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

LETTER: Slow down for wildlife, please

Langley letter writer pleads with drivers to drive with caution through new areas of development

Langley kids camp featured visiting Seawolves rugby players

Kids ages four to 12 could take part in a rugby camp that included visiting professional players.

True grit: Langley U18 wins bronze at soccer championships

‘I’ve never met a group this tough,’ coach said

LETTER: How do you define heritage in Fort Langley

A letter writer speaks out against demolition of several buildings in the ‘birthplace of B.C.’

Korean traditions with a mix of jazz

Black String plays Summer Festival Series at Willoughby Amphitheatre

‘Bad choices make good stories’: Margaret Trudeau brings her show to Just for Laughs

Trudeau says over the decades she has been suicidal, manic, depressed

UPDATE: Youth seen with gun at Nanaimo mall, suspect now in custody

Woodgrove Centre shut down during police incident

B.C. man dies from rabies after contact with Vancouver Island bat

Last known case of human rabies in B.C. was 16 years ago

Crown recommends up to two-year jail term for former Bountiful leader

Crown says sentence range should be 18 months to two years for Bountiful child removal case

B.C.-wide police efforts identify Vancouver Island robbery suspect

Warrant issued for arrest of North Vancouver man for TD Bank robbery

VIDEO: Wolf spotted swimming ashore on northern Vancouver Island

Island wolf population estimated at under 150 in 2008, says VI-Wilds

Diversity a Canadian strength, Trudeau says of Trump tweets at congresswomen

Trudeau avoided using Trump’s name when he was asked about the president’s Twitter comments

Garneau ‘disappointed’ in airlines’ move against new passenger bill of rights

New rules codified compensation for lost luggage, overbooked flights

Mercury tops out on top of the world: Alert in Nunavut warmer than Victoria

It’s the latest anomaly in what’s been a long, hot summer across the Arctic

Most Read