The Federal Court of Canada has strongly rejected an attempt by Voltage Pictures, one of Canada’s most litigious copyright companies, to use a reverse class action lawsuit approach to sue potentially thousands of Canadians. The court ruled that Voltage met none of the requirements for class action certification and in the process confirmed doubts that merely pointing to an IP address is sufficient grounds for a copyright infringement claim. The Voltage strategy was launched in 2016 as it sought certification of the class, a declaration that each member of the class had infringed its copyright, an injunction stopping further infringement, damages, and costs of the legal proceedings (the issues were discussed in this Lawbytes podcast episode with James Plotkin).
Post Tagged with: "file sharing"
Federal Court Short-Circuits Voltage Pictures’ Canadian File Sharing Class Action Copyright Lawsuit Strategy
The centerpiece of Canada’s 2012 digital copyright reforms was the legal implementation of the “notice-and-notice” system that seeks to balance the interests of copyright holders, the privacy rights of Internet users, and the legal obligations of Internet service providers (ISPs). The law makes it easy for copyright owners to send infringement notices to ISPs, who are legally required to forward the notifications to their subscribers. The personal information of subscribers is not disclosed to the copyright owner.
Despite the promise of the notice-and-notice system, it has been misused virtually from the moment it took effect with copyright owners exploiting a loophole in the law by sending settlement demands within the notices.
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that the government has tried to warn recipients that they need not settle – the Office of Consumer Affairs advises that there are no obligations on a subscriber that receives a notice and that getting a notice does not necessarily mean you will be sued – yet many subscribers panic when they receive notifications and promptly pay hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Voltage Pictures, which previously engaged in a lengthy court battle to require Canadian ISPs to disclose the names of alleged file sharers, has adopted a new legal strategy. This week, the company filed an unusual application in federal court, seeking certification of a reverse class action against an unknown number of alleged uploaders of five movies using BitTorrent (The Cobbler, Pay the Ghost, Good Kill, Fathers and Daughters, and American Heist). The use of reverse class actions is very rare in Canada (only a few have been reported). There were attempts to use the mechanism in copyright claims in the U.S. several years ago without success.
The Voltage filing seeks certification of the class, a declaration that each member of the class has infringed its copyright, an injunction stopping further infringement, damages, and costs of the legal proceedings. Voltage names as its representative respondent John Doe (linked to a Rogers IP address). It admits that it does not know the names or identifies of any members of its proposed class, but seeks to group anyone in Canada who infringed the copyright on one of the five movies. Voltage does not say how many people it has identified as infringing its copyright. It urges the court to issue an order to stop the infringement and to assess damages to be paid by each person.
The Wire Report reports (sub req) that NGN Prima Productions has dropped its copyright lawsuit over alleged file sharing by subscribers of Distributel, an independent ISP operating in Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia. Distributel fought back against a motion to disclose the names of its subscribers earlier this year, […]
Given recent reports that a Montreal-based company has captured data on one million Canadians who it says have engaged in unauthorized file sharing, it seemed like it was only a matter of time before widespread file sharing lawsuits came to Canada. It now appears that those lawsuits are one step closer as TekSavvy, a leading independent ISP, has announced that it has received a motion seeking the names and contact information of thousands of customers (legal documents here). To TekSavvy’s credit, the company insists that it will not provide subscriber information without a court order and it has sent notices to affected customers.
The notifications have generated considerable online discussion with some recipients indicating that they have been wrongly targeted. Others wonder what comes next. As I suggested in my posts on this issue, the next steps likely include the following: