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.
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