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.