Voltage Pictures Has To Pay $22k To Canadian ISP If It Wants Names For Its Shakedown Scheme
from the still-is-problematic dept
Voltage Pictures is the fairly successful movie studio that has a side business as a copyright troll — sending angry threat letters demanding cash based on flimsy evidence about people who may have downloaded its films. While it originally focused on the US, more recently it has been trolling in other countries as well. When Canada changed its copyright laws a few years ago, Voltage immediately saw it as an opportunity to expand its trolling operations. It initially targeted Canadian ISP TekSavvy which refused to cough up names, but a year ago, the court ordered Teksavvy to cough up names — but also said that it would review Voltage’s shakedown letters to make sure they didn’t overstate the company’s position.
There was one remaining issue however: how much Voltage needed to pay TekSavvy for the privilege of getting the names. TekSavvy asked for about $350,000 to reveal about 2,000 names, while Voltage said it should only have to pay $884. The court has now given neither party exactly what it wants, saying that Voltage Pictures should pay $21,557.50 — which works out to a little under $11 per user.
Just like this ruling didn’t quite satisfy either Voltage or TekSavvy, it similarly is problematic for future copyright trolling situations on both sides. Michael Geist’s discussion highlights the issues. For Voltage, at this price, and (importantly!) given the limitations of Canada’s copyright laws on how much a copyright holder can get for infringement, the copyright trolling business might not be that profitable:
The big question now is whether Voltage will proceed with the case. Given their expense to date, they will likely pay the costs and obtain the names. However, they must be committed to going to court over the claims, since the court made it clear that merely sending threats would be viewed as copyright trolling for future claims. Yet with the cap on liability for non-commercial infringement, the further costs of litigating against individuals, the actual value of the works, and the need to obtain court approval on demand letters, it is hard to see how this is a business model that works. Indeed, that is what the court initial noted, stating that ?damages against individual subscribers even on a generous consideration of the Copyright Act damage provisions may be miniscule compared to the cost, time and effort in pursuing a claim against the subscriber.?
But, on the flip side, the ruling is problematic in that it refused to let TekSavvy recover the costs associated with defending its users’ privacy. The message, then, to ISPs is that it may be too costly to fight for users’ privacy rights:
The decision unpacks all the cost claims, but the key finding was that costs related to the initial motion over whether there should be disclosure of subscriber information was separate from the costs of abiding by the order the court ultimately issued. The motion judge did not address costs at the time and the court now says it is too late to address them.
That approach seemingly does not reflect how the parties viewed the case given that this was an unprecedented action. With TekSavvy now bearing all of those motion costs (in addition to costs associated with informing customers), the decision sends a warning signal to ISPs that getting involved in these cases can lead to significant costs that won?t be recouped. That is a bad message for privacy.
Meanwhile, this just acts as yet another reminder as to why no one should bother watching movies produced by Voltage Pictures.