p2p news / p2pnet: Ottawa University’s Alex Cameron was another of the people at the recent (and first) p2p Litigation Summit in Chicago.
Cameron’s current research and writing focuses on privacy, intellectual property, digital rights management technology, and ISPs, and he’s testified on copyright reform for the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) before committees of the House of Commons and the Senate.
Most recently, Cameron was co-counsel for the CIPPIC before the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal in Canada`s only case regarding p2p file-sharing, privacy, ISPs, and copyright: BMG Canada v John Doe, 2005 FCA 193.
Below, in his Canadian take on the summit, Cameron mentions MediaSentry and on that, p2pnet is currently slogging through a long, and highly revealing, 2004 cross-examination of MediaSentry president Gary Millin which we’ll post in full later today, or tomorow.
It’s intriguing >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
First Annual p2p Litigation Summit
On November 3, 2005, I had the privilege of attending and giving a presentation at the First Annual p2p Litigation Summit at the beautiful Northwestern University Law School in Chicago.
My presentation addressed Canadian and global (ie. non-US) developments in p2p litigation and copyright reform. The bulk of my talk was focused on my involvement as counsel for the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) in Canada`s p2p litigation – BMG Canada Inc.v.John Doe 2005 FCA 193.
At the p2p Litigation Summit, I learned a great deal about the current state of the RIAA lawsuits and their litigation and `settlement` tactics in the US, including from an individual who was wrongly accused by RIAA.
Ray Beckerman has provided a great report on the events of the conference already. I want to briefly highlight two thoughts that I personally took away from the conference.
First, I was surprised to learn just how many individuals are now at various stages of fighting back against the RIAA lawsuits in the United States.
These fights are taking place even in the face of staggering statutory damages claims that would likely drive most individuals into personal bankruptcy. It takes courage for these individuals to defend these cases with so much at stake. Although there have been isolated stories about particular cases in the past, I wasn’t aware of the extent of this development or that there are now a number of cases nearing an actual trial on the merits.
As a result, I expect that for better or for worse, we’ll likely have legal precedent emerge from a US court in the near future regarding the legality of individual file sharing on p2p networks in the US.
Quite apart from the technical legal arguments about copyright, I think it’ll be most interesting to see whether a US court will be persuaded to make an example of someone and have the stomach to strip individuals of their life savings or drive them into bankruptcy over file sharing music.
This isn’t the kind of activity that statutory damages were designed to combat and, if applied, could have destructive consequences for the lives of real individuals in a situation where social norms have developed around music file-sharing. It’ll put a real human face on these cases. This will be a true test of how far US courts are willing to apply copyright law against individuals and in particular what they will require RIAA to show before making such an award.
Second, I learned Canadians have some good reasons to be proud about the approach that our courts and policy makers have taken to the issue of p2p litigation and copyright reform more generally (at least when compared to the approaches taken in the US).
It was astonishing to me to hear anecdotes about how US courts have so unquestioningly accepted evidence from RIAA and its investigator MediaSentry, effectively opening the litigation floodgates on potentially innocent individuals alleged to have engaged in file-sharing. In Canada, our Federal Court and Federal Court of Appeal asked what I consider common sense questions about how the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) and MediaSentry went about their investigations.
After asking these questions, our courts refused to order ISPs to identify their targeted customers because the courts were not satisfied with the quality of evidence put forward by MediaSentry.
Given the risk that innocent people could be exposed to lawsuits, our courts refused to order ISPs to hand over individuals` names to CRIA. US courts do not appear to be asking the same questions (in part I suppose because of differences in the law). Whether this relatively unquestioning approach will carry forward into the determination of the substantive copyright issues remains to be seen, particularly given that those determinations could have such devastating consequences for individuals as described above.
Alex Cameron – Ottawa University, Faculty of Law
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