No Anti-BitTorrent Precedent Achieved in Canada

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Following comments which suggested that the closure of QuebecTorrent was "a major victory" for the recording industry, we have a statement from the owner of the site to balance things up. The smaller battle against this site is over, the larger one against Canadian BitTorrent sites in general appears unaffected.

Yesterday we reported that, following a legal battle against 31 media industry organizations, the 85,000 member QuebecTorrent tracker had been forced to close. The site complied with a permanent injunction handed down by the Superior Court of Quebec. The recording industry, on the other hand, dropped its claim for $200,000 damages.

Solange Drouin, managing director of ADISQ, an organization that represents the music industry in Québec, said in a response to the shutdown: “We wait to see the result of this first lawsuit. We hope that this result will have a dissuasive effect. If it is not the case, it is possible that we will engage in actions against similar sites.”

Some may be under the impression that the closure of QuebecTorrent is a big legal victory for the entertainment industry. Although undoubtedly the media companies will be delighted that the site has been shuttered, due to how the case ended we’re not really much closer to the answer of torrent site legality in Canada.

Instead of mounting a poor defense, in the end QuebecTorrent chose not to mount one at all. The site’s lawyer, Sébastien Leblond, said that part of the reason for accepting the injunction to close the site was that Doditz, the site admin, wanted to avoid the case setting a bad anti-torrent legal precedent: “Instead of going to war without the proper equipment, we decided not to hurt the big case,” said Leblond.

In comments to the National Post, Michael Geist, a law professor at University of Ottawa, said he wasn’t surprised that 28 year old Brûlotte decided not to fight:

“The prospect of both the legal fees and the big organizations on the other side who are prepared to spend millions of dollars on litigation has an enormous chilling effect. Invariably, individual users, web sites, cave in the face of these kinds of legal demands.”

So, the entertainment might make it seem that the outcome of this case is a huge victory, the reality is more nuanced. Here is a message from ‘Doditz’ which should hopefully shine some light on what actually happened with the case:

Statement from Sébastien Brûlotte, aka ‘Doditz’, owner of QuebecTorrent

It is with regret that we decided to comply with an injunction against our torrent site, our company and myself as president of Qué Inc.

I take the opportunity in this release to thank you for your support since the opening of the site, as well as throughout the judicial proceedings. Without you, this whole adventure would not have been so rewarding. Together with the community we have helped give visibility to artists by making available an alternative platform for cheaper distribution and equally effective wider recognition of their works.

I also want to explain my decision not to challenge the injunction we were served with, against which we have always expressed our disagreement.

The upheavals have caused “torrent” and “p2p” sites to have a significant impact on trade and distribution of music, movies and any work protected by copyright.

At the time we had to take a decision about defending our interests before the courts, against both the recording and film industries, represented by ADISQ and APFTQ, we found that users and operators of sites such as “torrent” and “p2p” were governed by clearly outdated laws which are non-adapted to current and modern technology.

We urge our governments to intervene in this area and to legislate so as to reflect current realities and the needs of its population. It goes without saying that this reality does not only cover the interests and needs of distribution companies, which will inevitably adjust to the market. It covers more than ever, consumers of music and films, without whom the industries would not be affluent today. The legislature must listen to those consumers who are an important part of the population.

Also, I must respond to how ADISQ commented on the judgement of the Court. The vice-president of public affairs and CEO of ADISQ, Mrs. Solange Drouin, commented that “it was a first major victory for local industry against a torrent site and that other suits against such download sites could be considered.”

At the time the procedures we were served, we had hired an attorney who, for health reasons, had to stop representing us last March. Subsequently, in early May, we hired the law firm Fetch Legal Ltd to represent us. Our prosecutors indicated then that the progress of the case was limited, and that we should require a court deadline to enable them to bring the case to state, and position us well in our defense. Expertise was necessary to file a defense to counter that of ADISQ and the APFTQ. Only two months remained before the hearing. Our prosecutors recommended that we submit a request for surrender of the hearing. ADISQ and the APFTQ were opposed to this request. As a result, and following arguments from ADISQ and the APFTQ, the court refused our request for surrender, and ordered the trial to go ahead as planned on July 2008.

Given this state of affairs in the best interest of members who have supported us financially and helped “torrent” and “p2p” sites we chose not to mount a defense, rather than defend ourselves inappropriately.

It goes without saying that our intention was to avoid a legal precedent detrimental to any litigation of the same nature.

We believe we have made the right decision in this aspect, as pointed out aptly by Tristan Péloquin in his blog dated 10 July. We are surprised by the position of the ADISQ and the APFTQ to the effect that this ruling is a precedent, since in fact, there has never been a substantive debate about the issues raised by the dispute.

Ultimately, it was never our intention, in connection with the operation of our site, to allow the violation of copyrights, as claimed by the allegations contained in the judicial proceedings. We are convinced that the Court could make an interesting decision in the case if it had to assess contradictory positions, which it did not have to make…..

We still intend to abide by the terms of the injunction issued against us, but speak to correct certain statements made publicly in recent days.

Sébastien Brûlotte, president of Qué


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