Downloaders win again

Latest court ruling strikes another blow against music industry

While the federal government makes up its mind how to address the whole copyrighted songs vs. peer-to-peer downloading issue (the latest proposed legislation was panned by both sides, and won’t get a vote for a long time) the music industry lost yet another court case contrived to identify illegal music and file swappers through their Internet service providers.

This week the Federal Court of Appeal dismissed the Canadian Recording Industry Association’s appeal of a controversial March 2004 Federal Court ruling.

The original suit, BMG Canada verses John Doe, targeted the ISPs of 29 music swappers who the industry claimed were sharing over 1,000 songs each over the Internet. The CRIA, which represents the Canadian recording industry, was trying to force ISPs to reveal the identities of the swappers, which would then allow the industry to follow the example set in the U.S. by the recording industry and sue the individuals directly.

By making an example of a few swappers, the music industry believes it can curb the illegal sharing habits of Canadians.

Unfortunately, the CRIA is having a hard time holding anybody responsible for rampant music theft that is costing the industry and musicians tens of millions a year in Canada alone.

The ISPs, including Telus, have so far refused to divulge the identities of the swappers because of privacy concerns. The judge in the case noted that it was tricky balancing an individual’s right to privacy against copyright theft and infringement, but sided on behalf of individual rights because of the potential for "unwarranted intrusion into personal lives," which "is now unparalleled."

What does it all mean? It’s hard to say because the Federal Court of Appeals judge was sympathetic to the CRIA’s case, acknowledging that the music industry was being wronged. Whether the CRIA will target the ISPs again is still to be seen, but it’s a safe bet that none of the 29 individuals targeted are off the hook just yet.

Meanwhile the federal government may get the legislation right yet, in which case the job of going after file swappers would pass on from the music industry to the police once the legislation is passed.

Right now, with no precedent set against either file uploaders or downloaders in civil court and no criminal law on the books, one could argue that file swapping is currently legal in Canada – while copyright infringement remains a crime.

Talk about your grey areas.

Ringside seats

For the most part space exploration has been relatively benign – nobody has been hit by a falling satellite yet, and aside from a few billion dollars worth of scientific litter strewn about the solar system, we haven’t even begun to leave our footprint on the cosmos. Our mission has been primarily to observe, not to interfere.


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