Canadians who are accused of online copyright infringement could soon be seeing demands for money in the mail from a U.S. anti-piracy company.
California-based Rightscorp, a publicly traded firm that says it represents more than one million copyright claims, announced this week it is planning to expand into Canada.
But because copyright laws here are different from the U.S., Canadian internet providers may not be as willing as their U.S. counterparts to play ball with a company many would describe as a copyright troll.
"We felt Canada was an important step to expand our presence internationally as recent reports noted a high level of Internet piracy occurring in that region," CEO Christopher Sabec said in a statement.
The company cited a recent report by the International Intellectual Property Alliance which declared that “no other developed country is farther behind the curve in combating copyright infringement on digital networks” than Canada.
“Canadians download more unauthorized music than residents of any other country, and approximately 2.5 times as much as Americans,” Rightscorp said, noting that “per capita online sales of music in Canada ran well behind those in the United States.”
Rightscorp’s move was apparently inspired by a U.S. film company’s recent success in federal court in Canada. The court ordered independent internet provider TekSavvy to hand over the names of as many as 2,000 of its subscribers to Voltage Pictures, which wants to pursue damages for the unauthorized downloading of movies it owns, such as The Hurt Locker.
According to Torrentfreak.com, Rightscorp asks for about $20 per infringed song file, which can add up quickly if the company demands payment for multiple songs or an entire album. Canadian law limits the maximum award for non-commercial copyright infringement to $5,000.
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But Rightscorp may find all is not smooth sailing north of the border. For one, its business model — sending letters via internet providers to accused file-sharers, demanding a cash settlement — has not been established in Canada.
Noted tech law professor Michael Geist told Torrentfreak.com Rightscorp may not be able to demand money in letters it sends to internet providers’ customers.
He noted that Canada’s new copyright laws establish a “notice-and-notice” regime that will require internet providers to send letters warning customers of copyright infringement, but that system is not yet in place.
And he noted that “the law already identifies specific information to be included in the notice. There is no reference to settlement information or legal demands. If the Canadian government objects to [Rightscorp's] approach, it could use regulations to stop the inclusion of settlement demands in notice letters.”
In the Voltage case, the federal court declared that "any correspondence sent by Voltage to any subscriber shall clearly state in bold type that no court has yet made a determination that such subscriber has infringed or is liable in any way for payment of damages."
Voltage’s letters will have to be cleared by the court before being sent out.
Rightscorp boasts it has settled more than 60,000 cases of copyright infringement.