Distributel File-Sharing Lawsuit Dropped

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A Canadian movie production company’s effort to sue unauthorized downloaders of its films has failed, with the company abandoning its lawsuit. (Getty Images) | Stephen Morris via Getty Images

A Canadian movie production company’s effort to sue unauthorized downloaders of its films has failed, with the company abandoning its lawsuit.

NGN Prima Productions launched a lawsuit last year against 50 unnamed internet subscribers who allegedly downloaded the company’s straight-to-video movies “Recoil,” “Crash Site” and “Dawn Rider.”

The suit asked several small internet providers — the largest of which is Distributel — to identify the subscribers, whose IP addresses were located using forensic software.

In court arguments earlier this year, Distributel fought back against the lawsuit aggressively, using a vast array of arguments to hold off NGN’s request and accusing the production company of “copyright trolling,” tech law expert Michael Geist reported on his blog.

The internet provider suggested NGN was misleading the public, entering into evidence a letter from NGN to an alleged copyright infringer, asking the infringer for $1,500 or face $20,000 in lawsuit damages.

But Canada’s recently-enacted copyright law caps liability for non-commercial infringement at $5,000, not $20,000.

Distributel argued companies that are filing these lawsuits appear to be targeting smaller internet service providers that have fewer resources with which to fight court battles. It pointed to a lawsuit, currently before the courts, by U.S.-based Voltage Pictures targeting customers of Ontario-based indie ISP TekSavvy.

This is not the first time that a file-sharing lawsuit in Canada has been abandoned; in fact, it appears so far copyright holders have gained little from repeated efforts to sue internet users over unauthorized sharing.

Voltage Pictures last year gave up on a lawsuit against subscribers of three internet providers — Bell, Cogeco and Videotron. The company never offered any reasons for abandoning the suit.

Another suit — Voltage’s suit against TekSavvy subscribers — is currently before the courts.

In both the TekSavvy case and the Distributel case, the copyright enforcement group Canipre provided information on web users allegedly identified as having engaged in unauthorized downloading.

Canipre last year said it had identified one million Canadians as unauthorized file-sharers — news that was seen as a possible prelude to a wave of litigation against internet subscribers.

A recent study found Canadians are fourth in the world for illegal downloads of music, behind only the U.S., Britain and Italy. On a per capita basis, though, it’s likely Canadians download more than any of those countries.

With earlier reporting

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