Canada plays neutral in file-sharing war

By Christopher Walsh
May 29, 2004
File-sharing is legal in Canada.

The recent ruling, File-sharing legal in Canada, has brought some attention to the community of filesharing worldwide -- all the way to Canada. Canada is seemingly becoming a pirate's haven, with full availability of broadband access and laws which do not prohibit Canadians' freedom to download as much as they want.

Canadians are, arguably, the most connected people on earth. 54% of Canadians are connected to some form of high speed connection, compared to around 34% of our neighbours in the United States. Broadband Internet connections make swapping your files faster, easier and gives you little time to think about the possible consequences... assuming there are any consequences in Canada.

We're constantly witnessing lawsuits against companies and individuals worldwide. Germany, Denmark and the United States have been the latest in pushing for laws and lawsuits in this regard. All have been successful, but recent attempts in Canada have been failures. Sharmann Networks, the maker of Kazaa, has been facing, dodging, losing and winning lawsuits. Some have even been based on old British laws still in use by Australia.

Recent crackdowns in the United States and Europe where teens and adults have been slapped with hefty lawsuits -- Canadians, for the most part, have been left alone to share and download as much music as they want.

A large percentage of Canadians also use Kazaa Media Desktop or Kazaa lite, the former is a commercial product created by Sharmann Networks. Others include usage of the eDonkey network with clients such as eMule and Sharaza, both allow people to download large files such as movies. The confusion in Canadian law and the subsequent lack of cases make more Canadians ready to share and download their music, videos and games with these popular programs.

In December 2003, the Canadian Copyright Board stated that downloading music was legal. They also went on to say that sharing would still be considered illegal. Be aware that this was not a court ruling, but a statement by the Canadian Copyright Board. "This is the opinion of the Copyright Board, but Canadian courts will decide this issue." remarked Richard Pfohl, speaking for the Canadian Recording Industry Association in December.

The courts did make a ruling, and it wasn't in favour of the recording and motion picture industries.

At the end of March, the Canadian Recording Industry Association was turned down in several cases. They were denied personal information of 29 alleged file-swappers. Although an appeal is almost sure to happen, it just makes life harder for the Industry in it's war against filesharing. The court ruling not only stated that the ISPs did not have to release personal information about their customers, but that file-sharing was legal under Canadian law.

Canadians are still becoming attracted to file sharing applications and studies show that Canada is not alone. Worldwide file swapping is on the rise, and the cases brought on by the MPAA, the RIAA and other industry associations has not stopped the majority from doing what they love.

For the time being, Canada is effectively a file sharing haven, but expect things to change when the pressure from Industry Associations pushes the Canadian government over. Laws will surely be passed, changed and modified in favour of Industry watchdogs. Both the Liberals and Conservatives, Canada's largest political parties, stated they would push for a law change in their pre-election platforms.

Until laws change, though, Canada is still the world's file-sharing haven. The court rulings and the liberal attitude Canada takes on many topics will make future attempts at halting file-sharing by watchdogs much more difficult.

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