The Canadian Supreme Court is set to determine a case on whether Internet Service Providerscan be allowed to solicit fees from film producers in exchange for disclosing information on suspected movie pirates or parties that share copyrighted content illegally.

The case to be heard has been brought forward by Rogers Communications Inc, one of the top telecommunications companies in Canada that specializes in internet connectivity, wireless communications, telephone and cable television. The company which received a request from a faction of movie producers has already compiled the identifying information sought after. In exchange for the information, Rogers Communications would like to charge a minimum of $100 Canadian dollars an hour for time spent mining and sorting the information.

Initially, the Federal Courts had approved the request by Rogers Communications to charge for the data. However, the faction of film makers and producers appealed the decision stating there are potentially tens of thousands of copyright infringers and that charging $100 an hour would result in a multi-million dollar fee. This would not be practical and would hinder their efforts to safeguard their industry.

The Court of appeal sided with the film makers and producers which prompted the company to forward the case to the Supreme Court. The court, which is very selective on the actions it determines, has decided to hear this case. In accordance with the constitution, the Supreme Court has not cited any reasons (and is not bound to) for choosing to hear the case.

In passing the judgement by the Court of appeal, Justice David Stratas pointed out that the film makers and producers have sufficient grounds to request for information from Internet Service Providers on the basis of the Copyright Act regarding any parties that duplicate, sell, or use content without consent from the owners. He further added that while the telecommunications companies are free to charge some fee for their efforts, the fee should be negligible for disclosing information that is supported by a
statute.

In supporting his judgement he further added that the internet should not become a safe haven where pirates can use copyrighted content as they please without any ramifications. This, he implied, is what would happen if the companies were allowed to charge their requested rate. The creativity and dedication of content creators had to be safeguarded to preserve the industry.

At the moment the case has been forwarded to the Supreme Court. Whether the court will back the telecommunications company or the film makers is still very unclear.

On a related noted, the case might cause a stir in regards to the internet privacy laws in Canada. It is clear that ISPs and telecommunications providers do not require consent from their users to monitor their activities online and track their data. They also do not require a user consent to share any information to third parties relating to
copyright infringement. This opens the door to potential abuse especially if the law is not very clear on the specifics of such sharing which is the case in Canada.

Smartphones and other gadgets that access ISP services also store and share data belonging to Canadians with the ISPs and telecommunications companies thus posing a threat to individual privacy. This is also not properly addressed by the existing laws of Canada. Data collection protocols that are yet to be upgraded to safeguard privacy have also occasionally been used by some data companies to provide information to select enterprises for marketing purposes. This amounts to a violation of authority. Some of these protocols are sometimes vulnerable and can be accessed by non-sanctioned parties thus perpetuating identity theft, impersonation and digital fraud.

The Canadian privacy laws need to be amended to match the complexity associated with data collection particularly in regards to smart devices. For instance, the law has no provisions on “re-identification”. This is the process by which statistical algorithms can obtain chunks of data from anonymous sources and break it down into smaller chunks to reveal individual data.

There should also be laws that prevent companies from forcing customers to give up their privacy rights if they want to use their products. Canada privacy laws should also be more distinct requiring privacy terms and conditions by different ISPs and companies to be stated in more detail and clarity.