Unauthorized file-sharers, take a deep breath. Your day of judgment hasn’t arrived quite yet.
A federal judge in Toronto has delayed a decision on handing over the personal information of 1,100 TekSavvy internet subscribers in a landmark file-sharing lawsuit, according to multiple news reports.
Voltage Pictures, makers of The Hurt Locker among other movies, went to court last month to force TekSavvy, an independent Ontario-based internet provider, to hand over identifying information about subscribers it says engaged in unauthorized file-sharing of its movies.
Judge Leonard Mandamin on Monday granted an adjournment in the case, in order to allow the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) to prepare a challenge to Voltage Pictures’ request.
TekSavvy initially garnered applause from consumers’ advocates for its move to notify all the suspected file-sharers of Voltage’s request. But criticism turned to condemnation after TekSavvy announced it did not plan to challenge the request.
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CIPPIC stepped in, seemingly to fill the void, arguing that Voltage does not meet the burden of evidence to be granted the identities of TekSavvy customers. The judge’s ruling gives the group time to prepare an argument for why the court should allow it to argue for the defence.
Despite its official reluctance to fight the case, TekSavvy on Monday “fought hard” to ensure CIPPIC would be given the time it needed to challenge Voltage’s request, according to Leah Beadon at TechDirt.
For his part, Judge Mandamin appeared eager to ensure that accused file-sharers have someone defending their interests.
“Hearing a motion on a one-sided basis is risky,” the judge said, as quoted at the Financial Post. He noted that this is among the first cases to deal with Canada’s new copyright law, which came into effect last fall, and therefore it’s “important to get it right.”
Voltage Pictures opposed the motion to delay, with the company’s lawyer arguing that the requests for adjournment were nothing more than an attempt at defending the indefensible.
“The concern is that one way to fight a case where substantially there are no defences is to drag it out procedurally,” lawyer James Zibarras said, as quoted at the Post.
Judge Mandamin suggested the case will likely need more than one or two more hearings before a decision can be handed down on Voltage’s request.
If the judge ultimately orders TekSavvy to hand over the identifying data, Voltage’s next move likely will be to send letters to the targeted individuals, asking them to settle out of court at a cost of several thousand dollars. Those who refuse to pay up would then likely have to face Voltage in court.
If the judge denies Voltage’s request, it could throw into doubt the viability of file-sharing lawsuits in Canada under the new copyright law.
The next court date has not been set.