Experts Urge Canada to Stop Threatening Piracy Notices


Following the introduction of Canada's notice and notice system earlier this year, hundreds of thousands of ISP subscribers have received piracy warnings, often accompanied by hefty settlement demands. In response, a diverse range of copyright experts and organizations are now calling upon Canada's Minister of Industry James Moore to protect the public from threatening piracy notices.

pirate-runningDue to a recent change i Canada’s copyright law, ISPs are now required to forward copyright infringement notices to their customers.

As a result, hundreds of thousands of Internet subscribers have received warnings in their mailboxes since the start of the year, with some asking for cash settlements.

The so-called notice-and-notice system aims to reduce local piracy rates but this hasn’t been without controversy. From the start, copyright holders have taken advantage of the system to send subscribers settlement offers, or threaten them with inaccurate legal penalties.

Hoping to fix these ‘abuses’ copyright experts and advocacy groups have this week written a letter to Canada’s Minister of Industry, James Moore.

Signed by the University of Ottawa, OpenMedia, Project Gutenberg Canada, Consumers Council of Canada, Electronic Frontier Foundation and many others, the letter warns over abuse while proposing several changes.

“As we feared, copyright trolls have in fact taken advantage of the Notice and Notice system to ramp up their abusive practices in Canada,” the groups write to the Minister.

“We have seen notices claiming infringement of foreign law, misrepresenting the scope of damages recipients potentially face, omitting mention of defenses, and failing to identify the notice as a mere allegation of infringement.”

In the short-term the Minister should use his regulatory powers to correct abuses, the groups suggest. For example, notices should make clear that they represent an allegation, not a clear determination of infringement.

The popular settlement demands or offers, which can amount to hundreds of dollars per notice, should also be banned. In addition, notices should include a mention of copyright exceptions such as fair use.

The groups further propose various penalties for copyright holders. For example, senders of notices with false or misleading information should be held liable and punished appropriately.

In the long-term the letter recommends that the Government should adopt new legislation to tackle copyright trolls and various other forms of abuse.

“Canada requires a legislative response to the abusive and deceitful tactics of a minority of copyright owners and their agents. The emergence of a cottage industry of copyright trolls and their migration to Canada is just one example of how copyright can be abused,” the groups write.

“The next round of copyright reform must include a copyright misuse provision to curb such wrong-doing,” they add.

The full letter, which includes more recommendations, is available here.

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