Wednesday, April 22, 2015

On Canadian Copyright Term Extension – Out of the Mouths of Artists?

Music Canada (which represents mainly the “big three” foreign owned Sony, Universal and Warner record company groups) and which ought to know a thing or two about copyright law has issued an amazing quick and very misleading press release  and assembled an even more amazingly quick list of its quotes on its website and following #Budget2015. Music Canada quotes Canada’s iconic and beloved Leonard Cohen as follows:
Leonard Cohen reinforces the urgency of the problem, "In just a few short years, songs we recorded in the late 1960s will no longer have copyright protection in Canada.  Many of us in our 70's and 80's depend on income from these songs for our livelihood.  We would deeply appreciate any adjustment that would avert a financial disaster in our lives." 
(emphasis added)

The fact is that Canadian law already protects the “songs” that Cohen wrote for the life of the author plus 50 years. So, he and his estate will be earning lots of well-deserved royalties from Suzanne, Hallelujah, Bird on Wire, etc. for a very long time. In cases where there is joint authorship (typically a composer and lyricist),  the term for an estate can be even longer because it lasts for fifty years form the death of the survivor in such case.

The extension of the copyright term announced in yesterday’s budget may possibly put some extra cash in Cohen’s pocket from his performances, but the overwhelming evidence is that this extension will mainly benefit his record companies. And SOCAN will fight hard to ensure that any extra money from this measure does not “derogate” from what it views as its protected share of the copyright “pie” – which is not capable of indefinite growth in size. Another long saga will be in store at the Copyright Board.

SOCAN, which collects royalties for performances of the songs in contrast to the performances and sound recordings, has - to its great credit - gone to great length over the years to protect actual creators – without whom there would be no songs – from giving away or selling their song copyrights for peanuts. They cannot get less than a 50% share. The record companies have tried to erode that sacred principle through cutting back on the artists’ mechanical royalties through controlled composition clauses.

But, if Cohen wrote the words and the music, he should get a 50% share of the SOCAN royalties no matter what deal he may have made with his managers, publishers or record companies. That is, at least, how the system is supposed to work.

Music Canada really ought to know better. If Leonard Cohen actually said the above, someone should have explained things to him. If not, Music Canada has some explaining to do.

The same with Jim Cuddy who says that “The copyright of a creative work should not expire in the lifetime of an author”.   The fact is that this hasn’t been the case in Canada since 1886.

It’s amazing how Music Canada managed to assemble all of these explicit, even if sometimes inaccurate, quotes on such a technical subject matter on such short notice from such often inaccessible artists.  As is normally the case with a “Budget” announcement, we lesser mortals were completely surprised. I think I posted the first tweet on this at 4:40  PM yesterday, right after the #Budget2015 went online.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Canada, Fair Dealing, and #FordhamIP 23rd Annual Conference at Cambridge University

I'm very proud of these tweets from the 23rd annual  #FordhamIP conference held this year once again at Cambridge University.

I do my best each year to tell it like it is regarding Canadian copyright law at this the leading international IP conference by far....which it has been for 23 years and going strong....

The news from Canada has not always been good but overall we have much to be proud of. Right now, the USA and the EU would be wise to look very carefully at Canada's statute and jurisprudence on fair dealing. I've done my little bit to contribute to this, along with Ariel Katz - as you can see reflected in the Province of Alberta decision from Canada's Supreme Court

It's surprising that they are so unaware - and sad for them that they do not realize the potential that they could achieve if they simply read our statute and our Supreme Court of Canada cases.

And they should ignore Canadian lobbyists who have tried unconvincingly and without success to discredit these achievements on irrelevant and inapplicable grounds. 

Of course, if Canada is offside internationally, then we would be in very good company with the USA and its Section 107 of the USA Copyright Act, which has never been challenged and almost certainly never will be - and if it is, will almost certainly emerge unscathed. 

This is very important for #TPP and #ISDS.


Thursday, April 09, 2015

Canada's Best Kept Fair Dealing Secrets Revealed at #FordhamIP Conference

I got in a good shot from the floor about Canada's excellent statutory and judicially considered views of fair dealing - of which some very important people in USA, UK and EU are sadly and surprisingly unaware.

I am proud to be a part of this picture, along with Ariel Katz in the Province of Alberta case in the #SCC in 2012.

Canada has the best of  both possible worlds in many ways between the USA and  UK...

Pity for them both that neither of them quite get it!

We'll keep out secret for ourselves!

Hopefully, we won't abandon this advantage in the #TPP due to misguided, inaccurate and misleading references to the three-step test, etc. coming from Canadian and American sources ...


Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Canadian Copyright Update - 23rd Fordham Conference 2015 at Cambridge University

This year, the #FordhamIP conference was held at Cambridge University, a magical place. This was the 23rd Fordham Conference and the second at Cambridge.

