Canada Follows RIAA Model Despite Legislative Hurdles

April 2004

Internet, Record Labels, Music Publishing

The Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) has filed court requests that seek identifying information for subscribers at five Canadian Internet service providers. The information gained from those requests would be used to file copyright infringement lawsuits against people who had made large amounts of music available for upload, the group said. The Canadian record label group had previously warned that it was likely to follow its US counterpart’s legal example, but decisions by copyright authorities had clouded the file-swapping picture in Canada. In December, the Copyright Board of Canada, the country’s top copyright regulators issued a ruling in which they said downloading from file-swapping services such as Kazaa under Canadian law, since the songs were intended for non-commercial personal use (see Law Updates February 2004). However uploading, or sharing with others would not merit the same legal shield.
At the time, CRIA lawyers said they disagreed with the regulators’ decision, which came in the context of a ruling on what level of fees to place on blank recording media.
Like the Recording Industry Association of America, the CRIA will only be seeking judgements against the most “egregious” examples of piracy. The US lawsuits have drawn the world’s attention, as the RIAA has tried to halt massive online file trading with copyright infringement lawsuits against individuals. More than 900 suits have been filed since September. In January, RIAA executives said 233 suits had been settled, for an average of about $3,000 (89) in damages. Courts have forced the American group’s strategy to change somewhat, however. In its initial suits, the RIAA used an unconventional process to obtain subpoenas for ISP subscribers’ identities before any case had been filed. That process was subsequently blocked by an appeals court, and in its latest round of suits, the RIAA was forced to sue hundreds of anonymous “John Doe” individuals, with the promise of obtaining their identities later though more conventional legal means. There have been a number of recent legal challenge to these process and the CRIA may also run into some difficulties in its requests as ISPs argue that any attempt to identify its subscribers will breach recently passed Canadian federal privacy law. A woman in New Jersey has filed a lawsuit against the Recording Industry Association of America alleging violations of the Racketeering Influenced & Corrupt Organisations, or RICO Act. Michele Scimeca has filed the suit based on the recording agencies ‘extortion’ tactics. She claims that the RIAA is using racketeering against the public. Scimeca’s case appears to be the first use of federal racketeering laws in the music copyright wars. Scimeca is seeking unspecified damages from Sony Music Entertainment, UMG Recordings and Motown. Most defendants in the actions are paying music labels $2,000 to $10,000 to avert costly trials, said Cindy Cohn, legal director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an Internet advocacy group. Scimeca is claiming that the same practices used by the mafia are being employed by the RIAA and its member recording companies. Scimeca claims that the company’s “scare tactics amount to extortion”.
See :,39020384,39146225,00.htm

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