Copyright infringement no worry for students

LEAH HANSEN 
The Eyeopener (Ryerson University)

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TORONTO (CUP) — A recent court decision in the case involving corporations TekSavvy and Voltage Pictures is working towards shutting down copyright trolling in Canada and protecting alleged infringers from exploitation.

In a decision released Feb. 20, a judge ordered TekSavvy, a popular Internet service provider among students, to disclose 2,000 IP addresses and corresponding customer names to Voltage Pictures — the company responsible for films such as The Hurt Locker and Dallas Buyers Club. Voltage filed a lawsuit in late 2012 alleging copyright infringement by TekSavvy customers.

By law, the maximum amount Voltage Pictures could gain from any one individual for copyright infringement is $5,000.

“Five-thousand dollars for a first offence without any strikes or warning is overkill,” said Martin Wennde, a first-year computer science student at Ryerson University and TekSavvy customer. “Yes, it is illegal but it’s like jaywalking — a crime that nobody enforces.”

While this decision might appear to be a blow to TekSavvy, experts are saying it’s a big step in discouraging an extortion scheme, known as copyright trolling, in Canada.

Trolling occurs when a copyright holder uses the legal process to extract excessive amounts of money from alleged infringers, said David Fewer, director of the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, who intervened in the case. He also said that copyright trolling is common in the United States.

After a ruling is made, a copyright holder is permitted to send letters out to the offenders.

“They’re really leveraging fear and anxiety in the cost of defending yourself in a court to build a business model on the basis of low-scale intellectual copyright infringement,” he said.

Fewer said the outcome of this highly publicized case was actually a positive one.

“I think this decision is a death blow to copyright trolls in Canada,” he said. “I think Voltage is extremely unhappy with this decision.”

Even though Voltage Pictures has been successful in getting the desired ruling in this case, students using TekSavvy have little to worry about according to Avner Levin, director of the Privacy and Cyber Crime Institute at Ryerson’s Ted Rogers School of Management.

“There are a number of steps there that make it more expensive and costly for Voltage to go after people,” Levin said. “The more expensive it is to litigate and to pursue it, the less it’s worth it for them.”

Before TekSavvy hands customer information over to Voltage Pictures, the company must also reimburse any fees TekSavvy has accrued as a result of the lawsuit, said Tina Furlan, TekSavvy’s director of marketing and press communication. The reimbursement includes legal fees, which can amount to hundreds of dollars an hour, Levin said. In the event that Voltage does decide to continue pursuing alleged infringers, Fewer said the courts will oversee every step of the process.

“All Voltage has is evidence that a particular subscriber’s IP address may have been involved in a download,” he said.

Levin said that because any letters Voltage Pictures sends to offenders confer no legal obligations, there’s no need to be intimidated, adding that sending a quick response denying the allegations is the best way to respond.

“Don’t pay until somebody actually proves that you’ve infringed upon somebody’s copyright,” Levin said.

With files from Laura Woodward.


Photo: Jordan Dumba/Photo Editor