Here's my presentation entitled Canadian Copyright Update, in which I dealt with:

Canada’s Copyright Board at the Cross Roads
A pending Supreme Court of Canada case re:
 technological neutrality
whether tariffs can be “mandatory”
A recent decision from the Supreme Court of Canada on what constitutes “substantial similarity” and the role of expert evidence in copyright infringement cases
The Status of Copyright “Trolling” in Canada – the Aronovitch decision re costs of taking the position to take “no position”
Notice and notice, Bill S-4 & Privacy
Bill C-8: Anti-counterfeiting legislation

The moderator of this panel was Nathalie Theberge from Canadian Heritage and the  Panelist (commentator) was Justice Roger Hughes from Canada’s Federal Court.

There was a lot of interest in what is happening in Canada.


Friday, April 03, 2015

Voltage, TekSavvy and The Cost of Taking a Position to Take “No Position” - "Nice Work If You Can Get It"?

The long awaited decision by Prothonotary Roza Aronovitch of the Federal Court regarding TekSavvy’s claim to entitlement to $346,480.68  “on a full indemnity basis to make it whole for the costs it says it incurred as a result of Voltage’s motion” has now been released. Spoiler alert – TekSavvy got only $21,557.50 – about 6% of what it asked for overall. And of that, only $4,500 was for legal costs, which were sought in the amount of $178,820.98.  That’s 2.5% of what was asked for in legal costs. Further spoiler alert: both Voltage and TekSavvy are appealing Prothonotary Aronovitch's ruling. Here’s the docket and here’s the notice of motion for the TekSavvy appeal dated March 27, 2015. I’ve been waiting on this posting partly because I didn’t want to say anything prior to the appeal deadline. And since it is now being appealed by both sides and the appeal has not yet been heard, I will say less about this case at this time than I might otherwise. In any event, I’ve had lots to say about this case in the past.  However, I should at least bring readers up to date.

It will be recalled that TekSavvy took the position that it “took no position” on the Voltage disclosure motion. This appears to have been a key factor in the Federal Court’s refusal to reward TekSavvy and its counsel with almost $180,000 in legal fees.

Ironically, if TekSavvy had actually opposed Voltage’s motion, it may well have been in a much better position to successfully seek costs.  Prothonotary Aronovitch cites Justice von Finckenstein’s ruling on costs in a similar case where two the ISPs actively opposed the disclosure motion:
[44] Justice von Finckenstein goes on as follows at para 35:
[35] Clearly the process that is sought to be imposed on the ISPs
would be costly and would divert their resources from other tasks.
Given that the ISPs are in no way involved in any alleged
infringement, they would need to be reimbursed for their
reasonable costs for furnishing the names of account holders, as
well as the legal costs of responding to this motion.
[Emphasis added]
[45] In that case, the Court ultimately denied the motion but awarded the costs of the motionto the third party ISPs who had opposed it.
(emphasis added)
I must respectfully and explicitly disagree, which I rarely do, with Prof. Michael Geist; however, I must do so about this case. He has been very supportive of TekSavvy throughout. He had a blog the other day entitled “Defending Privacy Doesn’t Pay”.  In my view, it would be more accurate to say that defending privacy can and does pay if done vigorously and out of principle – both in terms of legal costs and subscriber good will. Moreover, full indemnity legal costs are very rarely recovered in Canadian litigation. Responsible ISPs should expect to incur some non-recoverable legal costs for defending their customers’ privacy as part of their “cost of doing business”. Indeed, speaking generally and not necessarily about this case, it’s arguable that ISPs have a positive duty to actually oppose ill-founded motions for disclosure and that failing to do so could expose them to liability - but that’s another topic for another day.
There is also the explicit suggestion in Prothonotary Aronovitch ruling that TekSavvy should have put its cards on the table regarding TekSavvy’s costs much earlier:
[73] Whatever the reason, the parties’ failure to address the costs of the motion is an oversight that cannot now be remedied by subsuming them within the legal costs of abiding by the Order. This applies equally to the legal costs claimed on account of TekSavvy’s attendances at the motion to intervene and the various motions to adjourn. In that connection, counsel for TekSavvy conceded at the hearing of this motion that the costs of appearing before Justice Mandamin for a further adjournment could not be claimed as Justice Mandamin explicitly determined that no costs should be awarded in respect of the adjournment.

Prothonotary Aronovitch was rather obviously displeased with both sides, as her conclusion on costs of the costs motion reveals:
[129] …It may be said that success is divided and that costs should therefore not be awarded. Rather, no costs of the assessment will be awarded because neither party should be rewarded for its conduct: TekSavvy, without justification, has greatly exaggerated its claim, while Voltage has unreasonably sought to trivialize it based on unreliable and largely irrelevant evidence.

