American Copyright Trolls Continue To Abuse Canadian Courts In Search Of Easy Settlements

from the canada-nice-meets-american-thuggery dept

In the United States, copyright trolls are finding it more difficult to save on filing fees by pursuing file sharers en masse. More than a few judges have shot down attempts to file infringement suits against "Does 1-30," etc., ruling that these defendants are improperly joined.

Meanwhile, in Canada, copyright trolls are trying a novel approach to suing alleged file sharers in big bunches: the reverse class action. Voltage Pictures is suing a nominative "class" of Does yet to be named for copyright infringement. This is its attempt to route around restrictions placed on it by another court, as well as the costs associated with complying with the demands.

But in doing so, Voltage Pictures is making a mess of Canadian privacy laws. Rogers, the service provider standing between Voltage and the subscriber information it's demanding, wants to know why the studio is abusing Canada's "notice and notice" system to obtain information it's not supposed to be able to acquire without a court order.

[V]oltage is using the notice-and-notice system to argue that it is entitled to subscriber information. It argues in court documents that the system is designed to allow copyright holders to “inexpensively identify and locate the infringers of copyright.”

Yet the reality is that the government did not intend for the rules to make it easy to disclose the identity of alleged infringers, with the ISPs prohibited from simply handing over such information.

Canadian courts have established rules that may compel ISPs to hand over subscriber information, but there are strict limitations in how the information can be used and restrictions on public disclosure.

The "notice and notice" system is supposed to be used by ISPs to pass on infringement allegations to affected customers. What it's not supposed to do is provide subscriber info to rights holders. In the past, rights holders have routed around this perceived "limitation" by inserting settlement demands into something that's only supposed to be a notification.

Now, in this reverse class action, Voltage is going to use whichever subscriber name it happens to pry loose first as the "lead defendant" in the lawsuit. Instead of "Doe," the lawsuit will be amended to carry that unlucky person's name on the first page, and designate that person as "representative" of every other Doe Voltage has yet to unmask. Obviously, the privacy implications for that person are immense.

By using this odd tactic, Voltage can hope to extract subscriber info that wouldn't be released to it under the "notice and notice" system. The reversal of roles in the litigation also poses other problems. While it's not too tough for multiple plaintiffs to secure representation in class action suits against a single, most-likely profitable corporation, it's highly unlikely that the "class action" defendants will find adequate representation, either as a group or individually.

In total, this role reversal is nothing more than a trolling operation trying to maintain maximum efficiency by routing around any obstacles placed before it by courts or legislators. Using nothing more than batches of IP addresses harvested by "infringement monitoring" software, Voltage and others are continuing to attempt to convert courtrooms into revenue streams.


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  • icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 6 Jul 2016 @ 12:37pm

    Judging by how the copyright trolls are operating in Canada:

    That "lead defendant" will probably be a senior in an old folks' home who has never heard of the BitTorrent let alone the movies in question, but received a random "notice and notice" claim and was scared into responding to it.

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

  • identicon
    Blargle Flargle, 6 Jul 2016 @ 1:22pm

    Misplaced Corporate Focus

    Looking at their portfolio of recent and upcoming pictures, it's clear to see that Voltage's focus is not on quality of output, nor on engaging fans with media-savvy interaction and events, but instead, they're focused on a legal crackdown.

    They're still bent out of shape from losing "The Hurt Locker" wars.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Jul 2016 @ 1:50pm

    To the Whatever chopper old chum! The copyright beacon has been lit!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Jul 2016 @ 2:18pm

    As a Canadian I would like to note that any story which involves Rogers being the good guy is absolutely terrifying.

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

  • identicon
    Anon, 6 Jul 2016 @ 2:19pm

    I wonder if they know...

    The Canadian legal system does not suffer as much from frivolous lawsuits because it is far, far easier than the American system for the winner to collect legal costs from the loser. IIRC that happens a lot more often than not. There's a real cost to failing to win a lawsuit you launch.

    (I recall some recent class action suit that failed to get off the ground when the lawyers for the "group" could not produce a bond for the possible legal fees of the company they wanted to sue.)

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 6 Jul 2016 @ 6:01pm

      Re: I wonder if they know...

      Ah, but that's where one of the tricks in the troll portfolio may come into play. You say it's easier to get legal costs if you win, but does that apply if the one making the accusation(Voltage in this case) drops the case?

      Standard copyright troll behavior is to throw as many 'names' into the mix as possible, both to make it look more serious to the judge and make them more willing to compel the production of personal info('for the lawsuit' of course) and so they have more marks to threaten, send out shakedown letters to all of them, collect from those that can't/don't fight back and drop the cases from those that do to avoid having to present any evidence that could be challenged.

      They're in it to make money, not spend it, so actually taking the matter to court, especially an adversarial court, is something they avoid whenever possible. Funny how the troll's zeal for 'enforcing their copyrights' crumbled as soon as it looks like they might have to spend money to do it, or present their evidence where it can be challenged. Purely a coincidence I'm sure... /s

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

  • identicon
    Crazy Canuck, 6 Jul 2016 @ 2:26pm

    So what is the next step? Sue the Canadian government via ISDS for interfering with their business model?

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

  • identicon
    Kronomex, 6 Jul 2016 @ 5:59pm

    I've seen a whole six Voltage Pictures films and four of them turned out to be crap. Survival of the Dead and A Fantastic Fear of Everything weren't bad (thank goodness for rental DVD shops) but don't rate more than one viewing. It's no wonder they have to resort to trolling to make money to recoup the losses made on their other rubbish.

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

  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 7 Jul 2016 @ 3:55am

    As ever, you can't but wonder what would happen if Voltage's production and marketing staff were as stubborn and imaginative as its lawyers...

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

  • icon
    Isocrates (profile), 7 Jul 2016 @ 1:01pm

    Canadian judges

    Canadian judges don't generally appreciate foreign companies twisting the law. Also our privacy protections are fairly strict. If Rogers gives in they leave themselves open to a fairly major lawsuit.

    This is likely going to end in a fairly epic smack-down by whichever judge gets it.

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


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