Imagine this: Christine McMillan is 86, from Ontario and has a deep penchant for post-apocalyptic first-person shooter games. So much so, in fact, that she’s been slapped with a $5,000 fine for pirating Metro 2033, where nuclear war survivors need to kill mutants to survive.
Sound plausible? McMillan in fact is no Granny Gunner: She was actually caught up in an anti-piracy dragnet. The reality is, she had never even heard of the game when she received a notice from a private company called Canadian Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement (CANIPRE), claiming she had illegally downloaded it.
So why is a Canadian octogenarian in the cross-hairs, so to speak? Well, her IP address was used to download the game, but network security analyst and technology expert Wil Knoll told CBC that anyone could have accessed her unsecured wireless connection, then downloaded the game using her IP address. Even a secured internet connections can be hacked, making it 'nearly impossible' to link a person with an IP address.
"It's very hard then to correlate, or nearly impossible, to correlate from that IP address to any individual that's inside the house, or to prove it forensically," he said. "Especially if these infractions are happening months and months and months ago."
Whether it’s fair or not, under the federal government's Notice and Notice regulations introduced last year under the Copyright Modernization Act, ISPs can hire third parties to collect restitution for piracy without doing the forensic work to actually prove guilt. And hire they have—tens of thousands of Canadians have received notices to pay up. One small Canadian-based provider, TekSavvy, with fewer than 300,000 subscribers, reported that it sends out about 5,000 notices a day and has.
Knoll said that’s it’s nothing more than a "dragnet cash grab."
"It's preying on people that don't necessarily understand the system or the technology that surrounds it," he said, "and they're willing to pay out of court because they're scared."
The owner of CANIPRE told the news outlet that he gets 400 calls and emails from those who have gotten notices on a busy day and "most of them" settle; in fact, his company has collected about $500,000 for its clients since the Notice and Notice regime started almost two years ago.
The next review of Canada's Copyright Act is scheduled for 2017.
Photo © Tithi Luadthong