TekSavvy’s position of taking “no position” effectively meant that it did virtually nothing to protect its subscribers’ privacy other than to play for time to send out an arguably unnecessary notice to its potentially affected customers and attend for adjournments in order to let a law school clinic, CIPPIC, seek leave to and eventually intervene in the case. TekSavvy may not be Bell or Rogers but it is a very successful commercial entity with about $5- $10 million a month in estimated cash flow.  As to the notices, Prothonotary Aronovitch commented:
[64] While the Court has the discretion to order a party to give notice, the Rules do not require TekSavvy to have provided notice of the motion to its affected clients. TekSavvy acted voluntarily and on its own initiative. Whether it acted out of altruism or self-interest is irrelevant.

I have been insistent, persistent and consistent in the past in challenging TekSavvy’s “no position” position.  Indeed, it may have been arguable that the evidence in this case was no better and perhaps even worse than the evidence in the BMG case  (in which I was counsel for CIPPIC) over a decade ago, where Shaw, Telus and CIPPIC were successful in stopping the plaintiff American record companies in in their tracks because their evidence was essentially all hearsay and unreliable. The plaintiffs then were unable or unwilling to provide reliable non-hearsay evidence sufficient to justify piercing the privacy rights of the ISPs subscribers. The roadmap in the current case was perfectly clear based on the BMG case. Indeed, the landmark ruling of Justice Von Finckenstein was upheld in all essential respects by the Federal Court of Appeal. Here’s a balanced discussion of the rulings.

In the end, TekSavvy did nothing in the current case to challenge the adequacy of Voltage’s arguably inadequate evidence and to stop the disclosure motion from proceeding. It did not cross-examine on Voltage’s affidavit material in connection with the actual disclosure motion. Instead, TekSavvy chose to vigorously cross-examine to recover its alleged costs of $346,480.68 – for legal and other technical costs resulting from having taken no position and complying with the order.

Defending privacy is not remotely equivalent to supporting piracy. It is an ISP’s job under PIPEDA to ensure that disclosure in situations such as this happens only pursuant to a court order. As I said earlier, if that order is not warranted, for example because the evidence may be clearly inadequate, it is arguably the ISPs job to oppose the motion. Anyway, it can’t be “CIPPIC to the rescue” every time there’s a mass litigation attempt and it’s absurd to expect one or more individual subscribers to shoulder this responsibility of fighting for the privacy of themselves and thousands of others. They pay good money to their ISPs to do that, and ISPs generally do very well indeed finically in Canada.

CIPPIC ended up doing a good job on the policy side about the negative aspects of trolling and speculative invoicing. However, although it did mention the “hearsay” issue in its Memorandum, it is unclear to what extent if any “hearsay” was raised by CIPPIC during the oral hearing before Prothonotary Aalto. It is not even mentioned by CIPPIC, at least according to the unofficial” transcript of the oral argument on CIPPIC’s website. However, I have no way of knowing how complete or accurate that transcript may be and there are several references in it to the microphone being off for various periods of time. Ironically, hearsay was briefly mentioned by Voltage’s lawyer according to this unofficial transcript.

In any event, Prothonotary Aalto’s learned and lengthy decision following CIPPIC’s intervention and TekSavvy’s “no position” appearance does not mention the word “hearsay”. The rule against hearsay evidence (i.e. where the witness has personal knowledge and relies on statements from others) might have been Voltage’s potential “Achilles Heel”, but nobody seemed interested in going for that kind of victory. Arguably, if a victory is just, it should be taken where it can be found.

TekSavvy clearly went to great lengths, including extensive cross-examination, to pursue its alleged entitlement to “reasonable costs” in the amount of $346,480.68. Arguably, for much less expense, it might have instead stopped the arguably deficient and hearsay-based Voltage application from going forward at all. And as the Court pointed out, as noted above, TekSavvy would have been in a better position to recover costs.

It’s very difficult to predict what will happen now. Voltage may have already invested a lot of money on this case, unless there is a contingency arrangement with its consultants and/or its counsel – which would hardly be surprising. The small 6% fractional recovery by TekSavvy of its claim for costs is no doubt a victory for Voltage, but the costs of proceeding any further may still be very high. This case is still under Court supervision – and the Court has strongly indicated in the original decision from Prothonotary Aalto that it won’t allow the names and addresses of TekSavvy’s customers to be used simply as a database for uncontrolled speculative invoicing. Indeed, the Court must approve any proposed demand letter to be sent by Voltage to subscribers and is clearly contemplating that any actions commenced must be “separate” actions to be case managed by the Court. But will TekSavvy and/or CIPPIC step up to the plate to follow through on the possibly complicated and time-consuming future steps? If not, are TekSavvy’s customers going to be on their own and out there all alone?

