Canadian ISPs Call For Standardization And Fines For Copyright Trolls Ignoring Changes To Copyright Law

from the needs-teeth dept

Sometimes stories that appear to have good outcomes end up with unsatisfying ends. Such appears to be the case with the recent changes to Canada's copyright laws. After ISPs in Canada began making a great deal of noise about the plague that is settlement threat letters, which ISPs are required to pass through to their customers under threat of fines, the government did the unthinkable and changed the law. The changes made it so that copyright trolls could not force ISPs to pass these letters to ISP customers if the letters contained the usual tactics: offers to settle the claim of infringement, requests for payment or personal information, a reference or link to any such demands, etc. This should have been the end, in other words, of copyright troll fishing expeditions as facilitated by ISPs.

But, as Michael Geist pointed out at the time, that hope was always fleeting, as the new law failed to put in place any punishment for copyright trolls should they simply ignore the law. And ignore the law they most certain did!

Unfortunately the new rules – as predicted – are being abused by companies who feel the law doesn’t apply to them.

As reported by TF earlier this month, anti-piracy outfit Digital Millennium Forensics (a Canada-based company), in conjunction with Elevation Pictures, is continuing to send notices that breach all of the rules, especially the demands for cash settlement. Since the publication of our article, TF has received numerous additional copies of notices sent to even more customers of Eastlink, the ISP featured in the piece. The government says that ISPs don’t have to pass abusive notices on but Eastlink told us they don’t have the capability to filter them out, since there are so many of them.

Since then, the flow has continued. TorrentFreak has received even more copies of abusive notices sent by Digital Millennium Forensics and forwarded by other ISPs. They include Shaw, one of Canada’s most prominent providers, through to Xplornet, the country’s “leading supplier” of rural high-speed Internet.

The examples continue to flourish from there. ISPs that have bothered to comment have pointed out that they have no good way of filtering the letters trolls send to them for content that violates the law. There are so many of these letters, which was the entire problem to begin with, that doing this manually would be a full on nightmare. It's also worth noting that the ISPs' job is not to confirm that third parties are complying with these new aspects of Canadian copyright law. So the ISPs are throwing up their hands, forwarding all notices along as they had been before, and nothing has changed.

Well, some ISPs have suggested how this might be fixed: the standardization of these notices and some actual teeth in the law to punish violations.

Unfortunately, Xplornet did not respond to TorrentFreak’s request for comment. Shaw Communications did, however, and a spokesperson indicated that it’s aware of the issue and is calling for measures against senders of abusive notices.

“Unfortunately, some rightsholders and their representatives may continue to disregard the requirements of the notice-and-notice regime. Shaw makes it clear to our customers that they are not obligated to comply with settlement demands,” Shaw said in its response. “At the same time, we are urging the introduction of measures in the Copyright Act to end this practice – such as monetary penalties applicable to rightsholders who issue notices that include settlement demands or other prohibited content.”

Frankly, the very least the government could do would be to give its constituents some reason to comply with its written law. After all, if the law was worth writing, isn't it worth making sure that that same law is actually followed? Not to mention that ISPs are already under threat of monetary fine if they don't comply with the law in forwarding the notices on to customers, so why not ensure rightsholders are treated the same?

Geist is back again, pointing out that this is all a problem of scale. A problem of the copyright trolls' own making.

“The problem is that the government’s approach does not penalize sending settlement notices via this system. Instead, it merely states that ISPs are not obligated to send such notices,” Geist told TF. “However, given that ISPs are still required to send compliant notices under threat of penalty, many ISPs will send all notices because it is too difficult to manually distinguish between compliant and non-compliant notices.”

Like the ISPs, Geist says there are potential solutions, such as the standardization of notices or establishing penalties for sending non-compliant notices, as suggested by Shaw. As things stand, however, things are likely to continue as they are.

Making the much-needed changes to Canadian copyright law is an exercise in mental timewasting and isn't worth whatever paper the law was written on. The encouraging part of all of this is that ISPs were able to get this law written in the first place. Hopefully, they'll be able to get the law some actual teeth as well.

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Filed Under: canada, copyright, copyright trolling, demand letters, isps

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Apr 2019 @ 5:19pm

    Put them on a notice and takedown system

    The notice senders need to be put on a notice and takedown system. The ISP adds a cover letter to the infringement notice detailing Canadian law, and gives a place for the notice recipient to file a complaint that the notice is non-compliant. After 6 complaints, the ISP is no longer required to forward notices from that notice sender. Also, the ISP is under no requirement to actually investigate the veracity of the complaints.

    Give them a taste of their own medicine.

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