Canada’s new copyright notice system is swiftly become a playground for copyright trolls. As Michael Geist reports, Canadian legislators could have baked in a few limitations to curb abuse, but chose instead to ensure the Rightscorps of the world could twist the legislation to their advantage.
Despite more than a year of work on potential regulations – including possible costs to rights holders for sending notifications – Industry Minister James Moore abandoned the process, implementing the system with no costs, no limitations on notice content, no restrictions on settlement demands, and no sanctions for the inclusion of false or misleading information. The government’s backgrounder says that the law “sets clear rules on the content of these notices”, however, it does not restrict the ability for rights holders to include information that goes beyond the statutory minimum.
Righstcorp is called out for a reason. It was the first to seize this opportunity to shake down Canadian internet users with pre-settlement offers. To make its requests appear more “reasonable,” Rightscorp lied in its letters to alleged infringers.
The notice falsely warns that the recipient could be liable for up to $150,000 per infringement when the reality is that Canadian law caps liability for non-commercial infringement at $5,000 for all infringements. The notice also warns that the user’s Internet service could be suspended, yet there is no such provision under Canadian law.
Beyond that, Rightscorp has no intention of litigating these cases — which would be the only way for it to secure statutory damages. Even in the US, where the sky-high $150,000 applies, Rightscorp has yet to actually sue anyone for copyright infringement. It instead hopes to nickel-and-dime its way to the top of the troll heap with $20/per infringement “settlements.”
Now another copyright troll is invading the same territory. CEG TEK (Copyright Enforcement Group… um… TEK) has started sending out reams of useless and misleading paper threatening alleged infringers in Canada, citing the new law in order to appear really, really serious about possibly doing something expensive to those on the receiving end.
At least this letter acknowledges the $5,000 cap on infringement awards, but it only uses that higher number to make its demands in the low-hundreds per infringement more palatable. The rest of it is standard demand letter histrionics.
In Canada, the unauthorized copying, performance, and/or distribution of Rights Owner’s Work is illegal and is subject to civil sanctions (with statutory damages of up to $5,000 or non-statutory damages that could be higher) and/or criminal sanctions, and is a violation of the Canada Copyright Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42). The recent amendments to the Copyright Act, which came into force on November 2012, have confirmed Rights Owner’s right to have its copyright protected in Canada.
If you have questions about your legal rights, you should consult with your own legal counsel (i.e., barrister, solicitor, lawyer, and/or attorney).
CEG HAS BEEN AUTHORIZED BY RIGHTS OWNER TO OFFER A SETTLEMENT SOLUTION TO RESOLVE THIS MATTER AND PREVENT LEGAL ACTION.
You have until Saturday, March 28, 2015 to access the settlement offer and settle online.
Of course, the letter makes it appear as though CEG can actually offer a complete release from legal culpability for only $xxx, and the artful use of ALL CAPS around “SETTLEMENT SOLUTION” and “LEGAL ACTION” could give some recipient the sense that something dangerous lurks behind this mass-mailed “threat.” But CEG, like Rightscorp, can’t make much money with “LEGAL ACTION.” Nope, it’s all about “SETTLEMENT SOLUTIONS.” Serve to thousands. Collect from tens. Call it a day.
There’s no lawsuit coming. A search for CEG in the Justia database returns a single lawsuit — and in that one, CEG was the defendant. Perhaps that’s why the letter stays suitably vague about the consequences of ignoring these missives. At this point. CEG TEK’s business model only allows for repeated sending of demand letters and, if needed, more use of the Caps Lock key.
Still, the shakedowns will have an effect, mostly on the wholly ignorant or easily intimidated — which makes copyright trolling indistinguishable from any number of scams. The victims are those who don’t know any better. And Canada’s decision to enact a copyright notice system filled with holes only encourages entities like CEG and Rightscorp to expand their “markets.”