Voltage Pictures Both Wins And Loses In Canadian Copyright Troll Attempt

from the remind-me-not-to-watch-your-films dept

You might remember how Voltage Pictures, creators of The Hurt Locker, was the first studio in the United States to really try to take a stab at copyright trolling, suing large numbers of purported P2P copyright violators en masse. Despite struggles with this approach the company has proven persistent, with Voltage boss Nicolas Chartier insisting that anybody that criticizes his company's approach to business is a "moron and a thief." The company recently scaled down their efforts slightly, earlier this month filing a lawsuit against 31 anonymous people for using BitTorrent to obtain their latest film, Dallas Buyers Club.

After spreading such love and joy in the States, the company turned its sights on Canada in late 2012, where they took specific aim at a small independent ISP by the name of TekSavvy. Over the weekend, a Canadian court ruled that TekSavvy would have to hand over the personal data of roughly 2,000 customers who obtained copies of Voltage films via BitTorrent. Those users can now look forward to "settlement-o-matic" letters from Voltage demanding anything from $100 to $5,000 under Canada's federal Copyright Act.

While the court did feel bound by precedent to allow the release of user names, Judge Kevin Aalto at least recognized the hazards of copyright trolling, including numerous safeguards such as the requirement that Voltage have the precise wording of these letters signed off on by the court before they get sent to end users:
"In order to ensure there is no inappropriate language in any demand letter sent to the alleged infringers, the draft demand letter will be provided to the court for review," Aalto wrote. "Any correspondence sent by Voltage to any subscriber shall clearly state in bold type that no court has yet made a determination that such subscriber has infringed or is liable in any way for payment of damages."
The court also required that any subscriber must be able to request a full copy of the Judge's order, which Voltage will have to pay for. TekSavvy's legal bills must also be paid in full before any information is exchanged, and Voltage is prohibited from exposing any of the data to the media, or putting it to use for "other purposes." All told, under Canadian law it may not make financial sense for Voltage to pursue this further. Canadian law professor Michael Geist does a nice job showing how being a copyright troll in Canada isn't going to be worth the expense:
"Even if Voltage were successful in convincing a court to award ten times the marketplace value of a $15 movie - $150 - the economics do not make sense. Assuming Voltage manages to convince 75% of recipients to settle for the $150 demand, the campaign would generate $225,000 in revenue. Yet that must be offset by paying the TekSavvy costs before any names are released (which alone were estimated at $200,000 at the federal court hearing), covering their own costs (assume a matching $200,000 to collect the IP addresses, retain experts, and fund the litigation), and dealing with thousands of demand letter recipients (if each letter costs $30 in time and money that adds another $45,000)."
Between the restrictions prohibiting Voltage from using their usual scare tactics in the letters and the high costs of pursuing things further, it doesn't look like Voltage is going to have much fun during their visit north of the border after all.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Ninja (profile), Feb 25th, 2014 @ 2:13am

    If it's really about tackling piracy then it doesn't really matter if they actually lose something. Now if the purpose is not raising awareness and 'giving' examples then yeah, it's a bad business model.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 25th, 2014 @ 3:21am

    "Any correspondence sent by Voltage to any subscriber shall clearly state in bold type that no court has yet made a determination that such subscriber has infringed or is liable in any way for payment of damages."

    Where was this when the RIAA spammed their letters years ago?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Feb 25th, 2014 @ 3:28am

    If only the law opened the door in the US to 'reasonable' awards like a multiple of the market value rather than the $150K cannon, then it might ACTUALLY force them to meet consumer demand and make more money than before without the help of the courts.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 25th, 2014 @ 3:49am

    Response to: Anonymous Coward on Feb 25th, 2014 @ 3:21am

    Someone had to be an example. It seems Canadia was paying attention.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 25th, 2014 @ 3:55am

    ironically capping damages at 5k may be one of the only useful things the harper government has done (maybe there are a few more if you look hard enough)

    I assume this means Voltage will seek the 5k max since $150 won't cover it, they may try extra hard instead of giving up because they can't quit now, they put too much into it already. I expect 1-2k will be the demand, if $500 is the break even point

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Moron Detector, Feb 25th, 2014 @ 4:58am

    "anybody that criticizes his company's approach to business is a "moron and a thief"."

