US & Canada

Canada internet firm ordered to name 'illegal downloaders'

This image released by Focus Features shows Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof, right, in a scene from Dallas Buyers Club Image copyright AP
Image caption Voltage Picture made Dallas Buyers Club, starring Matthew McConaughey

A Canadian court has ordered an internet provider to hand over details on 2,000 of its customers accused of illegally downloading films.

Judge Kevin Aalto ruled that Ontario-based TekSavvy must identify customers who downloaded films made by US-based Voltage Pictures to the studio.

But the court imposed a number of conditions that make the ruling a decidedly mixed result for Voltage.

The court must approve any letters sent by the firm to TekSavvy customers.

The judge also ruled that any letters "shall clearly state in bold type" that no court had determined any of the customers were liable for payment or damages.

'Copyright trolls'

Voltage Pictures, which made the Oscar-winning film The Hurt Locker as well as the recent Dallas Buyers Club, must also pay for costs incurred by TekSavvy over the order.

Judge Aalto wrote: "In my view, the order herein balances the rights of internet users who are alleged to have downloaded the copyrighted works against the rights of Voltage to enforce its rights in those works."

The Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC), a privacy group which intervened in the case, had warned against allowing Voltage Pictures to become "copyright trolls".

Copyright trolls are firms that file multiple excessive lawsuits in order to extort settlements.

The CIPPIC told CTV News that because of the court-imposed conditions, it did not believe Voltage would now try to pursue damages against the alleged downloaders.

The group's director, David Fewer, said: "If Voltage is asking for figures in excess of [100 Canadian Dollars] I think the court is going to shut them down pretty darn quickly."

A lawyer for Voltage Pictures told the Globe and Mail that movie producers should be entitled to legal redress for copyright infringement.

"We're not going to seek their firstborns," James Zibarras said. "But there has to be some recourse of rights owners."

Canada's Copyright Act caps fines for non-commercial infringement at 5,000 Canadian dollars ($4,500; £2,700).

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