Notice-and-notice: new rules for copyright and downloading

Universities across Canada unsure of the rules with new Copyright Modernization Act

TRU might have to alter how it monitors and addresses illegal downloading on campus, depending on the opinion it expects to receive from its legal office next month.

As of Jan. 2 this year, Canada’s Copyright Modernization Act (Bill C-11) is granting copyright holders (like Sony Pictures) the legal right to submit copyright infringement notices to Internet service providers (like Shaw or Telus) that, in turn, are obligated forward the claims to subscribers of those services.

The Internet service providers (ISPs) are also legally required to confirm to the copyright holders when the end user receives the claim, so they essentially become the middlemen in dialogs between the copyright owners and end users. Under this “notice-and-notice” system, identities of copyright infringers are kept safe from the copyright holders by using the ISPs as a buffer.

(Ryan Turcot/ The Omega)

(Ryan Turcot/ The Omega)

These new downloading rules matter to TRU because there is a nationwide debate on whether universities are considered ISPs, according to information security officer Hugh Burley.

“Universities are now just starting to get their legal responses back,” he said. “Some universities have looked at this and said ‘we don’t believe we are an ISP under this legislation. We are not going to respond to this.’ Other universities who have received legal council said ‘Yes, under this law you are an ISP, so you’re required to follow the notice-on-notice guidelines.’”

“I have asked Scott Blackford and our legal office to give us an opinion on exactly what we’re required to do,” he said.

Burley expects to hear from the legal office sometime next month.

“It’s really a risk issue,” he said. “Can this significantly affect the university in some way, through cost or reputational damage if we don’t comply? We are a public institution, so we are required to comply with law, but … really, academic freedom is paramount here, so we want to make sure we know exactly what we’re required to do.”

Complying with the notice-to-notice system could become a costly and time-consuming endeavor, he said.

“For very large universities, like UBC and McGill, there’s just no way they can deal with [notice-to-notice] manually,” Burley said. “Their response is that if they’re not able to parse your message automatically [using a computer program], notify you and deliver it back, then it’s not their problem.”

“I think we would take a similar stance.”

According to Burley, as of now it would be tough, if even possible, for TRU to hone in on a specific end user on campus. This is because its wireless network is distributed through a router that uses a network address translation (NAT) system. Multiple end users within this network can share common IP addresses, so it would not be possible for TRU to identify a specific user based on an IP address alone.

“In terms of RIAA notifications and things like that, we basically are not doing anything with them at this point,” Burley said. “We are getting about one notification a day, mostly pointed at our wireless router.”

In the case of TRU Residence, Burley said it has a separate network that does not use a NAT system and thus TRU has the capability of identifying the specific room of an end user.

However, TRU Residence is an independently run organization, despite the fact it receives Internet service from the university, so Burley says the occupants of any given room would not be known by TRU.

Chief information officer Brian Mackay said that in recent years he has observed a decrease in peer-to-peer downloads (like free movies from The Pirate Bay) on campus as low-cost digital streaming services like Netflix are becoming more popular.

“There’s been a huge growth in Netflix, so much so that many universities like Brock University have had to [limit and regulate] their Netflix traffic,” he said.

“We’re just getting up to speed on what our overall [notice-to-no- tice] requirements are, but it would be costly [to implement them],” he explained. “With the advent of more streaming technologies, we hope the industry is getting smarter to the way people are consuming media.”

“We’re not here to cater to an industry that’s been slow to adapt to a new environment,” Burley said. “Without sticking my foot in too far and saying we wouldn’t comply, we would comply but we’re not going to run around in circles trying to fix a complainant’s problems.

“We’re far more interested in our research and innovation agenda. We hope our systems can be more open and accessible than locked down and controlled,” Mackay said.