Bell: Why Don’t Content Owners Sue Our Subscribers?

The government has just posted the audio from the Toronto copyright roundtable held in late August. The discussion started off with a bang with comments from Bell Canada. Bell had a lot of good things to say including support for the positions of Business Coalition for Balanced Copyright.  The discussion turned quickly to the role of ISPs in addressing allegations of infringement on their networks.  Bell receives upwards of 15,000 notices every month under the notice-and-notice system (primarily from the movie, gaming, and software industry), a volume that raises concerns about the associated costs.  Bell also provided a strong rejection of a three-strikes and you're out system describing those proposals as "outrageous."

The company then moved into the area of potential lawsuits with some surprising remarks:

"A role we don’t hear much about though is the role of content owners to defend in Canada their own statutory rights. Bell and a few other Canadian ISPs several years ago spent time and resources in the courts helping to develop the legal blueprint that content owners would need if and when they decided to legally pursue their rights in a way that respects the privacy and judicial rights of Canadians.  We’re still waiting.  No one is crazy about suing consumers because it is not popular.  But what sort of message does it send to Canadians about the legality of the activity when an entire industry says we won’t be suing Canadians for sharing our content without our permission."

While one can understand Bell's frustration at the demands to "do more" on the copyright file, pushing the industry to file lawsuits against its own customers surely is not the right approach.  The recording industry has stated that it does not want to pursue the lawsuit strategy, yet Canada's largest ISP thinks that not suing sends the wrong message to Canadians?  Years of experience shows that neither locks nor lawsuits provide any real benefit to the industry or the artists and the last thing ISPs should be promoting is lawsuits againt their own customers.

In case you needed another reason, the comments serve as a reminder why Canadians must speak for themselves during this copyright consultation.  There are just five days left and submitting to the process takes nothing more than an email – make sure yours is filed today.


  1. Russell McOrmond says:

    Holding my nose, but agreeing
    I have to hold my nose to do so, but on this specific point I agree with Bell.

    The legacy content/software industry associations has been falsely claiming both nationally and internationally (through the laundered Special 301 report, etc) that Canadian law is weak and in need of radical change. We had a past Heritage Minister that claimed that updates were needed to Canadian law to “give copyright holders the tools to sue”. Many Canadians, including I suspect 307 of the 308 MPs (IE: All except Charlie Angus) that will be voting on a future Copyright bill falsely believe that current Canadian copyright laws don’t provide copyright holders the ability to sue if they wished to exercise current Canadian law.

    While locks and lawsuits are not the answer, the political push for locks where the owners are not given the keys is largely based on the false claim that lawsuits aren’t even possible. If my choice is between radical changes to the law to legalize and legally protect foreign locks, a “claim and censor” regime to take content down without court oversight, or lawsuits against alleged filesharers, then I’m with Bell and choose lawsuits.

  2. Absolutely the right thing to say by Bell for once. The content industry should try to sue the living sh@t out of their customers. This will only accelerate their demise. And that is a good thing.

  3. I think Bell was misinterpreted
    I think what they were really saying, is that they (Bell) are wondering why they are running around responding to all these complaints, wasting all their time and money when in the end the content industry doesn’t even do anything with the information they spend their time gathering.

  4. I think what Bell is really trying to do here is not recomend that they sue their customers but they don’t want to be the bad guy. If they can step out of the situation and have the blame go on the RIAA/MPAA then their customers aren’t as mad at them.

  5. Yeah I agree, Bell doesn’t think they should have to take the heat for copyright holders actions.

  6. VancouverDave says:

    What I read from this is that no ISP should be acting as a cop or judge. If a copyright holder wants to launch a lawsuit, the copyright holder should be the one building a case.

  7. And Bell led the way by helping them and showing them

    Err, yeah. And Bell led the way by helping them and showing them the way.

    “Bell and a few other Canadian ISPs several years ago spent time and resources in the courts helping to develop the legal blueprint that content owners would need”

  8. Gruesome Jeff says:

    What I read here was
    …yes sue our file sharing customers thus scaring Canadians and reducing our need to invest in our network even further

  9. Darryl Moore says:

    Yeah, and your point?
    I do believe “helping to develop the legal blueprint that content owners would need” refers to the BMG Canada Inc. v. John Doe 2004 Court of Appeal ruling which affirmed the copyright holders responsibility to provide evidence of infringement before they can compel the ISPs to act on their behalf.

    I think I concur with the general interpretation of most of the posters here

  10. The real problem is ….
    The real problem is that everyone knows it costs nothing to make a copy of a digital file so why should you have to pay for one? People no longer value digital content the way they did in the past when they bought a CD. Content providers must find another way to monetize their art, and they will, but it probably won’t include the entrenched media companies. Their death is creating this mess.

  11. No, the real problem is….
    The real problem is that people have decided that if they want only one song, they shouldn’t have to shell out 13 bucks (USD, as I’m in the US) for the whole CD. A second part of the problem is that people have become accustomed to being able to purchase things in a more or less a la carte fashion because of technology and the Internet. I completely agree with those attitudes, too. Another part of the problem is that at least some of the music that people want is out of print and you cannot simply pop down to your local store and purchase the whole CD if you wanted to!

    I used Napster back in the day and I would have been over-joyed to be able to purchase the music I was downloading for a buck a song. I quickly grew tired of downloading poor quality songs, incorrectly named files, or files that contained only part of the song. It is very time consuming to have to listen to *each and every* song to verify it is the right song, the whole song, and good quality, and the fact that it ate up so much of my time is the reason I no longer download music today. I much prefer paying for the music to downloading it “illegally” because, if I pay for it, I know I’m getting a full, quality copy the first time.

    Some of the music I was downloading is out of print, as I mentioned above. If the record companies don’t want to sell it to me, as evidenced by the fact that I could not purchase it through any means at the time, then why is it “illegal” for me to download it for free? I mean, really, if they want to make money off the content, then why don’t have they have it for sale somewhere? (and making it available for sale via the Internet would count!)

    I think if the record companies had embraced the sea-change that was Napster, then they wouldn’t be in the situation they are. I believe many of Napster’s users would have converted to paying customers if given the chance to simply purchase the songs they want (and not forced to purchase whole CDs). There will always be those who decide to get what they want for free – nothing you can do about that, really. However, in shutting Napster down, all the record companies did was to make an enemy of everyone who used it and probably of some of those who didn’t even know about Napster before the courts were involved.