Supreme Court sides with Rogers in illegal movie downloading case

9-0 decision could end up saving Rogers and other internet providers many thousands of dollars

The Supreme Court of Canada says internet service providers can recover some of the costs of helping movie companies and other copyright holders find illegal downloaders.

In a decision today, the high court sides with Rogers Communications in ruling that the companies pursuing copyright violators should reimburse service providers a reasonable amount for the effort of looking up subscribers suspected of breaking the law.

The 9-0 decision could end up saving Rogers and other internet providers many thousands of dollars, but the Supreme Court says the appropriate fees should be decided at a future Federal Court hearing.

The case began when Voltage Pictures and several other movie production firms asked Rogers for information about an alleged violator under provisions of the Copyright Act.

Rogers retrieved the information but agreed to disclose it only upon payment of a fee — $100 per hour of work plus HST.

Voltage Pictures and its movie company allies hope to eventually obtain the information of tens of thousands of suspected copyright infringers, and they argued the federal legislative regime precluded Rogers from charging a fee.

In 2016 the Federal Court said Rogers was entitled to levy the fee but the decision was overturned the following year on appeal, prompting the telecom company to take its case to the Supreme Court.

Rogers said the appeal was about who must bear the costs of enforcing copyright on the internet: the copyright owner who launches the proceeding, and who can collect back costs from an infringer, or a third-party Internet service provider, whose only option is to raise prices for its customers.

Rogers uses an automated system to send a notice to the more than 200,000 alleged copyright infringers brought to its attention each month — something it is required to do under the Copyright Act without charging a fee.

But Rogers said it should be compensated for the steps it must take when confronted with a court order from a movie company or other copyright holder for the name and address of a subscriber.

In writing on behalf of eight of the members of the Supreme Court, Justice Russell Brown noted Rogers undertakes an eight-step manual process to comply with such an order. But he indicated it was unclear how many of those steps Rogers must carry out at no cost under the law.

Brown said Rogers and other service providers are entitled to “reasonable costs of steps that are necessary to discern a person’s identity” using the records it is required to keep.

He added that while these costs “may well be small,” it is impossible to determine them based on current evidence, meaning a fresh Federal Court hearing must be held to assess fees a provider can charge.

While agreeing with the majority, Justice Suzanne Cote went further, saying Rogers should be able to levy a fee for all eight steps it takes to respond to a court order.

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Victoria brewery re-brands again after cryptic new logo failed

Vancouver Island Brewing said goodbye to its confusing hexagon logo

Johnson Street Bridge reopened after water main break

VicPD ask drivers to use alternate route on Nov. 12

Peninsula Singers use music to dispel ‘Grinch’ factor this Christmas

‘Tis the Season is at the Mary Winspear Centre Dec. 7 to 9

Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh coming to Langford

MP MacGregor hosting open house at Belmont Secondary

UVic military historian sees paralles between eve of First World War and today

David Zimmerman says period leading up to centennial has heightened interest

Trudeau warns of dangers of nationalist leaders at historic armistice gathering

U.S. President Donald Trump in recent weeks described himself as a nationalist

Grim search for more fire victims; 31 dead across California

More than 8,000 firefighters battled wildfires that scorched at least 1,040 square kilometres

Politicians need to do better on social media, Trudeau says

Prime minister suggests at conference in Paris some are trying to use technology to polarize voters

Wally Buono exits CFL, stinging from painful playoff loss

B.C. Lions lost the Eastern semifinal to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Sunday, 48-8

Pot company hopes to replace jobs lost in mill closure in B.C. town

About 200 workers lost their jobs when the Tolko sawmill in Merritt shuttered in 2016

Funding announcement promises to drive business innovation in B.C.

Minister is scheduled to make the announcement at the Penticton campus of Okanagan College

Remembrance Day ceremonies taking place across Greater Victoria

Most ceremonies start at 10:50 on Sunday, Nov. 11

Greater Victoria holiday craft fair roundup for Nov. 9 to 11

Check off all of the items on your shopping list at these great events

Vancouver Island remembers

Important stories shared as Islanders salute those who made the greatest sacrifice

Most Read