Voltage Pictures to sue Canadians for copyright infringement


Voltage Pictures, maker of Oscar-winning movie The Hurt Locker, has filed a court order requesting the names and details of thousands of Canadian internet users who have allegedly downloaded the company’s films.

Los Angeles-based Voltage filed a copyright infringement claim against unknown defendants at Canada’s Federal Court on November 14, seeking more than $10,000 from each. On December 7, Canadian internet service provider (ISP) TekSavvy was served a notice of motion stating that Voltage had requested names and contact details for more than 2,000 IP addresses.

Voltage will attend a hearing on December 17 to find out if its request has been granted. In a statement on TekSavvy’s blog, Marc Gaudrault, CEO, said the ISP would not grant any information to Voltage without a court order instructing it to do so.

The lawsuit is the latest in a series of copyright infringement actions brought by Voltage against individual internet users.

After The Hurt Locker won Best Motion Picture at the 2010 Oscars, Voltage sued almost 25,000 people who had illegally downloaded or shared the film. Most of the lawsuits were dismissed but in April this year, the company filed another lawsuit demanding to know the identity of 2,514 individuals suspected of infringement, leading to accusations it was copyright trolling.

It is also the second time Voltage has applied for a court order to require Canadian ISPs to hand over the personal details of customers believed to have unlawfully shared Voltage titles.

In September 2011, the company sought to know the identities of internet users suspected of sharing The Hurt Locker, but the case was dropped without explanation in March this year.

In a statement, Gaudrault said he was “puzzled” by Voltage’s approach, adding: “It seems contrary to the government’s intent with copyright reform, which was to discourage file sharing lawsuits against individuals.” Recent amendments to Canadian copyright law capped the maximum statutory damages that can be award for ingfringement at $5,000.

Commenting on the case, Kevin Sartorio, head of Gowling’s copyright practice in Canada, said there is a good chance Voltage’s request will be granted if the film company can persuade the court that the people it is requesting information on are likely to have been engaged in copyright infringement.

“On the other hand, if TekSavvy could establish that Voltage has cast the net too broadly, and that the disclosure being sought is really nothing more than a “fishing trip” likely to lead to disclosure of personal information of people who have not engaged in infringement, then this might give the court sufficient concern to refuse the request for production, or limit it,” he added.

“If the courts issue decisions awarding at the low end for non-commercial infringements then it will likely be a bad overall strategy. If the opposite happens, then the courts could be encouraging more cases of this kind to be brought.”

Sartorio also said that while most people agree intellectual property rights should be respected, taking an aggressive approach towards minor infringements could lead to a negative public reaction. “There is no easy solution for rights-holders,” he said.

Voltage Pictures, Hurt Locker, copyright infringement, lawsuit, Canada