Over the past several years, hundreds of thousands of Canadians have received notifications from movie and television interests threatening high-priced lawsuits unless they agreed to pay settlement fees. Moreover, a recent strategy led by the law firm Aird & Berlis has resulted in hundreds of actual legal filings against individuals, using a reverse class action strategy described as a “legal machine”. Yet despite the proliferation of lawsuits and demand letters, the head of the movie industry in Canada recently told the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology that lawsuits against individuals were not part of their legal strategy.
The exchange between Liberal MP David Graham and the MPA-Canada’s Wendy Noss, which also included an acknowledgement that the MPAA and Motion Picture Association Canada are the same organization, included the following:
Mr. David de Burgh Graham: A number of years ago, the MPAA and RIAA, the recording industry association, went after individuals who were using P2P sites and suing the pants off these poor families. How did that go, what happened, and does that still happen?
Ms. Wendy Noss: I’m not sure where you’re getting that information, but that’s not a position of our company. As I indicated in my statement and reinforced there, and as you heard from Erin, we’re looking to address commercial-scale piracy by people who enable infringement in a way that hurts Canadian jobs, Canadian businesses, and the full scope of the creative process.
Yet despite the denials, suing individuals or threatening lawsuits appears to be a foundational part of the industry’s strategy. In fact, the threats have become so commonplace that ISED Minister Navdeep Bains has announced plans to change the notice-and-notice system to stop the inclusion of settlement demands within copyright notices. Beyond those steps, however, MPs involved within the copyright review should take note of the disconnect between industry claims that lawsuits against individuals are not their position and the reality faced by many Canadians who receive demands to settle or actual lawsuits over unproven allegations of file sharing movies and films.