Service providers can’t charge costs for distributing infringement notices, court rules.
1 minute read
They say piracy hurts us all. Now, thanks to a new court ruling, it looks like that’s about to become true in Canada.
The Federal Court of Appeal earlier this month ruled that internet service providers cannot charge fees to track down individuals who download pirated movies when requested to do so by copyright holders.
ISPs say the process costs time and money, which means they’re likely to pass the expense on to consumers in the form of higher prices, according to consumer advocates.
The ruling is the latest twist in the ongoing saga of Voltage Pictures, the production company behind films such as The Hurt Locker and Dallas Buyers Club, and its battle against Canadian ISPs. Internet providers have been charging rights holders up to $100 per individual record request, which Voltage has said is prohibitively expensive.
With the ability to charge costs removed, consumer advocates and ISPs alike say the court has opened the floodgates to copyright trolls. “We expect the industry as a whole will see an increase in the number of subscriber look-up requests made by rights holders,” Rogers said.
The ruling thus extends far beyond Voltage’s efforts by clearing the way for other copyright holders to make life difficult for ISPs. Internet providers, for their part, can either appeal the decision to the Supreme Court or ask the federal government to create a new rule that specifically allows them to charge money for user records.
Voltage, for its part, says it isn’t that difficult for ISPs to provide such information so it shouldn’t cost much, if anything.
That may or not be true, but it’s besides the point. Giving ISPs the ability to charge costs is an effective check against trolling – it prevents rights holders and their agents from creating mischief for service providers just for the heck of it. The critics are right – the floodgates are indeed open – so it goes without saying that some form of this check is necessary.
The worst part about the ruling is that it will do little to stem piracy. On that front, both the rights holders and some ISPs – especially those that double as broadcasters – continue to share the blame.
Shutting down legitimate streaming sources – read: Shomi – or hoarding content for the sake of protecting traditional revenue streams – read: Bell and HBO – are good ways to assure that piracy will continue in Canada. Higher internet prices will also contribute by convincing even more people to cut their TV subscriptions.
Like I said off the top, piracy hurts us all – including rights holders and the service providers themselves.