Photo: Premila D'Sa

Ryerson students react to potential ban on pirating

In Business & Technology /

By Swikar Oli 

Bell is proposing Canada to add a NAFTA clause that would require internet service providers to block access to digital piracy websites at home. If included, Ryerson students may be affected by this change.

The company is asking the House of Commons International Trade committee for an independent agency to create a website blacklist, calling it the “most efficient, effective solution” for enforcing intellectual property laws.

Piracy has been a widespread issue across the world. Recently, the HBO series Game of Thrones has been the target of pirating. According to U.K.-based piracy monitoring firm, MUSO, the first episode of Game of Thrones season seven was pirated 91.74 million times around the world.

This widespread pirating has resulted in HBO targeting people suspected of illegally downloading episodes by sending notices to their internet providers.

Since 2015, internet service providers are required to send notices to users allegedly downloading copyrighted material from the U.S.

Under Bill C-60, passed in 2006, downloading copyrighted material for personal use is not considered to be infringement, but distribution is.

Kyle Thompson*, a first-year undeclared student in engineering said how piracy is disseminated is not always clear. Websites offering illegal file-sharing don’t always host the illegal music or video, he said, but have a URL that connects to computers who are sending and receiving those files.

Thompson* says he has torrented games before, which involves downloading content directly from other users’ computers hosting the file.

“Usually if I’m not gonna buy the game, then I might torrent it, to play it if I want to, but I know if there wasn’t a torrent, I wouldn’t buy it. I wouldn’t spend money on it,” he said.

In a joint statement, Ryerson’s IT department and the Library and General Council said that as an internet service provider, it’s required by law to pass on copyright infringement notices to students. Ryerson can identify the time, machine, Internet Protocol address and user of the copyright infringer, but does not have to reveal identifying material to the copyright holder unless a legal action is taken against the user.

“The complainant (copyright holder) does not likely know the identity of the individual that infringed copyright,” the statement reads, but they can claim infringement to take legal action.

“There are no immediate consequences under the Copyright Act.”

Vice-president, regulatory, at Rogers Communications Inc. Pam Dinsmore told the trade committee that the number of notices her company sent out is increasing.

“Back in 2015 we had 1.5 million notices that we handled over the course of a year. The next year in 2016, it was over 2.5 million notices we handled. That’s about 200,000 notices a month,” she said.

Thompson said his family received the notice once for streaming a pirated movie. According to 2015 data, only 1 in 800,000 users receive more than three copyright infringement notices. Some notices have threatened lawsuits unless a settlement is paid despite the letters not having legal jurisdiction in Canada.  The maximum Canadian fine for copyright infringement is $5,000 for all infringements in a lawsuit.

First-year student Islam Hamada says he has never illegally downloaded copyrighted material because he was raised not to steal and said it may form a bad habit. He uses Google Play for his music and Netflix to catch new movies.

“Just work hard and try to get it,” he said. “There’s no reason to steal anything.”

Dinsmore told the committee that setting an international copyright legislation may disrupt existing copyright law. “Any changes to our domestic copyright laws should be made through the upcoming five-year review of the Copyright Modernization Act, not through the NAFTA renegotiation,” she said.

The Copyright Modernization Act, also known as Bill C-11, governs issues such as copyright infringement and ownership of content. The review on the act will begin next month.

*Name has been changed to protect anonymity 

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