05/15/2013 02:59 EDT

File-Sharing Lawsuits Canada: Canipre, Copyright Group, Accused Of Stealing Photos

pirate flag closeup

Pot, meet kettle.

The copyright enforcement group helping a U.S. film studio sue Canadians for unauthorized downloading of movies has been accused of committing its own copyright piracy.

Canipre, which last year declared it had collected data on a million Canadians who allegedly downloaded copyrighted material without permission, was accused on Wednesday of stealing copyrighted images for its website.

Three photographers contacted by Vice confirmed to the magazine that they had never given Canipre permission to use their images on its website.

The photos cited by Vice appeared to have been taken down almost immediately following the report.

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Canipre Accused of Piracy

Photographer Steve Houk, who said he had not given Canipre permission to use his images, said he contacted the group and was told by its executive director, Barry Logan, that Canipre had hired a contractor build its website, including photos.

Logan reportedly vowed to remove the offending images and said the contractor had bought the photos from an image bank.

I pointed out to Logan that if that was true, he had basically paid his vendor to rip off other people's creative work,” Houk said, as quoted at Vice.

Canipre has been involved in an attempt by Hollywood film company Voltage Pictures — maker of The Hurt Locker among many other films — to sue potentially more than 1,000 Canadians for copyright-infringing downloading of movies.

Indie Ontario internet provider TekSavvy warned customers last fall Voltage Pictures was planning to take the company to court to reveal the identities behind more than 1,000 TekSavvy IP addresses suspected of being engaged in unauthorized downloading.

If successful in court, Voltage will use the subscriber data to send letters to suspected downloaders asking for several thousand dollars in restitution, or face a lawsuit. (The maximum fine for not-for-profit infringement under Canada’s new copyright law is $5,000.)

This strategy, known as “speculative invoicing,” has been panned by critics as little more than copyright trolling.

Voltage’s request for subscriber identification is in front of a federal judge in Toronto, and the case is expected to resume next month.

Canipre’s Logan told the media he wants to “change social attitudes toward downloading. … Many people know it is illegal but they continue to do it."

(Downloading copyrighted material without permission for non-commercial use is not treated as a crime in Canada, and is settled in civil courts.)

As the Torrenfreak blog notes, Canipre is not the first copyright enforcement group that has itself been accused of violating copyright.

In 2010, the U.S. Copyright Group was caught stealing the code of a competing copyright group’s website.

“Copyright is a double-edged sword, and those who sharpen one side often get cut by the other,” Torrentfreak opined.