Voltage Pictures Thinks Canada's New Copyright Law Opens The Door For More Trolling

from the oh-canada dept

You may recall Voltage Pictures not because it once made a movie that won the Oscar for Best Picture (Hurt Locker), but because it was basically the first Hollywood studio to embrace copyright trolling. This is the company whose boss, Nicolas Chartier, once said that anyone who criticizes his company for copyright trolling is a moron and a thief (and that was in response to a rather friendly and polite email to Chartier suggesting that copyright trolling might hurt the company's reputation in the long run). While some of its earlier efforts to sue thousands of people at once (in once case it sued nearly 25,000 people in one shot) have run into difficulties, Voltage just won't quit. A quick check of the records shows that it's still been filing new lawsuits in the US (among smaller groups) and trying to make the case for proper joinder by using the "swarm" theory: that if all the IP addresses are a part of the same swarm, they're all connected in the legal issue (of course, they miss the fact that this would likely also mean that the total sum that could be collected would be split among all defendants).

And, now, it appears, they've decided to try the same scheme up north. We had just noted that with Canada's new copyright law in place, it appeared that the copyright trolls were getting ready to pounce -- and that's now been confirmed. ISP TekSavvy initially released a blog post noting that Voltage Pictures was demanding a ton of information on many of its users. So far, the company is resisting, while notifying its users. It also noted that Voltage's strategy here is an odd one:
We are frankly puzzled by the approach that Voltage has taken. It seems contrary to the government’s intent with copyright reform, which was to discourage file sharing lawsuits against individuals, while still protecting copyright holders’ rights. The manner and the timing of this action also seems unusual given that the government recently created a roadmap for addressing file sharing and copyright infringement within its legislation. Its starting point is a notification system to subscribers to discourage infringement without immediate threats of lawsuits or disclosure of their personal information. That system is not yet finalized though. In light of these factors, Voltage’s actions seem odd to us.

It appears to us that a notice period is essential, especially in cases where large privacy disclosures may be involved. Without this notice, a customer could be the subject of a lawsuit and not even know about it. Surely this is in part why the government is seeking to enact such notice provisions in the policy.

At this point there are many unanswered questions. How does Voltage intend to proceed? How will the courts rule if customers should retain legal counsel? Under what conditions might the court order the disclosure of customer information? If Voltage is successful, how many more notices will Canadian ISPs receive? Is there a limit to what the court will allow?
The move by Voltage has a number of people confused. One of the really good features of Canada's new copyright laws is a cap on how much someone would have to pay at $5,000. That takes away a troll's ability to demand huge sums, while also limiting its ability to wave a big stick about them being liable for $150,000 in possible statutory awards (as they do in the US). Besides, as Teksavvy notes, the Canadian government was already worried about trolling when it passed the new law.

In the end, it's unclear if Voltage is so wedded to the idea of copyright trolling that it simply doesn't understand what's going on in Canada. Either way, it makes one thing clear: I will now go out of my way to never watch a movie from Voltage. Who would support a company that sues its fans?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 2:08pm

    The lovely people at the Academy are entitled to their opinions, of course, but what escapes me is why anyone would have bothered sharing rubbish like The Hurt Locker.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 2:28pm

    Can anyone, just off the top of their head, name any other movie this company has made? I can't think of a single one.

     

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    Rottweiler (profile), Dec 12th, 2012 @ 2:42pm

    I didn't know who these asshats were before, and now I'm sure I won't support them by watching anything they make.

    Great way to make fans indeed...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 3:41pm

    Just want to restate some of the more obscene parts of mr. Chartiers epic rant:

    "I hope your family and your kids end up in jail one day for stealing so maybe they can be taught the difference. Until then, keep being stupid, you're doing that very well. And please do not download, rent, or pay for my movies, I actually like smart and more important HONEST people to watch my films."

    That is the golden standard for how not to treat your fans. I honestly have never seen a better example of someone raging in such an uninformed and selfdestructive manner. Tragicomical is what it is.

