Canada Appeals Court Gives File-Sharers a Victory

Rhett Pardon
TORONTO — A Canadian appeals court has upheld a decision not to force Internet service providers to reveal the identities of 29 file-swappers sued by the Canadian record industry.

Last week’s decision is a victory for Canada’s file-sharers who distribute and download copyrighted works over P2P services such as Kazaa.

The Canadian Federal Court of Appeal on Thursday said Canadian Recording Industry Association had not provided sufficient evidence against the alleged file-sharers.

“This is a landmark privacy decision that affects all Canadians,” said Philippa Lawson, the executive director of the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic. "The court has reaffirmed the importance of online privacy and confirmed that those seeking to sue Internet users cannot uncover the anonymity of their targets on the basis of mere allegations.”

The record industry filed suit in February last year, hoping to follow in the wake of the U.S. music industry in targeting high volume file-sharers.

In the United States, the recording industry uses software to digitally identify a user who is offering to distribute copyrighted files, and then serves a subpoena on the user’s ISP, requesting the name and address of the individual whose account was being used to distribute copyrighted music.

The CRIA adopted the same method but last year a federal court refused to grant subpoenas, arguing that the industry had not put forward sufficiently persuasive evidence to overturn the privacy concerns of the case.

The CRIA appealed but lost the case Thursday when the court ruled that the evidence provided by the CRIA was insufficient.

“It is sufficient if they show a bona fide claim,” the court said in the ruling. But it warned, “caution must be exercised by the courts in ordering such disclosure, to make sure that privacy rights are invaded in the most minimal way.”

With the ruling, the Canadian record industry group vowed to go back to the drawing board in its attempt to target file-sharers through the courts.

“The court has clearly articulated the evidentiary standards that we need to meet and we are satisfied that we can meet those standards in future applications. Large-scale music swappers should know that they can and will be held accountable," CRIA President Graham Henderson said.