TORONTO -- Pirates beware.
In a landmark decision, the Federal Court has signalled that Canadians who illegally download movies can no longer hide behind the anonymity of their IP address.
Ontario Internet service provider TekSavvy Solutions was ordered Thursday to provide the names and addresses of 2,000 subscribers alleged to have used BitTorrent to download movies copyrighted by Voltage Pictures, maker of such Hollywood films as The Hurt Locker and Dallas Buyers Club.
Voltage says it plans to use the contact information to sue the 2,000 users for "the unauthorized copying and distribution" of its movies. The decision could set a precedent for other companies to go after Canadians who pirate music and TV shows, as well.
"Any movie that comes out is illegally downloaded 40,000 times a week in Ontario, let alone the rest of the world. It's huge," said lawyer James Zibarras, who represented Voltage Pictures. "Now, going forward, the message is that you're rolling the dice if you download illegally. You might show up in a court proceeding."
Zibarras hopes the ruling will reverse the trend set by a 2006 Court of Appeal decision that prevented BMG from getting access to the identities of people illegally sharing their copyrighted music. "That sent the message to the public that there was a green light to download whatever they wanted to. Downloading increased exponentially."
It's easy to argue that such sharing of copyrighted material is illegal and unfair. But is this legal fight really about valid anti-piracy concerns or a bid to extort money from easy pawns? David Fewer, director of Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC), suspects it's the latter.