The problems associated with Canada’s copyright notice-and-notice system have been well chronicled. The Canadian system – which was acknowledged as equivalent to the U.S. notice-and-takedown approach in the TPP – allows rights holders to send notifications alleging infringement to intermediaries who are obligated to forward the notifications to their subscribers. The intermediary does not disclose the identity of the subscriber and it falls to the rights holder to pursue further action if they so choose. Unfortunately, the failure to include regulations stipulating what may be included in a forwarded notice has led to rampant misuse of the system, with anti-piracy companies sending millions of notifications that include demands for payments over unproven allegations.
The need to fix the notice-and-notice system should be a 2017 Copyright Act review priority, though the solution lies in adopting regulations that do not require a legislative overhaul. The issue is attracting increasing attention and made its way onto the floor of the House of Commons this week as NDP MP Brian Masse directly asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about it:
Mr. Brian Masse:
Mr. Speaker, thousands of Canadians have been receiving shakedown demands from Internet trolling companies using the notice and notice regime to make unsubstantiated allegations of Internet piracy. Canadians scared by the notice pay the demands without ever being found guilty.
The minister has already acknowledged that these scare tactics have no force of law, but he needs to take real action. When will the government fix this by changing the regulations and stopping the shakedowns? If the Prime Minister does not know the answer or does not understand it, will he please defer to someone who does, because I want action for Canadians. They need it now.
Right Hon. Justin Trudeau (Prime Minister, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, keeping Canadians safe, both in reality and online, is something that is a priority for this government. We look forward to working with partners to ensure that we are defending the rights and the financial security of vulnerable Canadians. We will continue to work hard on this file to make sure that Canadians are safe, both online and in their communities.
That is a less than satisfying response from Prime Minister Trudeau – essentially a generic comment on safety and security – but it points to the likelihood that copyright misuse emerges as a key policy issue during the upcoming copyright review.