Voltage’s file-sharing lawsuits dealt a blow

17 Dec
Killer Joe: Another Voltage Pictures movie that no one saw.

Killer Joe: Another Voltage Pictures movie that no one saw.

Independent internet service provider TekSavvy received a temporary reprieve from the courts Monday morning in trying to protect customers’ identities from Voltage Pictures. The Hollywood production studio is seeking the real names of customers behind more than 2,000 internet protocol addresses that it says illegally downloaded its movies earlier this fall.

Justice O’Keefe at the Federal Court of Canada sided with TekSavvy, which argued that it hadn’t had enough time to properly inform customers that they might be part of Voltage’s legal action. The studio said TekSavvy had had since Nov. 1, but the ISP said it only received drafts of the motion then, with the final documents only coming in early December.

Only about 10 per cent of potentially affected customers had actually read their notices, while at least 42 people had received them that shouldn’t have, TekSavvy said. The short time frame was resulting in errors being made, the company added.

Voltage, the studio behind The Hurt Locker, said TekSavvy was stalling and that it was merely trying to drum up positive PR, but the judge gave the ISP the extension it was looking for regardless. The company must now properly notify potentially affected customers of the Voltage action, with another hearing scheduled for Jan. 14.

The studio did reiterate its intention to litigate against individuals who it says have infringed.

The Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic also appeared at the Toronto court, although the judge did not allow the group’s representative to speak. He did read and consider a letter from the group before making his decision. (Thanks to @pandersen, @ressym and @Bill_Sandiford for their live tweets from the proceedings.)

So what does the delay mean? For TekSavvy customers who are potentially affected, it’s a temporary reprieve – it’s one more month where they won’t have to deal with a lawsuit.

For Voltage, it’s a clear loss in several ways. Not only does the company not get to start its lawsuits, it has also been sidelined in its effort to quickly railroad them through the courts. The judge’s decision should be interpreted to mean that there will be no quick slam dunks here.

And with this case getting plenty of media attention – none of which is positive – the longer it goes, the worse it’s likely to be for Voltage. It’s easy to imagine some sort of protest being mobilized for the Jan. 14 hearing.

This is why many copyright holders in the U.S. have found it uneconomical to sue individuals. The negative publicity they buy themselves has, in most cases, outweighed any settlements or judgements they’ve received. It’ll be especially true in Canada, where the recently reformed copyright laws are intended to discourage such lawsuits, with allowed damages ranging from $100 to $5,000.


Posted by on December 17, 2012 in copyright


2 responses to “Voltage’s file-sharing lawsuits dealt a blow

  1. Chris C.

    December 17, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    These extortion artists have to be stopped and shown for what they really are: Criminals. It would otherwise establish a dangerous precedent, just like Eolas, who has managed to extort $500 million from many companies based on the claim they owned a patent for interactive elements of the internet, in other words, they were holding the internet hostage!

    First action: Boycott their pictures, shouldn’t be that hard judging from the junk they produce.

    For those who are affected by the lawsuit… Represent yourself in court, $5000 is small claims, no legal fees on your part. On the other hand, as they are a company they’ll have to send a lawyer. At an average waiting time of 3-4 hours before your case comes up, they’ll have already shelled out $750 for a max of $5,000 and a more likely fine of $100 as it’s easy to argue that it’s an extortion scheme when you can get all you can view for a measly $10 a month (netflix).

    The only way these extortionists can win is through fear. Don’t let them bully you!

  2. Chris L

    December 17, 2012 at 11:30 pm

    Just because they can track file sharing to your IP doesn’t mean that you’re the one who did the downloading. You could argue there’s a hacker nearby who got into your WiFi router and downloaded the files from your connection. This does happen you know! More often than most people know about. There’s still lots of privately owned WiFi routers out there with no passwords !!!! TONS OF THEM!!!

    And unless Voltage does a search and seizure on your PC, DVD collection, ipod etc. it’ll be hard for them to prove you have the files anyway. Not likely going to happen on a $5000 lawsuit.

    Many cases in the states were tossed out due to lack of evidence. Tracking your IP to a torrent is circumstancial evidence at best. It’s no silver bullet. And like Chris C said: Don’t let them bully you. They’re only trying to scare you to make the 6 o’clock news headlines.

    If they do try to sue you, drag their butts to small claims and call their bluff. Bring a reporter along to make sure Voltage gets plenty of mud all over their face when they lose due to lack of evidence.

    And as Chris C said: boycott their pictures. if the backlash is strong enough, the bad press will kill them! Boycott all works found at voltagepictures dot com

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