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Indie Telecom Lobbying Efforts Putting Users at Risk

January 13, 2015 Leave a comment

I recently wrote about how BMG/Rightscorp have been providing false and misleading notices for ISPs to hand over to users suspected of downloading.  While most are focusing on the Government, questions have arisen on what role these ISPs have in the new copyright legislation yet again.  Those questions became quite the discussion in the comments section of Micheal Geists latest blog.  One poster identifying himself as an ISP insider from an indie ISP came out stating that most agreed the legal risk to ISPs on withholding these notices was minimal:

I think that most people would agree, including I suspect most lawyers, that if it were tested in court that ISPs would probably be exonerated for not forwarding these notices.

So why the public fiasco?  Well turns out after a lengthy discussion on Geists blog, that indie ISPs seem to want a zero risk approach when dealing with consumer related issues.  They wanted complete clarification within law, so that there was no inherent risk to the ISP for not forwarding these notices.  Not even a 0.01% risk.  So they piped up, made the issue public in an effort to use public discourse to essentially lobby government for a zero risk approach to protect their own business interests, rather than assuming a small amount of risk in these copyright complaints.

Openmedia has come out with an interesting tool today supporting those lobby efforts, asking people to sign a petition to get Government to stop misleading copyright notices in law.  The government has already responded, by posting information on those notices to consumers.  There are also reports that most if not all ISPs are not forwarding off these misleading notices with the governments blessing.

The problem for this Openmedia petition though, is the government is in the process putting in laws which may allow for the sharing of your personal information by Industry Canada under bill S-4.  Presumably, those who write in concerned about misleading copyright notices would be those that would be affected by those notices (ie. peer to peer users).  Bill S-4 proposes:

an organization may disclose personal information without the knowledge or consent of the individual… if the disclosure is made to another organization and is reasonable for the purposes of investigating a breach of an agreement or a contravention of the laws of Canada or a province that has been, is being or is about to be committed and it is reasonable to expect that disclosure with the knowledge or consent of the individual would compromise the investigation;

Government could very well disclose the information you provide through this tool to rights holders to some day identify repeat offenders, or even breach of an Internet providers contract without your knowledge or consent.  This tool is an inherent risk to users privacy as a result, and not a very well thought out process by Openmedia who should be putting internet users above the lobby efforts of it’s telecom financial supporters.  Openmedia should be very well aware of inherent risks this tool poses with proposed legislation in the pipeline.  Openmedia should also be re-thinking it’s approach to supporting a telecom sector, which has no intentions of sticking their necks out for consumers as long as there is risk involved in doing so.  To continue support for this sector, contravenes the very values this organization is fighting for.

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Government Scolds BMG and Rightscorp Over Copyright Notices

January 12, 2015 Leave a comment

Last week I wrote about music publisher BMG and copyright troll Rightscorp sending threatening copyright notices to Canadians suspected of peer to peer downloading, and demanding payment.  On Friday, the government responded and isn’t very happy about the situation.  Jake Enright, a spokesman for Industry Minister James Moore stated in an interview with Reuters News Service on Friday:

These notices are misleading and companies cannot use them to demand money from Canadians

Enright also stated that the Ministry would be in contact with the ISPs and representatives of the entertainment lobby in the coming days to discuss the issue.  Internet law expert and U of O law professor Micheal Geist fired back in his most recent post on the subject stating:

While that is encouraging, the reality is that this is a mess of the government’s own making. In fact, according to documents obtained under Access to Information, the government previously dismissed calls for changes to the system from Internet providers. Moreover, Industry Canada officials conducted consultations that were designed to create reforms that might have stopped these practices. Moore decided to forge ahead with the notice-and-notice system without any additional regulations, however, a decision that lies at the heart of the current problem.

Geist also said that just stating that government disapproves of this practice is not enough, and the government should rectify the situation through legislation and a possible complaint into the Competition Bureau.

The NDP has chimed in as well on the issue of these false and misleading notices.  NDP Industry Critic Peggy Nash said:

The Conservatives are letting these companies send false legal information to Canadians in order to scare them into paying settlements for movies or music no one has even proved they’ve actually downloaded

With an election looming in the coming months, will the Government push through legislation to stop this practice?  What are the platforms all parties are committed to on this issue?  What I find very interesting about this situation politically, is that the Liberals so far have been largely silent on it.  I wonder why that would be?  Depending on how this all plays out, copyright may once again become an election issue in the near future.

Copyright Notice Scheme Fails in 8 Days Due to Trolls

January 8, 2015 1 comment

Since January 1st 2015, Canadians that download off of bit-torrent started to get “copyright infringement” notices.  I’ve even questioned the amount of money Canadian Internet providers could make on the process.  The questions I raised ended up being used in court.  Today however, many Canadian Internet users are not getting notices of infringement from music publisher BMG. They are receiving legal threats through this system only eight days in.  As Micheal Geist (emphasis added) reports:

The notice falsely warns that the recipient could be liable for up to $150,000 per infringement when the reality is that Canadian law caps liability for non-commercial infringement at $5,000 for all infringements. The notice also warns that the user’s Internet service could be suspended, yet there is no such provision under Canadian law. Moreover, given the existence of the private copying system (which features levies on blank media such as CDs), personal music downloads may qualify as private copying and therefore be legal in Canada.

BMG is using a company called Rightscorp to track infringing users online.  Rightscorp is a well known name in the US for helping launch massive copyright lawsuits against internet users, and is on the brink of bankruptcy.

The notice sent by BMG/Rightscorp (which is viewable on Geist’s post) also threatens to cut off infringing users Internet access (which the law doesn’t permit) and falsely informs Canadian Internet users on the new law.   Users that receive these notices are also asked to pay a $20 fee to make these problems go away.  It’s important to note that if you have received this notice or any other through e-mail, your identity is not currently known.  Geist summarizes:

In a nutshell, Rightscorp and BMG are using the notice-and-notice system to require ISPs to send threats and misstatements of Canadian law in an effort to extract payments based on unproven infringement allegations. Many Canadians may be frightened into a settlement payment since they will be unaware that some of the legal information in the notice is inaccurate and that Rightscorp and BMG do not know who they are.

With Canadian Internet providers making a nice profit off of disclosing their customers information with a court order, will Canadian ISPs stand up to this abuse of the system, or as the case with US telecom, leave Internet users to their own devices and cash in on disclosing their users identities?

Users should not respond to these types of notices or attempt to settle.  It would provide information about you to copyright holders that they don’t currently have, which could include financial information, your address and phone number.

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