Canadian Recording Industry Hunts P2P Users

The Canadian equivalent of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has signaled that it might follow the U.S. model of launching lawsuits against individuals accused of illegal music trading, which the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) blames for CAN$425 million in lost sales annually.

Although the Canadian Copyright Board last week confirmed the legality of downloading music tracks from peer-to-peer networks for personal use, the board also pointed out that uploading music files is still illegal.

In announcing support for its U.S. counterpart, the CRIA hinted that its own legal onslaught against file sharers might begin soon — as early as January.

“The action by the RIAA is against individuals who are illegally distributing potentially thousands of copyrighted music files,” said CRIA president Brian Robertson in a statement. “In Canada, we know of users of file-sharing services who are individually uploading and distributing four and five thousand copyrighted songs to potentially tens of millions of people. This is indisputably an illegal practice.”

Stalking and Suing

CRIA spokesperson Julie Wright would not confirm whether the Canadian recording industry group is poised to take legal action, but she did indicate it is a possibility.

When asked whether the industry group is working with Canadian ISPs, some of which recently announced they would provide user information on alleged uploaders if requested by a court, Wright declined to answer.

“I don’t think CRIA is ready to comment on that because there are a lot of things in the works,” Wright said.

Still, the CRIA has said it has been technically seeking out file traders, similar to the way the RIAA has tracked alleged copyright infringers on P2P networks. In the United States, network information has been used by the RIAA to subpoena user information from ISPs, a tactic that has been met with resistance and even countersuits from several of the ISPs.

Loss and Liability

Blaming illegal file trading for “a dramatic reduction in career opportunities for Canadian artists and the availability of new Canadian music,” CRIA’s Robertson said the industry likely will go beyond its previous efforts toward education and awareness.

“The music industry in Canada has been too devastated by the widespread theft of its music to continue to be the good guys in this process,” Robertson said. “CRIA has invested in excess of $1 million to date in an effort to educate young people on the issues of Internet piracy, and we will continue to do so.

“For the hardcore group, however, it appears that education has and will not make any impression,” Robertson added. “They are killing the music they profess to love. They should be aware that they may face legal consequences for their actions.”

Swayed by Success

Yankee Group senior analyst Mike Goodman said the CRIA most certainly is looking at the RIAA’s success, which, although somewhat debatable, has helped turn at least some people away from sharing unlicensed music files online.

However, Goodman added that one thing has been transformed by the RIAA’s success in attacking P2P users: Now, more music is being shared through means other than P2P networks. These alternative channels include e-mail and instant messaging.

“To a certain extent, [the RIAA’s tactics] have cut down the reach of shared music, but bottom line, it doesn’t stop it,” Goodman said.

Testbed for Tact

In concert with its validation of downloading music tracks from P2P sites, the Canadian Copyright Board imposed a fee on the hardware that plays the digital files to offset losses and pay artists and others in the industry.

Goodman said the approach had been discussed in the United States but has been met with stiff opposition from those who would have to pay such fees, such as ISPs and hardware companies, which “hate it with a capital H.”

Nevertheless, Goodman said, the size of the Canadian market makes it an ideal test bed, and “everybody in the ecosystem” will be watching to see how the model works.

“If after six months it is successful in Canada, you might see the U.S. industry push to have the same kind of thing,” he said.

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