BY BETH CROUSE
Canadians who are downloading pirated material, who have done so without consequences, could be in for a shock as the final piece of the federal Copyright Modernization Act (CMA) took effect on Jan. 1.
This law requires Internet service providers (ISPs) and website hosts to relay letters from copyright holders to customers associated with the unique Internet Protocol (IP) addresses where illegal downloading is alleged to have occurred.
Although these notices don’t carry any immediate legal consequences, in a CTV story Internet lawyer Allen Mendolsohn said that they do serve as a warning that the copyright holder has noticed illegal downloading at your IP address, and could sue if they so choose.
The act does not include a stipulation that customers must stop downloading the material or remove it from any websites where they have already posted it, but it does allow a copyright holder to sue individuals. Lawsuits could seek up to $5,000 for downloading copyrighted material for personal use, and up to $20,000 for a download that led to commercial gain.
Matt Close, a 28-year-old Kitchener resident, agrees that this is a step in the right direction in an effort to regulate illegal downloading.
“In the past, I’d use illegal downloading sites as a way to sample new music. I would download one song from a new band to see if I liked them and then purchase the CD, but now YouTube offers free music that doesn’t involve downloading pirated material so I use that instead,” Close said.
“Personally, I think it’s a good idea to start addressing illegal downloading because people abuse illegal downloads. I know too many people who are chronic downloaders and in the end it’s stealing money from the artists who had to put time and energy into creating their product.
“This new law seems like a way to monitor downloads rather than slap people with huge lawsuits. There just needs to be some form of regulation,” Close added.
Teacen Netzke, a second-year public relations student, currently downloads pirated material and will continue to illegally download it.
“I’ve downloaded things but not too often,” he said. “I mostly use torrents to download class textbooks because I’m a student and don’t want to pay hundreds of dollars for a book I may or may not use. This new law doesn’t change my perspective on illegal downloading because more than likely they will be targeting those who are avidly or continually downloading and uploading the copyrighted material. I will continue to use pirated material because it’s easy and convenient. Besides, the government has said before that they are going to crack down on those who are downloading pirated material and you never hear anything about it.”
It’s important for downloaders to know that the ISP or website hosts must also keep the notification letters for six months, in case the copyright holder decides to sue. However, the ISP or website hosts cannot hand over your personal information unless there is a lawsuit launched.
What ISPs or website hosts are hoping is that if a customer receives such a letter via email, hopefully it will be enough to stop them from downloading illegal material again.