     

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      art guerrilla (profile), Dec 13th, 2012 @ 10:53am

      Re:

      thanks for that info...
      wow! he *must* have been coked-up to go off like that...

      inspired me to write an email to the douche, *and* possibly download -pirate style!- just for the lulz...

      art guerrilla
      aka ann archy
      eof

       

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    Titania Bonham-Smythe (profile), Dec 12th, 2012 @ 4:54pm

    It is a matter of the greatest regret

    that I bought Hurt Locker on iTunes before I realised that such a terrible company was behind it.

     

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    Canadian, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 5:32pm

    It seems to me that I read that in Canada with the new laws, the maximum that can be had from all infringements is $5000.00. So the maximum that can be had in a mass lawsuit would be $5000.00 devided by the number of defendants. Hardly seems worth it...

     

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      That One Guy (profile), Dec 12th, 2012 @ 6:59pm

      Re:

      It's a nice idea/point, but that would require them to actually want to sue people in court.

      Actual court cases aren't where copyright-troll companies like this get their profits from, and in fact they tend to try their absolute best to avoid actually going to court if they can at all manage it. Instead they follow a simple three(and a half) step program:

      Step 1: Get court to order ISP's to hand over names and addresses of as many people as they think they can get away with.

      Step 2: Send out extortion letters to all the people that were on the list they just got, 'offering' the target a small(couple hundred or couple thousand) 'settlement' fee, to avoid (potentially) being dragged to court, which will cost more.

      Step 2.5: If target either a) lawyers up, or b) doesn't respond, ignore them and move on to the next target.

      Going to court costs the one sending out the letters money, and would require them to show their 'proof', which to date has almost always been something that a competent computer expert could tear to pieces rather quickly, potentially hurting their ability to pull the same scam later on, hence going to court to actually prosecute someone is the last thing they want.

      Step 3: Profit.

       

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        Jason, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 8:22pm

        Re: Re:

        That eerily sounds a LOT like phishing!

        When can we make extortion/harassment letters/email illegal so if a person feels threatened they can use this as a evidence to convey that their personal lives are at stake?

         

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        ndttech (profile), Dec 31st, 2012 @ 12:22am

        Re: Re:

        Everything that I have read, EVERYTHING, states "DO NOT ignore the extortion letter", or you may find a judgement against you with settlement fee being turned over for collection with the resulting hit on your credit rating....

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 7:02pm

    the fact is tha6t although hurtlocker won an award, it was not a vary good movie, just a day in the life of an eod tech. and people hear from their friends that it kinda sucks they don't want to waste their money on something that could turn out to be a waste of their time, that's why so many of the low end production companies have given into trolling. because they put out a product that people don't want to waste their money on, but are curious about, it's a guilty pleasure sometimes to watch a horrible movie, just not viewed as something worth spending money on.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 7:22pm

    Either way, it makes one thing clear: I will now go out of my way to never watch a movie from Voltage.

    Masnick channels his inner Gorehound (without the random capitalized words). Two peas in a pod.

     

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      PaulT (profile), Dec 13th, 2012 @ 1:04am

      Re:

      I'm confused, was that meant to be some kind of insult, or are you under the impression that only one person around here boycotts companies whose actions they find unacceptable? You're wrong on both counts.

       

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    Watchit (profile), Dec 12th, 2012 @ 9:30pm

    Well, this explains why I'd never heard of the Hurt Locker until the Oscars, and then never heard of them once again after.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 10:13pm

    I thought Hurt Locker was shit. I wouldn't even pirate it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 12th, 2012 @ 10:25pm

    "Step 2.5: If target either a) lawyers up, or b) doesn't respond, ignore them and move on to the next target."

    Actually, if the defendant doesn't respond then the judge will rule in favor of the Troll by default judgement. So if anyone get's a letter from a Troll, you're best option is to consult a lawyer and tell your lawyer to send the judge a "motion to squash" the lawsuit. That usually works if live outside the jurisdiction of the court where the Troll filed the lawsuit at.