    This statement is ample evidence that the moron is in fact Voltage boss Nicolas Chartier.

    It is possible that certain criticisms might be indicative of moronic behavior, however there is nothing there at all that even comes close to being related to thievery.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    Trails (profile), Feb 25th, 2014 @ 6:02am

    Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Feb 25th, 2014 @ 3:21am

    Canadia?!?! We find that term insulting, and prefer the less controversial Canuckistan.

     

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  8.  
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    Trails (profile), Feb 25th, 2014 @ 6:04am

    So, anyone who gets a letter...

    Request a copy of the judge's order. Give the mailing address as in Baffin Island (remote, so it costs a ton of money to send stuff there). Enjoy lulz.

     

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  9. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    bob, Feb 25th, 2014 @ 6:48am

    Uh, why are they called trolls?

    They're victims. Do you use the phrase "car trolls" for people who get their cars stolen? Oh and I'm sure you're ready to call the rape victims "sex trolls" or something worse.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Feb 25th, 2014 @ 7:51am

    All this will ultimately do is turn a bunch of people who are actually interested in Voltage's movies into Voltage haters who actively seek to avoid their films.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 25th, 2014 @ 8:01am

    Re: Uh, why are they called trolls?

    The Sex Trolls...good act, saw 'em in Detroit back in '87.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Feb 25th, 2014 @ 8:15am

    Re: Uh, why are they called trolls?

    They're victimizers, legally attacking people without much care about whether or not the people are actually pirates.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Feb 25th, 2014 @ 8:17am

    Re:

    The Hurt Locker debacle already turned me into one of those. This position was solidified by Nicolas Chartier's arrogant and insulting statements.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 25th, 2014 @ 8:25am

    Bravo to the Judge, for starving the troll.

     

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  15.  
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    mattshow (profile), Feb 25th, 2014 @ 9:05am

    For those who don't read the actual judgment, part of this is due to the intervention of CIPPIC (www.cippic.ca). They're a Canadian legal clinic connected to the University of Ottawa law school who do some work similar to that done by the EFF in the US. They were granted intervenor status in this litigation and argued strongly and persuasively that the privacy rights of the TekSavvy subscribers had to be respected, and that the judge should be careful not to open the door to US style copyright trolling in Canada.

     

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  16.  
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    Mike Shore (profile), Feb 25th, 2014 @ 9:46am

    In Canada we already pay a "you must be a pirate" tax on all blank media. Does that not entitle us to actually, you know, be pirates?

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Alan, Feb 25th, 2014 @ 10:00am

    Re: Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Feb 25th, 2014 @ 3:21am

    On a reddit thread the other day talking about Canada's hockey win, some guy had a little freak out session because someone referred to Canadians as Canucks.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    PRMan, Feb 25th, 2014 @ 10:20am

    Re: Re:

    I now make it a point to avoid any film from these guys.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    compro01 (profile), Feb 25th, 2014 @ 10:22am

    Re: Re: Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Feb 25th, 2014 @ 3:21am

    When talking about hockey, "Canucks" should only be used to refer to the Vancouver Canucks, not Canadians in general.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 25th, 2014 @ 10:32am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Feb 25th, 2014 @ 3:21am

    Same goes for the term Canadians, HABS SUCK!!!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 25th, 2014 @ 10:32am

    So when they find out that all of the downloaders used the same starbucks ip then who gets the bill ?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Feb 25th, 2014 @ 10:42am

    Re:

    All of them of course, operations like this don't care about accuracy, only numbers, in particular 'How many names can we get, and how much money can we squeeze out of them with a threat of a costly lawsuit?'

