect of demands to pay thousands of dollars in order to settle the case (or spend thousands in legal fees fighting the claims in court).
Several months later, sources advise that the demand letters to alleged file sharers have been sent. Assuming the content of the letters mirrors that found in the U.S. (which it likely does), the subscribers face demands to pay $2900 to settle the case, which increases to $3900 if the target does not accept the offer within three weeks. A copy of a recent U.S. letter can be found here. The system is so automated that there is a website devoted to the settlements with “all major credit cards accepted.”
It is worth repeating that the industry was specifically asked about the possibility of Hurt Locker lawsuits making their way to Canada when they appeared before the Bill C-32 committee. The response:
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.
Bill C-11 tries to address the issue by creating a $5,000 cap on liability for non-commercial infringement, yet the Hurt Locker case suggests that does not go far enough. A better approach would be to eliminate statutory damages in non-commercial cases altogether. That change, which would bring Canada into line with most of its trading partners, would allow for full $20,000 per infringement liability for commercial infringement, while requiring claimants to offer evidence of actual damages in non-commercial cases. Without such a change, the government is still leaving the door open to thousands of potential lawsuits against individuals.