Bill C-11: Canadian Pirates Are Walking the Plank, But It's Not Exactly a Terrifying Drop


It may surprise you that the most serious consequence the average Canadian illegal-downloader faces is annoying commercials at movies, and a pop-up message before they click "download."

In fact, there has only been a single file-sharing lawsuit launched by the music industry. BMG Canada Inc. v. John Doe went to court in 2004, and it failed.

And then in 2012, bill C-11 was passed, which included a limit of $5000 on damages awarded for non-commercial copyright infringement. That limitation was brought in with the express intent of not having U.S.-style litigation clogging up Canadian court systems.

Unfortunately, a Montreal-based firm is trying to bring it to Canada one way or another. Canipre is an anti-piracy enforcement firm providing forensic services to copyright holders. According the company, they have over 100 clients waiting to go to court. The first of these that will ultimately decide the fate for the rest is Voltage Pictures vs. Teksavvy, an Ontario-based Internet provider. They won't be in court again until next month, when the court will decide whether to force Teksavvy to turn over customer IP addresses.

It seems bizarre that Canipre is launching these cases; at a maximum of $5,000 a pop, there is no chance they will reach the ridiculously high damages awarded in the U.S., and are more likely to not even recoup the cost of their lawyers, with courts most likely to award the market cost of the product (between $15-$30 for a CD or DVD).

So what am I missing here? The debate over file sharing has cooled in recent years, although in the U.S., 200,000–250,000 people have been sued in the last two years over copyright infringement. It doesn't appear to be working to "sue the pants off of them" as the attitudes towards downloading haven't changed significantly. In fact there is evidence that more people are illegally downloading than ever before. 

Canipre says that their goal is to ultimately stop illegal downloading. "We're bringing that model up here as a means to change social attitudes toward downloading," said the Canipre executive. "Many people know it is illegal but they continue to do it."


Canipre and other such agencies on both sides of the border make their money off of downloaders. They don't want it to stop. Canipre hopes that they are getting in on the ground floor of tapping a cash-cow. The only problem is that this is a very skinny cow, with no milk … except for the milk put in from the music and film industries.

Beyond litigation, the company also uses various tools to "change the sense of entitlement that people have, regarding Internet-based theft of property." That includes what they call "file saturation," or uploading blank file content to downloading sites in the attempt to make it harder and more time consuming to download illegally.

Regardless, piracy won't be going away, not in Canada, or the U.S. Those who download illegally do so for various reasons, not because it is easier (illegal downloads were reduced by the ease of sites like iTunes, Netflix, and other quick legal transfer options) but because companies still charge ridiculous prices for their products. Millennials and all of the generations surrounding them are very aware of the cost to produce a CD or DVD. When VHS ruled the home video experience, each and every video had to be taped individually. It was a time-intensive process that might have justified the $20-$30 price tag. But DVDs can be burned at a super high-rate, and cost pennies compared to a DVD.

If you don't buy that argument, you can also go with the "file transfer is much better for the industry because it allows for a broader audience to experience the product" ... etc.

Canadians may keep an eye on this case, but I doubt it will make a mark in the broader scheme of things.