According to an article published on April 2, 2015, it seems that Voltage’s lawyer now has a theory that he can sue for actual damages that will be greater than the statutory damages limit of $5,000 in cases of non-commercial infringement. The article is not entirely clear on what this theory is based but this is what it says:
Zibarras explained that plaintiffs in piracy cases can opt for statutory damages or actual damages. The former are awarded automatically once it’s been proven in court the defendant actually did download the movie. The latter, actual damages, take into account how much money the production company may have lost due to the downloading and subsequent distribution.

However, assuming that Mr. Zibarras’ theory is being stated accurately, that is just not the way things work. Statutory damages for non-commercial infringement (if proven) could be as much as $5,000 but also as little as $100. It’s up to the Judge. True, a plaintiff need not elect statutory damages and can go for “actual damages”. However, it’s a real stretch and “extremely far-fetched”, as I was quoted in the article, to suggest that a typical “ non-commercial” Bittorent user could be liable for any losses supposedly resulting from subsequent distribution via a Bittorent "swarm" of hosts “that upload to/download from each other simultaneously”, if that is indeed Voltage’s current theory.

To use such theory to ratchet up “actual damages” for downloading one movie (which might have cost $10 or so from iTunes or Amazon and from which Voltage would receive even less) to actual damages of more than $5,000 is “extremely far-fetched” indeed from every factual and legal standpoint, and that’s an understatement. Clearly, there would be immense if not insurmountable difficulty in proving how many,  if any, actual “lost sales” were the results of a particular customer’s individual infringement (if proven) by downloading and what damages, if any can be proven. Clearly too, a typical downloader has no “profits” for which to account.

If I understand this theory correctly, it is rather reminiscent of and perhaps even more “far-fetched” than Catherine Leuthold’s extremely longshot and so far very unsuccessful attempt to parlay a $19,200 claim into a $22,000,000 claim by trying to hold the CBC liable for separate acts of infringements for transmissions from each of the CBC’s 800 or so participating affiliated stations and Broadcasting Distribution Undertakings [BDUs].  An application for leave to appal her case is pending in the  Supreme Court of Canada and the result is expected shortly. It would be surprising if leave to appeal were to be granted.

It will also be very interesting indeed to see what happens with respect to Voltage’s presumptive obligation as a non-resident of Canada to post “security for costs” pursuant to the Federal Court Rules, and who – if anyone – will raise that issue and when. If Voltage gets around to actually suing anyone and doing so in separate lawsuits,  which is the Court’s clear expectation, that may be the first thing that knowledgeable counsel would address. And in this case, the security for costs motion may prove to be anything but routine.

If Voltage’s strategy is to avoid actual litigation, it may find itself in some trouble with the Court – because Prothonotary Aalto at para. 40 of his reasons  and the Federal Court of Appeal before him have made it very clear that the essential “bona fide” threshold requirement for disclosure means “that they really do intend to bring an action for infringement of copyright based upon the information they obtain”.

In one sense at least, the fact that the hearsay issue was not even mentioned in the proceedings to date is good news. This means that, in the future, another ISP may well challenge a disclosure motion the way that Shaw and Telus did in BMG, if the evidence is based upon hearsay or is otherwise inadequate. Indeed, another Canadian indie ISP, Distributel recently stood up to a plaintiff successfully, as I have pointed out, and stopped the disclosure motion even before it went forward.

So, we still have an uncertain future with respect to trolling and speculative invoicing in Canada. But one thing is certain – which is that door is now appears to be a little bit more open than it was before TekSavvy took the position that it would take “no position”.

And we also now have a potentially “perfect storm” about to hit Canada in the form of Bill S-4, which if enacted, could effectively take away the need for court approval of a disclosure motion. I wrote about this at length almost a year ago, and the timing and other coincidences with the Voltage case, TekSavvy’s “no position” response to it, and the coming into force, without regulations, of the problematic notice and notice regime. It’s a perfect storm of immense magnitude for those who care about privacy. All of this may also be a perfectly appealing opportunity for those entities who wish to engage in speculative invoicing and trolling, and lawyers who may wish to engage in pursuing this type of activity. And it may not even be too cynical a stretch to think that some ISPs in this new regime could be tempted to monetize the private information they have concerning their customers’ potentially infringing activities, along with their names and contact information – all without the bother of worrying about a court order.

But in the meantime and unless there’s a successful appeal by TekSavvy’s concerning its alleged entitlement to full indemnity costs, including legal fees, for a total of $346,480.68 for "for the costs it says it incurred as a result of Voltage’s motion" and for taking “no position” on the motion, TekSavvy’s “no position” position  would have been  Nice work if you can get itHowever, up until now TekSavvy didn’t get it and about 2,000 or so of its subscribers could soon be getting into a lot of trouble by being thrown into an uncertain but almost certainly unsettling settlement demand process.