Piracy lawsuits come in different shapes and sizes. Rightsholders can go after pirate site operators, ISPs, hosting companies, messenger apps, or CDN providers, for example.
Another option is to target the alleged pirates more directly in court. In those cases, they often offer a quick settlement to make the case go away.
These so-called “copyright trolling” efforts have been a common occurrence in countries around the world. This also applies to Canada, where many cases go unnoticed by the public at large, even when thousands of people are targeted.
Lawsuit Targets 1,282 “Ava” Pirates
Last week, we spotted a message on Reddit from someone who received some legal paperwork from the law firm Aird & Berlis. The firm works for the film company Eve Nevada, which holds rights to the film Ava.
“I just received a Statement of Claim today from Aird & Berlis LLP by registered mail. They are alleging I downloaded the movie Ava,” the poster writes, asking for advice on how to handle this.
Some suggest simply ignoring the letter while others recommend using a VPN in the future. However, the latter option not going to help now that the filmmaker’s lawyers already know who they are dealing with.
As it turns out, the Redditor is one of the 1,282 account holders targeted in a statement of claim filed at the Toronto federal court last year. Initially, these “Doe” defendants were only known by an IP-address.
The IP addresses were captured by forensic software that monitored public BitTorrent swarms sharing Ava. The rightsholder then sent a piracy notice to the associated ISP, hoping that the infringing activity would stop.
Two Advance Warnings
Apparently, that didn’t happen. And after a second notice didn’t have any effect, the IP address was added to the claim.
“This Second Notice indicated that the work had not been removed and that legal action may be taken as against such Defendant. The Defendant failed or refused to respond to the Second Notice and has continued his or her Unlawful Acts,” the statement of claim explained.
Eve Nevada eventually went ahead and obtained a Norwich Order, requiring the associated ISPs to identify the accounts linked to these IP-addresses.
TorrentFreak contacted Canadian ISP Teksavvy which confirmed receiving an order to identify subscribers late last year. The ISP was legally obliged to comply with this order and it informed the affected subscribers via email that their details were being shared with the film company.
“Simply put, we needed to comply with the court’s Order. In other words, since we were ordered to disclose your name and address to the Plaintiff,” Teksavvy wrote to the affected subscribers.
“Unfortunately, now that they know your name and address, the Plaintiff can use it to advance their claim against you,” the ISP added.
The Redditor was one of the identified account holders. After their personal details were shared, the filmmaker’s law firm eventually followed up late last month via registered mail.
While some people may be inclined to disregard the legal paperwork as spam, it can lead to some serious trouble. In the past, some of these cases have led to settlements of thousands of dollars, so contacting a lawyer is definitely advised.
4,006 “Hitman” Pirates Targeted Too
The Eve Nevada case is not the only one active at the moment. Earlier this year, Hitman Two Productions, which owns the rights to “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard,” filed a statement of claim targeting 4,006 IP-addresses.
TekSavvy informs TorrentFreak that it hasn’t been informed about a Norwich Order referencing this case yet. However, the ISP was asked to preserve several relevant notices, which it will do for a period of 12 months after they were initially sent.
How many of the targeted account holders will eventually end up settling is unknown. However, the statement of claim suggests that even those who didn’t share any infringing material might be held accountable for the infringements of third-parties.
“In this regard, the Plaintiff pleads that each Defendant possessed sufficient control over the use of his or her internet account and associated computers and internet devices such that he or she authorized, sanctioned, approved or countenanced the infringements as particularized herein, including by engaging in the Unlawful Acts.”
It is important to occasionally shine a light on these mass legal campaigns. They can target thousands of alleged pirates with a single claim, which can cause serious trouble for the people involved.
This particular case also highlights another potential issue. The Redditor claims that they never received any warnings from TekSavvy. Nor did this person see the email from the ISP, informing them that their personal details would be shared.
We don’t doubt that TekSavvy sent these emails, but it is certainly possible that the ISP had an outdated email address on file. In that case, the initial warnings over email never arrived. This should serve as a warning to keep one’s contact information updated.
A copy of the Statement of Claim from Eve Nevada is available here (pdf). The docket for the Hitman Two Productions case can be found here.