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    ike, Feb 25th, 2014 @ 10:44am

    Incorrect titles named in Techdirt article


    a Canadian court ruled that TekSavvy would have to hand over the personal data of roughly 2,000 customers who obtained copies of Voltage films The Hurt Locker," "Dallas Buyers Club," and "Don Jon."
    That's incorrect. None of those titles are covered by the case in question. See page 9 of http://www.teksavvy.com/Media/Default/Customer%20Notices/T-2058-12%20-%20Statement%20of%20Claim.pdf for the titles in question.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Feb 25th, 2014 @ 10:46am

    Re: Uh, why are they called trolls?

    Yeah, the whole 'victim' thing, when talking about companies like this goes right out the window as soon as it becomes clear that they don't care in the slightest about finding the actual downloaders, proving it in a court of law, and having a reasonable fine applied as punishment, but rather prefer to just get as many names as they can, and sending out letters to threaten people with massive fines and court fees unless they pay a 'settlement', completely ignoring the guilt or innocence of their targets.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 25th, 2014 @ 10:46am

    Re:

    No in theory it entitles you to make backups of legally owned copyrighted material to said media.
    In reality breaking the DRM to make the backup is illegal so no backup for you!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 25th, 2014 @ 11:00am

    Re: Re:

    Unless its a screen capture. then no DRM is broken.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    icon
    Easily Amused (profile), Feb 25th, 2014 @ 12:24pm

    Re: Uh, why are they called trolls?

    OK, ALL TOGETHER NOW--- INFRINGEMENT DOES NOT EQUAL THEFT. FULL STOP.

    The file sharing debate has been going on long enough now that anyone who claims otherwise qualifies as a troll in their own right.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 25th, 2014 @ 3:17pm

    Re:

    Nope -- the Pirate Levy means that you can copy digital audio from someone else's read-only digital media for your own use -- copying your own digital media and sharing it with others is still illegal, as is copying someone else's digital media if it's not audio.

    Although in reality, I think that digital video rights holders should go try and collect damages from the CRIA, as they're the ones collecting the money on recordable digital media.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 25th, 2014 @ 3:19pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Feb 25th, 2014 @ 3:21am

    Yeah; the Montreal Canadians get a little annoyed when they're called Canucks.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 25th, 2014 @ 3:55pm

    Re:

    That only for music and the changed the law so that it's illegal, even tho your paying for it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 25th, 2014 @ 4:46pm

    Re:

    What happened, bob? average_joe and out_of_the_blue all crowding your special seat under Chris Dodd's desk, so they forced you to crawl out and post?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 26th, 2014 @ 1:25am

    Re: Uh, why are they called trolls?

    I agree, "troll" is an inaccurate term.

    These people are attempting to intimidate innocent people into complying with their demands. This is undisputable.

    There's another word that both begins and ends with "T" that's far more accurate, pretty sure, like their claims, there's at least one "error" in there too...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    icon
    btrussell (profile), Feb 26th, 2014 @ 2:09am

    Re: Re: Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Feb 25th, 2014 @ 3:21am

    He forgot to add "crazy" is why. The proper term is crazy canucks.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    icon
    btrussell (profile), Feb 26th, 2014 @ 2:11am

    Re: Re: Uh, why are they called trolls?

    Textortionist?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    icon
    btrussell (profile), Feb 26th, 2014 @ 2:19am

    High voltage! Ohm my god! You watt?

    Get in the ring motherfucker.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 26th, 2014 @ 6:23am

    Re: Re: Re: Uh, why are they called trolls?

    I think you meant raporists...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    al pacino, Apr 2nd, 2014 @ 11:09am

    Nice business trategy!

    1- Make crappy movies that don't sell.
    2- Then sew people for downloading them because they couldn't justify the cost.
    3- Make money of these poor bastards and rape their wallets!

    Boycott Voltage Pictures

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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