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.

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  • icon
    saulgoode (profile), 19 Mar 2015 @ 1:10pm

    ... 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.
    One would hope that subsequent cases should not require such expensive handling of motions as the issues have already been largely addressed.

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

  • icon
    Anon E. Mous (profile), 19 Mar 2015 @ 1:13pm

    Why some see this as the Trolls being allowed the keys to the city so to speak, I do not see it that way.

    Yes Voltage pictures can still move ahead and try to go after Canadian ISP customers with infringement settlement deamnds, but they would have to submit to the court the letter that the ISP's would pass on to the subscriber

    The Letter that Voltage wants to have the ISP's send out needs to be looked over by a judge from the Federal Court and the wording of the letter will have to meet with the Judges approval, if it does not, then Voltage will have to go back to the drawing board and re-submit another letter for approval.

    Voltage Pictures won't be able to get away with quoting the $150,000.00 maximum penalty under U.S. copyright law that they so love to scare U.S. victims of their sham litigation with.

    The Maximum $5,000.00 penalty under Canadian copyright law could be quoted but there are a host of other variables that the Federal Court has already said will come to play that could mean Voltage will get no where near that.

    Voltage Pictures also may have a problem on their hands with any ISP subscriber who decides to fight, it won't be as easy to run away from a defendant who chooses to fight the infringement notice

    So while Voltage Pictures may hail this as a victory, we have already seen where this is hollow. When infringement notices started going out and quoting U.S. copyright law, Canadians started getting on the horn to their politicians and ISP's and complaining loudly, and I expect that trend will continue.

    So while the trolls may see this as a go ahead, I believe the Federal Court has looked at the U.S. troll cases and decided that The trolls will not get an easy ride if they plot ahead with their plans to go after Canadians for copyright infringement

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

    • icon
      madasahatter (profile), 19 Mar 2015 @ 7:43pm

      Re:

      With the judge staying in the middle, the troll will have a harder time recouping their money. The judge may require the troll to put a more realistic damage figure one might pay if one loses the case.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Mar 2015 @ 1:15pm

    "Meanwhile, this just acts as yet another reminder as to why no one should bother watching movies produced by Voltage Pictures."

    But what kind of movies should be avoided, torrented movies or purchased movies -- or both?

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Mar 2015 @ 1:30pm

    $884 is actually generous for 5 minutes of running a shell script.

    The ISP demanding $350,000 is so bogus that it's obstruction of justice. Nor is it actually out lawyer's fees, doubtless has one down in the dungeon on payroll.

    Therefore, the ISP is protecting pirates.

    Masnick just relates the tale, won't put any of his effort into the game, not even to advise those targeted to tell Voltage to drop dead, which is the only proper response.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Mar 2015 @ 2:38pm

    The stuff voltage pictures produces is a pile of crap anyway.
    Hurt locker etc...pathetic tripe. They just tried to make it look good by buying awards...oops sorry "donating" to the Actors Guild.....

    If they came after me and said I'd downloaded one of their shitty little movies I'd be suing for defamation.

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

  • icon
    B's Opinion Only (profile), 19 Mar 2015 @ 5:41pm

    ...but they gained a customer

    Teksavvy, if you are monitoring this article, I want you to know that the way you stand up to copyright trolls, especially the Voltage Pictures situation, is THE reason I switched to your service. I'm not a hacker or a pirate, but I respect businesses that care about my privacy.

    I know you spend hundreds of thousands to fight for what is right, which is why I am loyal to your service.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Mar 2015 @ 6:24pm

    "Voltage Pictures is the fairly successful movie studio ..."

    That depends upon how one defines "successful".

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

  • identicon
    Anon, 20 Mar 2015 @ 7:42am

    Another Point

    Another point against trolling - generally, in the Canadian legal system, the loser pays the winner's court costs. Launching a lawsuit unless you are *sure* you will win could be very costly, unlike the free-for-all USA system. And in case they think they will pile on bogus charges to pad their lawyer bills in the wins, that amount can be challenged and it's not unusual for judges to remove any "padding" or unreasonable charges.

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


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