What the Copyright Modernization Act Says About Penalties and Remedies for Infringement

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The Copyright Modernization Act recognizes the significant harm to online business models caused by illegal file sharing, while at the same time ensuring that laws and penalties are aimed at those who profit from infringements of copyright. Key provisions include:

Ensuring reasonable penalties for infringement for non-commercial purposes: There are several ways a copyright holder can seek compensation for infringement of his or her copyright. One way is to sue the individual, asking the courts to award monetary compensation for each work infringed. The pre-established damages used in civil litigation are called statutory damages. Currently, the courts may award penalties of $500 to $20,000 per infringement, regardless of whether it was for commercial or non-commercial purposes. For example, someone who downloads five songs illegally could face penalties ranging from $2,500 to a maximum of $100,000, and this could be higher still, depending on the number of copyright holders per song.

The Bill ensures that Canadians are not subject to unreasonable penalties by significantly reducing statutory damages for infringement for non-commercial purposes by individuals, providing the courts with the flexibility to award between $100 and $5,000 in total damages. Using the same example of five illegally downloaded songs, the individual would only be liable for a penalty of between $100 and $5,000 under the proposed changes. The Bill will ensure that courts take proportionality into account in awarding damages.

Targeting those who make online infringement possible: The Government considers online piracy to be a serious offence. In addition to criminal sanctions that already exist in Canada, the Bill gives copyright owners the tools to pursue those who enable online copyright infringement.

The Copyright Modernization Act sends a clear message that copyright infringement is unacceptable.

It recognizes that the most effective way to stop online copyright infringement is to target those who enable and profit from the infringements of others. By allowing copyright owners to pursue these "enablers", such as illegal peer-to-peer file sharing sites, this Bill supports the development of significant legitimate markets for downloading and streaming in Canada. This supplements existing criminal punishments for those who aid and abet infringement.

Finally, the Bill recognizes that Canadians should not face unreasonable penalties for copyright infringement for non-commercial purposes carried out without motive of financial gain.

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