Have you got your torrent client running in the background right now? Do you think you’re just some anonymous person that the copyright holder will never find? Hahaha, I’ve got a surprise for you, thanks to the Federal Court of Canada. Find out what it is after the jump.
You may have heard about the Hurt Locker lawsuit in the United States. In the lawsuit, the producers of that movie (Voltage Pictures) are suing almost 25,000 people (yes, you read that right, twenty-five thousand) who downloaded it via BitTorrent. The courts ordered that the downloaders be identified via their IP addresses, and the ISPs (big ones like Comcast and Verizon) are in the process of complying. I guess it takes a little while to track down 25,000 names.
“But that’s in the U.S.,” you say. “I’m safe up here in Canada.” Not anymore! Voltage Pictures has also filed a lawsuit in Quebec (in Federal Court, where copyright lawsuits go in Canada). But as in the U.S., Voltage only has the IP addresses of the people they want to sue. So in a court order from August 29th, the Federal Court has ordered three ISPs – Bell, Vidéotron, and Cogeco – to attach names and addresses to those IP addresses. Uh oh. The scuttlebutt on my LinkedIn Tech Lawyers group is that it’s only 30 names, but still, it could be you!
“But I never downloaded the Hurt Locker, so I’m cool” you’re saying to yourself. Sure, for now. Once the courts do something once, you can bet they’ll be doing it again. Peer-to-peer downloading has become the scourge of copyright owners, and they’ll be looking to launch more and more lawsuits like this. Peer-to-peer downloading doesn’t necessarily entail that anything illegal is occurring – in fact, many would suggest to Install Deluge on your Seedbox if you’re looking for a client-server that makes use of this kind of technology. It’s easy to see why big companies are wary of it but the potential application is expansive and is not contained to sharing copyrighted content alone. If they know the Court will order the ISPs to give up names and addresses, they will be way more willing to launch massive lawsuits like this, against as many people as they can find. We actually don’t know if the ISPs have complied with the order yet, but rest assured I’ll be following up on this story
for my own interests for the benefit of the readers of AM.com. In the meantime, it’s probably a good call to pick out a VPN as soon as possible to give yourself some protection – you could look on CompareMyVPN as a starting point. VPNs work by hiding your actual location and IP address, as instead you adopt another location’s details, and as you can tell from this case that is a key piece of evidence the courts are using.
The problem here (well one of them) is that IP addresses do not necessarily equal the actual downloader. This ars technica piece does a nice job explaining that problem and giving a bunch of examples from the American case. Some people share wi-fi, some people steal it. Check your available wireless networks right now, there’s a good chance you’ll see “linksys (unsecured)”. Oh look, I have one. Uh, not that I would use it or anything, I’m a respectable lawyer. But let’s say I had connected, and downloaded the Hurt Locker, the ISP would certainly be giving the wrong name and address to the plaintiff.
This order is a big deal. Most downloading these days is done via torrent, and the copyright issues are huge. It’s such an important topic I wrote my Master’s Thesis on it (for the love of God don’t read all 140 pages of it, the short version is you’re screwed). If the courts start ordering ISPs to turn over names and addresses as a matter of course, this will not stop, and you (I) could be next.