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?