from the sweethearts dept
In all of our coverage of copyright trolls, those rent-seeking underdwellers that fire off threat letters to those they suspect of copyright infringement with demands designed to extract cash without having to actually take anyone to court, it's quite easy to become somewhat numb to the underhanded tactics they employ. Between specifically targeting folks over pornography in order to minimize the chance that anyone might want to actually go to trial, to the privacy invading tactics occasionally used when a court case actually commences, it becomes easy to simply shrug at the depravity of it all.
But there is a special place in hell for copyright trolls who falsely inform students that failure to pay on receipt of threat letters, or who falsely inform foreign students that deportation could result from a failure to pay. According to at least one university in Canada, this is apparently a new favored tactic among some copyright trolls.
According to the copyright office at the University of Manitoba, mainly US-based rightsholders are writing on a regular basis to students demanding cash settlements for alleged infringement. Noting that the university forwards copyright infringement notices to students as they’re required to under the country’s ‘notice and notice‘ regime, the copyright office says some of the letters are “tantamount to extortion.”
In addition to cautioning over the potential for multi-million dollar lawsuits, some notice senders are stepping up their threats to suggest that students could lose their scholarships if fines aren’t paid. For visiting students, things become even more scary. According to the university’s copyright office, some porn producers have told foreign students that they could face deportation if an immediate cash settlement of hundreds of dollars is not forthcoming.
Just so everyone is clear, loss of scholarship and/or deportation is not a thing that can actually happen as a result of failure to pay a copyright threat letter. I'm unclear on the implications of these letters coming from the US to Canada, but it sure sounds a hell of a lot like wire fraud to me. The point of wire fraud laws is to prevent one entity from gaining another's possessions under false pretenses. Threats of consequences that will not occur sure seem to fit the description, and I would think the Canadian government would want to say something about the claim that a foreign company could influence its immigration oversight on the basis of downloaded pornography.
Fortunately, the school is not simply taking this without action. Joel Guenette is the Copyright Strategy Manager for the university and he regularly educates students on the true nature of these threats.
“None of these are real consequences that could ever happen in the Canadian scheme of things, but we hear from students all the time – especially international students – who are really freaked out by this,” Guenette says.
While being scared is understandable in such situations, Guenette’s department is keen to educate students on what these notices really mean. Particularly, they’re keen to stress that notice senders have no idea who notices have been delivered to, so students shouldn’t believe that copyright holders already know who they are.
Given how flimsy the evidence for any infringement tends to be in these cases, as well as how these accusations have been shown to be wrong in the past, the idea of subjecting this kind of terror to students, particularly foreign students, as purely a business tactic is about as slimy a thing as I can imagine. Hopefully more schools are doing as much as the University of Manitoba to educate their students on the pure BS of the majority of these troll letters.