Opinion » Dot Comrade

Online privacy bill gives up personal info



It seems as if every year the feds try to bring forth some damned bill aimed at whittling away your privacy when it comes to Internet usage. Remember in 2012 when they tried to pass Bill C-30, that lovely piece of legislation that would have granted authorities the ability to monitor and log user information without a warrant? That was eventually shelved when pretty much all of Canada's Internet users called it out. It also came after then-public safety minister Vic Toews famously said people could "either stand with us or with the child pornographers."

Of course parts of Bill C-30 returned in 2013 in the form of Bill C-13, the so-called "cyberbullying bill." Worded a bit differently, Bill C-13 would still give telecoms the ability to hand out your personal information to police without a warrant, so long as the users had malicious intent behind their activity.

And now the latest and greatest attempt on your online privacy is the ironically-named Digital Privacy Act, Bill S-4, which will give Internet service providers the ability to turn over your personal information to anyone investigating any possible copyright infringement or the like, again, without a warrant. This takes it a step beyond the Bill C-13 amendments in that you might not necessarily have to be engaging in malicious online behavior to have your information passed along, but simplfy file sharing. Perhaps the bigger concern is that it would allow the passing along of your information to non-authority organizations, such as third-party copyright investigators acting at the behest of whomever.

Vancouver-based digital advocacy group OpenMedia says that should be cause for alarm for all Canadians, as it would essentially open up Canada to the copyright trolling lawsuits frequently seen in the U.S.

Speaking to the National Post, OpenMedia communications manager said if somebody downloaded a copy of Game of Thrones, under the new legislation HBO could simply phone up your local Internet provider and suddenly know everything about you.

The practice has been allowed in the U.S. for years, and has been the basis of many a lawsuit involving record labels suing people for sharing copyrighted songs online. In 2009 a university student in Boston was sued by four record labels for sharing 30 songs online. In that case, the student was ordered to pay damages amounting to $675,000 — or $22,500 per song. Seriously.

In Canada, there is currently a law in place that limits the damages a person must pay in a file-sharing suit to no more than $5,000. Those lawsuits themselves are few and far between, as it's been damn-near impossible for the owners of the intellectual property to obtain the information on those who might be sharing their files online. That is, until now. If Bill S-4 is passed, you can surely expect to see a lot more of these industry suits, with many a Canadian suddenly having to shell out $5,000 in damages.

Could another approach be taken to combat piracy? Should another approach be taken? Or should Canada simply remain as a place of relative calm when it comes to piracy and copyright infringement?