Voltage Pictures wants a small Ontario ISP to hand over the names of 2,000 customers that it says are responsible for copyright infringement.

Hollywood studio’s bid to get TekSavvy customer information delayed

A Los Angeles-based movie production studio that is suing a small Chatham, Ont.-based Internet Service Provider (ISP) for its customer’s personal information will have to wait at least a bit longer to have a court consider the order.

Voltage Pictures claims that 2,000 customers of TekSavvy have infringed its copyright of its movie and television series catalogue, specifically by downloading the files and sharing them via peer-to-peer (p2p). TekSavvy has opposed releasing the customer information to Voltage, saying it will require a court order to do so. Voltage was hoping to have that court order issued yesterday in Toronto.

But TekSavvy asked for a delay to prepare its legal defence, and to properly notify customers that may be involved in the order. As of right now, Voltage merely has IP addresses of the alleged copyright violators, and is asking TekSavvy to match those to names. Also intervening in the case is Ottawa-based Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC), asking the order be delayed to ensure privacy rights of the accused, and to give it time to more fully intervene in the case. The court agreed to a delay, pushing the hearing back to Jan. 14, 2013.

Legal commenters are concerned that if the order is successful, it will open the doors to mass copyright infringement lawsuits in Canada. Such tactics have had some success south of the border, but previously not gained traction in Canada. Copyright law requires that ISPs maintain the privacy of subscribers, and instead of handing over personal information to copyright owners that demand it, the notice is passed on to the customer by the ISP and anonymity is preserved.

The Conservative government also signaled it wants to avoid mass copyright lawsuits, passing the Copyright Modernization Act into law earlier this year. The act is going through the order-in-council process before coming into force. The law defines individual copyright violation as different from commercial copyright infringement. For non-commercial incidents, there is a limit of a $5,000 fine for all infringement claims.

Michael Geist, a law profession at the University of Ottawa, has been following the case in his blog. Intellectual property lawyer Howard Knopf has also examined the issue.

Jan. 14 could provide an early in the New Year test to see how Canada’s new copyright law is interpreted by the courts and whether strongarm tactics such as mass copyright lawsuits will worth the while of copyright owners.

Source | Michael Geist

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