Welcome no more in U.S. courts, copyright trolls look to Canada - Macleans.ca

Welcome no more in U.S. courts, copyright trolls look to Canada


image: canipre.com

Here’s how it works: you get a threatening letter in the mail from a law firm representing a film production company. It says you illegally downloaded Paparazzi Princess: The Paris Hilton Story. It demands you fork over $2,000, or else be hauled in to court where evidence of your guilt will be presented.

You don’t remember downloading Paparazzi Princess: The Paris Hilton Story, but maybe your wife did? Or perhaps your niece … or that houseguest last summer?  What about your neighbours: you did give them your WiFi password that one time —

You think about hiring a lawyer, but realize legal fees alone will likely top two grand. Instead you visit the website mentioned in the letter, enter your credit card number and pay some stranger a good deal of money to leave you alone.

It’s called copyright trolling, and it’s happening now in Canada, as it’s happened to more than 200,000 Americans.  I warned you about Voltage Pictures’ massive lawsuit back in December. The case is set to resume, a new plaintiff, NGN productions (makers of the Paris Hilton flick) have joined the case, and the Globe and Mail has published a story on it, focused on the firm Canipre, a middleman in the trolling game.

Canipre’s Managing Director Barry Logan tells the Globe that Canipre’s goal is “to change social attitudes toward downloading.”

If that were to magically happen, Canipre would go out of business. It is a commercial anti-piracy firm that depends on piracy to make money.  Here’s how: Canipre snoops on BitTorrent traffic and collects I.P. addresses of anyone who downloads a film owned by one of their clients.  It identifies which Internet Service Provider the addresses are registered to, then demands the name of each individual associated with each address.  Often the Internet Service Provider will request a court order before ratting out subscribers, which is what Canadian ISP TekSavvy has done in the Voltage Pictures case. Next month, a Federal Court in Toronto will determine whether or not TekSavvy will have to reveal the names of 1,000 of its customers.

If this happens, we can expect much more of this. Logan threatens that Canipre has “a long list of clients waiting to go to court.” Maybe that’s true. But I suspect Canipre’s clients have about as much interest in expensive lawsuits as Canipre has in changing “social attitudes.” My guess is these companies are more like Patrick Collins Inc., a video production firm that recently asked a Massachusetts federal court for the names of 11,570 supposed downloaders.  Judge Leo Sorokin threw the case out due to the plaintiff’s history of hollow legal threats. His ruling said Patrick Collins Inc. had a “lack of interest in actually litigating.” In other words, the company wanted quick settlements, not costly battles.

It’s called a shakedown and it’s exactly what the Conservatives promised would not happen under their new copyright bill.

Follow Jesse on Twitter @JesseBrown

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Welcome no more in U.S. courts, copyright trolls look to Canada

  1. How’d you do a story on this while leaving out Prenda? The legal team currently trying to collect “settlements” from suspected porn downloaders by threatening to question their neighbours about it:

    while simultaneously being under sanction by a federal judge for failing to disclose the fact that they are likely the owners of the copyrights in question (ie: had a vested financial interest in the case), appear to have stolen someone’s identity to form the shell corporation that was holding them, and also seem to be operating in a manor consistent with RICO and quite likely haven’t been paying taxes on the money’s they were collecting:

    The judge in that case also noticed that the company’s business plan was simply to demand settlement for just below the costs of a legitimate legal challenge in an effort to avoid actually going to court; so he also conveniently fined them an amount equal to just below the cost of a legitimate appeal to the circuit supreme court.

  2. There’s a case for having a strong copyright law but if so there clearly needs to be some kind of agency/ombudsman who can be applied to for paying the base legal bills for people getting targeted like this.

  3. Here’s a great scam to extort money …

    1) Get the IP address blocks used by small ISPs who probably don’t have the deep pockets to tell you to take a hike.
    2) Randomly pick out 1000 of these addresses.
    3) Match them up with a selection of random movies you produce. The more awful they are the better. Nobody wants their family and friends to think they downloaded absolute crapola.
    4) Use taxpayers money by tying up the courts trying to get the identifies of your chosen victims.
    5) If successful, send out demand letters asking for just less than what a legal defense costs.
    6) Rake in the dough as most will pay rather than risk an expensive legal battle.
    7) If someone is silly enough to fight, drop the demand and move on to the next defenseless victim.

    See, you don’t even need Canipre.

    I’m not saying that there should be an open season on downloading but many people do not know that they have been a victim of a cracked wi-fi network, or that their kids or kids’ friends did something. There should always be a ‘cease and desist’ notice sent out first by the ISP without turning over subscriber identification. Then, if downloading continues, the demand for payment should not exceed what the downloader would have paid if they had rented the movie. You can rent movies for $1-2 from a Zip kiosk or $4-6 from iTunes.

    In the case of the quality of the movies from Voltage, my guess is that Zip and iTunes don’t even carry movies that bad, so $1 should be the maximum demand.

    As a taxpayer, I do not want to see the courts burdened with this silliness.

    Finally, the article says, “[Canipre] is a commercial anti-piracy firm.” Really? How come I’m not reading stories about how Voltage and Canipre are going after the real pirates? The foreign gangs that knock off movies and sell them by the thousands? I’ll tell you why, because if Voltage went after the gangs the executives would find a horse head in their bed. Basically, Canipre and Voltage are cowards.