One of Bill C-61's few good points is the notice-and-notice approach for Internet Service Provider liability. The notice and notice system involves a notification from a copyright holder – often involving movies, software or music – claiming that a subscriber has made available or downloaded content without authorization. The ISP forwards the notification to the subscriber but takes no other action – it does not pass along the subscriber's personal information, remove the content from its system, or cancel the subscriber's service. It falls to the subscriber to act and experience indicates that many remove the infringing content (if indeed it is infringing) voluntarily. If ISPs comply this approach, they qualify for a statutory safe harbour such that they will not face monetary damages (though they may be ordered to remove content). Failure to comply with the approach can bring liability of up to $10,000 in statutory damages.
This is the same approach that was proposed in Bill C-60 and that has been used on an informal basis in Canada for several years with groups like the Business Software Alliance acknowledging its effectiveness. The rationale for sticking with notice-and-notice rather than the U.S.-style notice-and-takedown becomes even more compelling in light of the U.S. experience. Studies have demonstrated that notice-and-takedown is flawed, open to abuse, and may lead to improper claims of infringement. While there may be pressure from the U.S. and lobby groups to move toward notice-and-takedown, the experience to-date provides plenty of reasons why that would be a mistake.
While the overall approach is a good one, there is some room for improvement. First, as pointed out in the policy position on C-61 adopted by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, the approach creates new data retention requirements with no judicial oversight. In order to qualify for the statutory safe harbour ISPs are required to retain customer data for six months from the time they receive the complaint (they retain for up to a year if the complainant launches a legal action). While there is a need to retain some data for this system to work, six months is a long period of time — shorter periods and some form of oversight should be considered.