    So if a letter is addressed to your house (not an email, and actual letter in you mailbox), ignoring it is the worst thing you can do, because the judge is rule in the Troll's favor by default, and probably accept the Troll's recommendation for a maximum fine.

     

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      Thompson Didirot, Dec 13th, 2012 @ 3:21pm

      Re:

      This is true, and unfortunately for the defendant, not showing up can be costly. there have been three recent cases in the US where the court ordered $1.5 million in damages ( http://copyrightenforcement.ca/massive-bittorent-penalties/ ). In each of the three cases, it was a default judgement.

       

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      That One Guy (profile), Dec 13th, 2012 @ 9:48pm

      A clarification:

      The letter I was referring to in my post is the 'pay us or you're going to get sued' letter/threat, not a 'you are being sued, pay up and we'll drop the case' letter.

      Ignoring an actual lawsuit against you would be insanely stupid, and for exactly the reason you mention.

      And unless the justice system is even more screwed up than I already believe it to be, they cannot go straight from a 'we might sue you' letter to 'we are suing you' without also notifying their target about the change from potential lawsuit, to actual lawsuit.

       

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    Baldaur Regis (profile), Dec 13th, 2012 @ 9:14am

    A Few Points...

    ...I've never seen addressed and that someone might have the answer to- when a trolling firm receives a list of customer information from an ISP, is the amount and type of info determined by a judge? Once the trolling firm has this info in hand, are they obligated to encrypt it or otherwise make it secure? And finally, when the info is no longer used by the trolling firm, do they have to destroy the info, or can they sell it?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 13th, 2012 @ 2:03pm

    Voltage can go to hell. So will the business that I would've given them.

     

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    The Lorax, Dec 13th, 2012 @ 2:58pm

    I have no objection to copyright trolling, but I don't like injustice.

    Companies that own intellectual property have the right to manage its distribution. There should be a disincentive to downloading copyrighted works to which you have no fair-use claims.

    The challenge here would be for the plaintiff (Voltage Pictures) to prove that all those who downloaded, say, "The Hurt Locker" from a torrent site did not have fair use claims on the material... that is, Voltage would have to prove that all those they are suing do NOT own a DVD version of "The Hurt Locker" and prove that the downloading of the "Hurt Locker" torrent is stealing, not just a convenience for the downloader so they don't have to do all that Ripping and converting themselves.

    This makes the plaintiff's case weak, because all the defendants would have to do is rush out and buy a used copy of The Hurt Locker on DVD for $3 before the sheriff comes knocking on their front door with a warrant to search their home to see if they own the material they have on their computer.

    Also, there should be no penalty to HOSTING a torrent... the penalty should SOLELY be on the person downloading, if they have downloaded and can't prove that they own a copy of the physical media which entitles them to a fair use claim.

    Let's be frank: most people who download torrents of copyrighted work do NOT have a fair use claim. They just do so to avoid having to pay the price of buying the DVD or CD or whatever... but it's not justice to just sue EVERYBODY who ever downloaded a torrent in an "innocent 'til proven guilty" society like ours. PROVE that the downloader does not have a fair-use claim, and do NOT persecute those who make files available, because they are not FORCING the content on the downloaders: the downloader is to blame for downloading material to which they don't have a fair-use claim, and the plaintiff MUST prove that the downloader does NOT have a fair-use claim before any damages can be claimed.

     

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    Ahsan, Dec 15th, 2012 @ 7:04am

    Voltage movies

    I promise my self that i wont watch a single move produced by this company.

     

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    Rob, Dec 15th, 2012 @ 1:10pm

    Court Documents Issued To Teksavvy

     

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    i got screwed, Dec 15th, 2012 @ 1:57pm

    voltage trolling

    I recieved a notice of motion that voltage is going to court for my personal info. it was for the movie tucker and dale vs evil. not worth it btw :(

     

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