Court Balances Copyright Law and Realities

Article excerpt

The Internet defies copyright law's constraints. Digital technology has challenged copyright like never before.

Unauthorized copying of an original work or performance has never been easy to detect and shut down using civil or criminal law sanctions. But, as books, music and movies are digitized, copyright law has struggled to keep up with the copying and rapid transmission of streams of electronic data.

Last month, the Federal Court in a pivotal decision ruled that Internet service provider (ISP) TekSavvy Solutions Inc. must disclose the identities of hundreds of its customers accused of illegal downloading. The court ordered the ISP to turn over to California film production company Voltage Pictures the names associated with about 2,000 Internet protocol addresses Voltage alleges illegally shared its films over a two-month period in 2012. Voltage owns a lot of movies, including acclaimed films such as Dallas Buyers Club and The Hurt Locker.

But in a compromise that nicely illustrates the contemporary stress on copyright law, and the courts that must enforce it, the ruling also discourages "copyright trolls" from setting up shop in Canada.

Copyright trolls use U.S. courts to identify Internet users accused of illegally sharing copyrighted works, mostly music and videos. They then send lawyers' letters to individuals, demanding they pay exorbitant settlements or face a lawsuit for copyright infringement. …