A significant legal storm is brewing across Canada, with thousands of Canadians, including residents of Windsor, Ontario, finding themselves in the crosshairs of copyright infringement lawsuits.
These actions stem from allegations of unauthorized streaming and sharing of a movie featuring Ryan Reynolds, and they shed light on the serious consequences of engaging in unlawful movie-watching practices.
In this particular case, more than 1,900 Internet Protocol (IP) addresses scattered across Canada are listed as accused parties in the copyright infringement of the movie “Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard.” Potential financial penalties for this transgression could soar as high as $50,000, a fact that’s causing many to rethink the consequences of their actions.
Internet copyright law – and how creators are using it
The world of online content creation is a diverse one, which means the law surrounding the copyright of various material is also complex. Interactive content such as video games and online casino games fall into a different bracket to, say, the streaming of TV shows, for example.
The issue of illegal movie streaming, however, is probably the most famous. Ever since the dawn of the internet, online users have faced the threat of legal action for downloading copyrighted content.
Internet copyright law is a multifaceted domain that continues to evolve as technology advances. Creators across the digital spectrum, from filmmakers to game developers, rely on copyright protections to safeguard their intellectual property.
One of the primary aims of copyright law is to grant creators exclusive rights to their work for a specified period. These rights include the ability to reproduce, distribute, perform, and display their content.
In the case of movie streaming, the rise of online platforms and torrent websites has made it easier for people to access and share copyrighted films without the necessary permissions. Yet, these actions often violate these copyright laws, allowing creators to take legal action.
The consequences of copyright infringement can be severe, but sometimes amusing. In 2020, the popular streaming platform HBO threatened legal action against a Twitter user for using copyrighted content from its hit series “Game of Thrones.”
The user? President Donald Trump. Trump had used imagery and language from the show “without permission”, according to the network, so HBO warned him they would issue legal proceedings if he didn’t remove it.
The case showed the entertainment industry’s commitment to protecting its content via legal means. It served as a reminder that even sharing copyrighted material on social media platforms can lead to serious legal trouble. The lawsuit resulted in the White House explaining the reason for the infringing content and settling the dispute with HBO, but it could have been much, much worse for the then-president.
In the “Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” case, involving Ryan Reynold’s recent release, such legal action could be about to hit new heights. Almost 2,000 Canadian users could be liable to pay $50,000 each in compensation to Hitman Two Productions, the maker of the movie.
Could it happen to the rest of us?
In a statement to CBC Canada, Kenneth Clark, a lawyer at Aird Berlis who act on behalf of the production company, emphasized that illegal activity on individuals’ accounts is typically preceded by two warnings from their internet service providers (ISPs). While the statement of claim lists a high dollar amount, Clark explained that it represents the maximum allowed by the Copyright Act, and settlements usually fall between the minimum and maximum amounts.
However, critics like David Fewer, an intellectual property and technology lawyer at the University of Ottawa, argue that these lawsuits focus on monetizing the fear and uncertainty of being sued rather than addressing copyright infringement. He contends that copyright rules need re-evaluation, particularly in cases where individuals may not have control over others’ actions on their internet connections.
So, what might be the outcome? Are people who stream illegally in danger? The answer appears to be “possibly”. While figures like $50,000 are designed to scare people, the evolving technology used in detecting illegal streamers is better than ever. Creators are now in a better position than they were a few years ago to threaten legal action, which may result in a court case and a fine.
As with many things in life, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Maybe that streaming subscription isn’t such a bad idea, after all.