Over the past couple of days, there have been multiple reports about the return of file sharing lawsuits to Canada, with fears that thousands of Canadians could be targeted. While it is possible that many will receive demand letters, it is important to note that recent changes to Canadian copyright law limit liability in non-commercial cases to a maximum of $5,000 for all infringement claims. In fact, it is likely that a court would award far less – perhaps as little as $100 – if the case went to court as even the government’s FAQ on the recent copyright reform bill provided assurances that Canadians “will not face disproportionate penalties for minor infringements of copyright by distinguishing between commercial and non-commercial infringement.”
Bill C-11, the recently enacted copyright reform bill, featured several very good provisions including an expansion of fair dealing, a user generated content provision, new consumer protections, and a balanced approach to Internet provider liability. One of the most important changes to the law, however, was the creation of a cap on potential damages for non-commercial infringement. As I highlighted during debates on the bill, Canada is among a minority of countries that have any statutory damages at all for copyright infringement as most developed countries require rights holders to prove actual damages.