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.