Canadian government officials announced last week that Canada will formally adopt its notice and notice online copyright enforcement system (“Notice and Notice System”) starting in January 2015. Passed in recent updates to Canada’s copyright laws, The Copyright Modernization Act (Bill C-11), the Notice and Notice System will require that Internet intermediaries, such as Internet service providers (ISPs) and website hosts, either notify their customers of allegedly infringing conduct or remove infringing content they host upon receiving a notice of alleged infringement from a copyright owner or the owner’s authorized agent.
Although the Notice and Notice System claims to strike a balance between the rights of copyright owners and Internet users, it has been criticized by industry groups and practitioners (including myself) as being an ineffective system to allow copyright owners to directly enforce rights in their works online short of a judicial action, especially in comparison to its U.S. counterpart under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“Notice and Takedown System”). Despite these criticisms, it does not appear that Canada will adopt stronger online enforcement measures in the foreseeable future, meaning copyright owners and their agents need to understand the Notice and Notice System’s procedures, and potential alternative enforcement measures, in order to effectively protect their works online in Canada.
So what do copyright owners and their agents need to know about the Notice and Notice System?
Notice Procedures. In order to utilize the Notice and Notice System, a copyright owner or their agent must submit a notice to the Internet intermediary hosting the infringing work in order for the Internet intermediary to take action. According to Bill C-11, a notice must:
- State the claimant’s (copyright owner or agent’s) name, address and other relevant communication information;
- Identify the work or other subject-matter to which the claimed infringement relates;
- State the claimant’s interest or right with respect to the copyright in the work or other subject-matter;
- Specify the location to which the claimed infringement occurs;
- Specify the infringement that is claimed;
- Specify the date and time of the claimed infringement; and
- Provide any other relevant information or information required by other Canadian regulations.
Drawbacks. As mentioned, the Notice and Notice System is a weaker online copyright enforcement regime compared to systems in other countries such as the U.S.’ Notice and Takedown System, and regimes in Australia and Japan (among others). Particularly, the Notice and Notice System does not mandate that an Internet intermediary remove infringing content upon notice of an alleged copyright infringement in order for the intermediary evade contributory liability. Further, the penalty an Internet intermediary may face for failure to comply with a notice’s requested takedown is substantially less compared to penalties under U.S. copyright law. Further information on these deficiencies can be found here.
Implementation. Although the Notice and Notice System will not formally come into force until January 2015, many Canadian Internet intermediaries already adhere to its system on a voluntary basis. This means that copyright owners and their agents should at least consider utilizing the Notice and Notice System now as many Internet intermediaries have already adopted its procedures.
Alternative Online Enforcement Measures. Despite the Notice and Notice System’s relative weakness compared to its U.S. and other foreign counterparts, many Canadian Internet intermediaries may be brought under U.S. jurisdiction, and thereby be subject to more forceful enforcement measures under the Notice and Takedown System. This requires that an infringed online work qualify for protection in the U.S. and that the Internet intermediary in question be subject to U.S. jurisdiction based on their activities and interactions with the U.S. market. Further information on qualifications for the U.S. Notice and Takedown System can be found here.
What’s The Takeaway? Canada’s Notice and Notice System is a weaker system for copyright owners to directly enforce their rights in their copyright-protected works online. However, knowing its enforcement procedures as well as viable alternative enforcement measures can help to ensure that copyright owners can more effectively protect their works online in Canada and potentially beyond. That being said, a copyright owner should consider working with a qualified IP attorney in order to ensure that they effectively utilize the Notice and Notice System as well as other countries’ online copyright enforcement systems.