I did not illegally download these records. Photo by Pat Reddick.
I did not illegally download these records. Photo by Pat Reddick.

Internet users, Internet Service Providers and copyright users are all still becoming accustomed to the new copyright notice system that is now in place in Canada, and its effectiveness is still in question. A local perspective though is that the change, while small, is for the better.

Tom Street, established musician and President of the Peterborough-based record label Seventh Fire Records, said in an email that he feels that copyright law in Canada is moving in the right direction.

“Copyright law is a very complex subject and there are a lot of elements that could use reform,” he said, “but overall, in Canada, I feel our government does a good job of trying to stay up to date and fair in these ever-evolving digital times.”

One of the elements of the Copyright Modernization Act, passed in 2012, mandates that the Canadian Copyright Act be reviewed by Parliament every five years, an indication that the government does indeed intend to keep copyright practices updated alongside the changing commercial landscape that is the Internet.

In Street’s opinion, the Modernization Act is fair to both copyright owners and Internet users, though he isn’t sure how closely Internet Service Providers are scrutinized throughout the process.

“In theory, the notice-and-notice process is a good attempt to give stronger benefits to copyright owners while keeping a balance of privacy rights for Internet users. However, there appears to be a lack of liability with the ISPs,” he said.

Street also noted that the notice-and-notices system is an effective way to educate users about copyright, and feels that, going forward, additional education on the impact and potential repercussions of copyright infringement could help curb illegal downloading practices.

“The system seems to be quite effective in raising public awareness about copyright, which is a big part of its intent. […] Moving forward, greater public awareness of the effects of illegal downloading to copyright owners would be hugely beneficial, and the modernization act is on the right track there.”

The notice-and-notice process’ potential for education isn’t without issue though, and there have already been reports of copyright holders using the new system in creative – and not entirely wholesome – ways.

Earlier in January, news sources such as Reuters and The Huffington Post reported instances of copyright holders sending notices containing misinformation to Internet users.

The notices in question stated that the internet users may be on the hook for up to $150,000 per copyright infringement, which is not the case. The maximum liability for non-commercial infringements by individuals is $5,000 under Canadian law.

A spokesperson for Minister of Industry James Moore stated that officials are working to stop rights holders from spreading misinformation.

Though he feels copyright law is moving in the right direction, Street is well aware that it isn’t without problems, especially concerning companies that can’t afford to take legal action to protect their intellectual property.

“I wouldn’t say the copyright laws favour large corporations necessarily,” he said, “but they certainly have a greater effect on the Biebers and Cyrus’ of the world. In this particular case though, there should be some sort of take-down order enforcement clause added, as that would help protect the smaller companies who don’t have the financial means to pursue further legal action.”

Such a system would be akin to what is currently in place in the United States, where an Online Service Provider, such as a website, must remove copyrighted content when notified by the copyright holder that said content is being used without permission.

Overall, however, Street is pleased with the progress being made thanks to the Copyright Modernization Act.

“The notice-and-notice system is a uniquely Canadian solution that’s ahead of the curve in most respects, and although I’m sure there will be some minor issues that’ll need to be revised, I wouldn’t be surprised if other countries start to follow our lead in the near future.”