Canadian Piracy Notices: From Benign to Ridiculous

Canada's new piracy warning notice scheme is young but already controversial. With one relatively small ISP sending more than 3,000 notices every day, copyright trolls have quickly jumped on the bandwagon with their own brand of crazy. Other notices are much more benign - and users know it.

canada-pirateA change in the law means that when copyright holders spot Canadian subscribers’ Internet connections sharing content online without permission, ISPs must forward any resulting infringement notices to their customers.

Following its introduction less than a week ago, the so-called notice-and-notice system is already being utilized by entertainment companies. Small but popular ISP Teksavvy confirms that it’s already sending out thousands of notices to its subscribers every single day.

“With notice-and-notice, in early January 2015 we were receiving about 3000 copyright infringement notices each day,” the company confirms.

But despite knowing about the system for some time (and the relevant Canadian laws which led to its introduction), it seems that rightsholders haven’t yet found the time to customize their takedown notices to accommodate the law of the land.

“Many of [the notices] are formatted based on the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (‘DMCA’) requirements, although we expect that to change over time,” Teksavvy add.

While the aims of a DMCA takedown notice tend to be understood internationally, there are companies involved in anti-piracy activities who make more explicit threats so should be more prepared. University of Ottawa professor Michael Geist has already spotted a particularly bad example.

The ridiculous

Rightscorp Inc. is a U.S. based anti-piracy outfit whose activities have been documented here many times. Their business model involves tagging cash demands onto takedown notices so it perhaps comes as no surprise that Canada has become the company’s latest target.

However, instead of tailoring their demands to the Canadian market, Rightscorp have simply exported their U.S. model north. A notice obtained by Geist and sent by Rightscorp on behalf of music outfit BMG reveals the details.

“Your ISP account has been used to download, upload or offer for upload copyrighted content in a manner that infringes on the rights of the copyright owner. Your ISP service could be suspended if this matter is not resolved. You could be liable for up to $150,000 per infringement in civil penalties,” the notice reads.

As Geist points out, the $150,000 claim is bogus since Canadian law caps liability for non-commercial infringement at $5,000 for all infringements. Disconnecting a user from the Internet is also out since there is no provision under Canadian law. Even the claim against music piracy is up for debate.

“Given the existence of the private copying system (which features levies on blank media such as CDs), some experts argue that certain personal music downloads may qualify as private copying and therefore be legal in Canada,” Geist explains.

The benign

But while Rightscorp aim to scare Internet subscribers, it’s clear that other notices being received are much less worrisome. A copy of a notice sent to a Bell Aliant subscriber and obtained by TorrentFreak is a good example.

The subscriber had been downloading a DVD screener copy of the movie American Sniper on Thursday which took just 10 mins to complete. Nevertheless, that was enough to receive a standard U.S. DMCA notice from Warner Bros a few hours later.

“We have received information that an individual has utilized the below-referenced IP address at the noted date and time to offer downloads of copyrighted material. The title in question is: American Sniper,” the Warner Bros. notice begins.

“The distribution of unauthorized copies of copyrighted television programs constitutes copyright infringement under the Copyright Act, Title 17 United States Code Section 106(3). This conduct may also violate the laws of other countries, international law, and/or treaty obligations.

The notice made no threats but did contain a request for the ISP to deal with the customer under its abuse policy. The ISP forwarded the notice but nothing was done to punish the recipient.

From: Copyright Notification
Date: Thu, Jan 8, 2015 at XX:XX
Subject: Important notice regarding your Internet activity [******]

The Government of Canada requires by law that all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) let their clients know when content owners contact them about possible unauthorized use of the content owner’s material such as illegal downloading of music, videos and games. As a result, we must let you know that we have received the below notification related to your account.

We want to assure you that Bell Aliant as your Internet Service Provider played no part in the identification of possible unauthorized use of content but are only passing on the owner’s message as required by law.

If you have any questions or need clarification please contact the content owner directly. For more information on why you received this notice visit . Thank you for your cooperation.

The person who received the notice told TF that while he was surprised to have received one so quickly, his downloading habits won’t change.

“I’ll continue to download, I’ll now be activating my VPN though whenever torrenting activity is going on,” he explained. “I suspect it’s a scare tactic that will work on most of the novice Canadians that download. I also suspect that roughly 90% of Canadians have downloaded something illegally, or know some who does for them.”

It’s expected that most ISPs will handle notices carefully but if any reader receives any notices containing threats or aggressive language, please feel free to forward them.

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