It’s no secret that various corporate rights holders have been filing lawsuits in Canada. Now, the movie industry is denying that they’ve done so.
In 2017, Voltage Pictures famously announced that it would begin filing lawsuits against alleged file-sharers in Canada. The case threatened to re-open whether or not file-sharers could be sued in Canada in the same manner as American’s.
It was a concept long thought unimaginable thanks to the failed file-sharing lawsuits in the mid 2000’s where the then called Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) failed to make mass litigation a viable business model in the country. Still, that didn’t stop Voltage Pictures from making the attempt.
In April, the case went to the Supreme Court. Rogers argues that they should have the right to charge fee’s to identify alleged file-sharers. The idea, of course, being that it costs money to search through their networks for IP addresses and subscriber information. They would have to pay at least someone to sit and sift through the data to get the correct information. Voltage contends that it doesn’t need to pay for it and that it should basically get a free ride out of the deal. That’s where things stand today on the matter.
So, for observers and experts, it came as a surprise when the industry went before a committee and denied that there was ever a file-sharing lawsuit campaign ever filed. From the government’s public record:
Mr. David de Burgh Graham:
A number of years ago, the MPAA and RIAA, the recording industry association, went after individuals who were using P2P sites and suing the pants off these poor families. How did that go, what happened, and does that still happen?
Ms. Wendy Noss:
I’m not sure where you’re getting that information, but that’s not a position of our company. As I indicated in my statement and reinforced there, and as you heard from Erin, we’re looking to address commercial-scale piracy by people who enable infringement in a way that hurts Canadian jobs, Canadian businesses, and the full scope of the creative process.
Wendy Voss, of course, is the representative from the Motion Picture Association of Canada.
Michael Geist points out that litigation has been a long-standing staple for the industry’s business model:
Yet despite the denials, suing individuals or threatening lawsuits appears to be a foundational part of the industry’s strategy. In fact, the threats have become so commonplace that ISED Minister Navdeep Bains has announced plans to change the notice-and-notice system to stop the inclusion of settlement demands within copyright notices. Beyond those steps, however, MPs involved within the copyright review should take note of the disconnect between industry claims that lawsuits against individuals are not their position and the reality faced by many Canadians who receive demands to settle or actual lawsuits over unproven allegations of file sharing movies and films.
One possibility as to why the industry took this strategy might be that they want to present the government with the simple picture of “hey, here’s a problem, we need a solution!”
If there is a file-sharing lawsuit campaign going on, this complicates not only the picture, but how one would go about arguing that they need some form of government intervention. In this case, as we reported last month, the industry is seeking the ability to censor the Internet through government legislation. At the time, we pointed out that this is the second prong on the two pronged approach where other corporate interests are pushing for this through the Canadian regulators.
So, saying “yes, we are filing lawsuits, and, oh, by the way, we want additional powers to censor the Internet on top of it all if you don’t mind, sir” plays into the picture of an industry that is never satisfied and that if they get what they want, they will always come back for more. It’s not the greatest strategy in the world. So, side-stepping the issue and hoping no one will notice is probably the best thing the representative could’ve done on the spot. Unfortunately for her, there are a lot of smart interested observers watching and they are not shy at pointing out inconsistencies.
It remains to be seen how this will all play out in the grand scheme of things. One can imagine that committee members might get annoyed at being told something that is effectively untrue, but whether or not they notice people pointing something like this out is another matter entirely.