If you’re watching an illegally downloaded movie, someone could be watching you.
A forensic software company has collected files on a million Canadians who it says have downloaded pirated content.
And the company, which works for the motion picture and recording industries, says a recent court decision forcing Internet providers to release subscriber names and details is only the first step in a bid to crack down on illegal downloads.
“The door is closing. People should think twice about downloading content they know isn’t proper,” said Barry Logan, managing director of Canipre, the Montreal-based forensic software company.
Logan said while last week’s court case involved only 50 IP addresses, his company is involved in another case that will see thousands of Canadians targeted in a sweep aimed at deterring Internet users from illegally downloading movies and other digital content.
Logan said his company has files on one million Canadians who are involved in peer-to-peer file sharing and have downloaded movies from BitTorrent sites, identifying them through Internet Protocol addresses collected over the past five months.
Logan said the court decision means Canadians must realize they could be held liable for illegal downloading and statutory damages of up to $5,000.
He said many people ignore the warnings from their ISPs that they are engaged in illegal downloading. Now, he said, they may receive litigation letters about possible court action.
Last week’s court decision involved a Burnaby movie production company that went to court to force Internet service providers to provide names and addresses of subscribers who had illegally downloaded one of its movies.
The Federal Court, sitting in Montreal, ordered several Internet providers to disclose to the Burnaby company the names and addresses of their subscribers whose IP addresses were linked to illegal downloads.
The court case dealt with 50 IP addresses (unique identifiers assigned to computers and other devices on a network) who allegedly illegally downloaded NGN Prima Production’s movie Recoil.
“Canada is a very significant country in terms of peer-to-peer file sharing and illegal downloading of copyright works,” Logan said. “We have quite a significant evidence collection program that has been in place in Canada for a number of months, it doesn’t discriminate between ISPs.”
If ISPs hand over the subscriber data sought through court action, Logan said the copyright holders can seek statutory damages that are capped at $5,000 for non-commercial infringement.
Mira Sundara Rajan, formerly the Canada Research chair in intellectual property law at the University of British Columbia, said the movie industry in Canada appears to be following the lead of the United States. There, the recording and motion picture lobby was instrumental in the recent creation of a “Six Strikes” initiative, targeting Internet users who download pirated content. The graduated system starts with a notice phase and can lead to repeated offenders being blocked from certain sites. In addition to the six strike initiative, offenders can still be sued by rights holders.
“I think the end game actually is to try and make a dent in the downloading activity,” said Sundara Rajan. “What we are doing is following in the footsteps of an American approach here which has been to try to target individual users and set them as examples of what can go wrong if your illegal downloading activity is discovered.
“I think that it is much more than an issue of trying to get fines in place. I think it is a question of creating an idea of deterrence in the mind of the public.”
Logan said his company is looking for repeat or habitual illegal downloaders. He said they will only be identified by Internet Protocol addresses initially but if a legal action is launched, names will be released in statements of claim.
“I don’t think we have to limit this to just teenagers downloading Justin Bieber’s last record,” he said. “We represent a lot of mature titles that would be of interest to the 30/40/50 crowd.”
Logan said his clients in the industry are turning to the courts for rulings on the implementation of Bill C-11, the Copyright Modernization Act, which was passed in June, and took effect earlier this month. Under the act, rights holders can send copyright infringement notices to Internet providers who in turn notify subscribers who are linked to the IP address.