Canada Torrenting Laws: Legal or Not?

The public debate over the Copyright Modernization Act was often framed by disputed claims that Canada was weak on piracy, with critics arguing that updated laws were needed to crack down on copyright infringement. As the government prepares to conduct a statutorily-mandated review of the law later this year, the landscape has shifted dramatically with court cases and industry data confirming that Canada is now home to some of the toughest anti-piracy rules in the world.

A company that tracks online piracy in Canada has uncovered three million cases of illegal downloading and video streaming in the past three months. And notices have already been sent to Canadian consumers, threatening with American-style draconian penalties, including having their Internet service cut off.

Currently, Canada torrenting laws is very confusing as unauthorized copying or distribution of copyrighted material for profit is illegal under Canada’s Copyright Act. Still, certain downloads are permitted as long as you don’t upload and distribute the content afterwards but it only includes a certain type of files since the situation regarding music files is more complex.

Torrents are a popular way of downloading things – legal things, and of course in some cases, not-so-legal things – whereby many users share small bits of a larger file with each other to enable some potentially very fast download speeds. Of course, the downside on the privacy front is that all these other online folks you’re sharing with can clearly see your IP address, so if you want to avoid that, obviously a VPN will ensure that your details stay private. Providing the Virtual Private Network in question supports torrents, of course.

This system is meant to act as an informal way to compel users to stop their illegal downloads, as it’s unlikely that copyright holders would begin a lawsuit for such a small financial gain (especially when the legal fees would be higher). But, the attorney notes, copyright holders could be interested in suing a large number of people at once, and if a user meets the requirements they could easily be added to the list.

So, this is actually seen as a pretty good system from an individual consumer perspective. What the government really wants to do in the law is target those who are responsible for the facilitation of widespread commercial piracy and it provided some tools to do that. I think the government sent a clear signal both with this rule, as well as the cap on individual non-commercial infringement, which it doesn’t think that going after individuals is really the way to go. The way to go is both to create viable legal alternatives and to go after those who are really profiting from infringing activities.

As a rule of thumb, avoid downloading movies that were released on DVD and Blu-Ray in the past 60 days, especially big-hit blockbusters. That’s when movies make the vast majority of their post-box office money, after which their income significantly drops off. Copyright holders will put most of their anti-piracy resources into going after torrenters of new releases to minimize the financial damage. The same goes for TV shows and video games.

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