Canada Is Now Capping File-Sharing Penalties at $5,000

Canada is now trying a new weapon in its anti-piracy war: sanity.

As part of a modernized copyright structure and updated set of laws, the country is now capping file-swapping penalties at $5,000, though file-trading lawsuits and actions seem to be getting reignited.  That said, penalties will now range from $100 to $5,000, and according to Canadian copyright expert Michael Geist, most fines will be closer to the $100-mark (in Canadian dollars, of course.)


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It’s all part of the Copyright Modernization Act, or C-11 to locals, and it’s finally getting enacted.  “This Bill ensures that Canadians will not face disproportionate penalties for minor infringements of copyright by distinguishing between commercial and non-commercial infringement,” an FAQ from the Canadian Government explained.

Fines for commercial-level piracy that goes beyond private swapping will remain the same.

The old body of Canadian law looks familiar to Americans.  Canadian infringers, private or commercial, previously faced fines of between $500 and $20,000 – per work – though Modernization means drastic chops in those penalites.  But the shift casts a darker light on the US, where a few, multi-year lawsuits have saddled swappers with crippling, multi-hundred thousand dollar debt.  These cases were leftovers from a disastrous, RIAA-shepherded war against file-swapping fans, somehow justified by wildly-overpaid RIAA presidents like Cary Sherman.

Yet even in the US, signs of sanity are emerging: the action is shifting towards ‘six-strike’ style warnings, though ISPs now seem unwilling to yank the accounts of repeat offenders.  And streaming services, warts and all, are at least eroding file-swapping volumes.

Perhaps the broader lesson is that copyright law demands frequent updates and ongoing revision, especially with technology shifting so quickly.  And for that, look no further than the US-bred DMCA, a law hatched in a simpler time when ‘social networking’ sounded like a cocktail party schmoozing strategy.  Canada is hoping to move forward with a body of law that accepts technologies like time-shifting, eases over-the-top penalties, clarifies rules for ISPs and search engines, and offers more rights and abilities to content creators and rights holders.

Or that’s the idea, at least.


33 Responses

  1. Visitor

    “file-swapping fans”

    Paul, sorry to correct you:

    Fans do not steal — pirates do.

    And we’re certainly not going to change laws against theft just because technology makes it easer to steal..

    • Billy

      To begin with, copying is not stealing. And if you take your head out of the sand for a minute, you can go read all the studies that “file sharers” buy legal content more than “non-file sharers”.

      • tired

        oh the old justification of “file sharers buy more” argument. it’s like saying car thieves buy more tires.

        if file-stealing was stopped, that would mean, according to your logic, that the sharers would not buy at all?

        copying is stealing. you are stealing labor, you are stealing intellectual property.

        • Billy

          Talking from my own experience, yes. File sharing makes me discover new music/films/shows, which I eventually buy as original products. I have a huge CD and Vinyl collection (5,000+), how does file sharing make me a bad person to the industry?

          • Nice Guy Eddie

            Yes, file sharing is not stealing. However, calling it file sharing doesn’t make it less illegal. It is still copyright infringement.

            When I print up exact copies of $100 bills and share with my friends that is not stealing either however calling it paper hanging doesn’t make it less illegal.

          • Visitor

            “I’m allowed to steal whiskey ’cause I buy a lot of it, too”


        • Visitor

          “you are stealing intellectual property”

          Indeed, and people who steal Intellectual Property destroy the global economy for all of us.

          $58 billion was lost to the U.S. economy alone in 2007 due to the distribution of copyrighted content, including more than 373,000 lost American jobs, $16 billion in lost employee earnings, and $3 billion in ederal, state and local governments’ tax revenue.

          Source: Siwek, Stephen E.,The True Cost of Piracy to the U.S. Economy, report for the Institute for Policy Innovation, Oct. 2007.

        • Visitor

          Stealing requires the depriving of the object from its owner. You can’t “steal” intellectual property. It is a crime, but the crime is copyright infringement, not theft.

      • Artist

        Billy, let me explain something to you. Copying is theft of the highest order. You aren’t just stealing the artist’s song, you are stealing his soul.

        Extreme punishment will be delt for pirates and the supporters of piracy. What is left of the pirates will curse the day the Internet allowed them to share music. Mark my words.

        • Billy

          Keep in mind that the same people who are sharing music, are fans, which is more than half the population on earth. And please don’t use the internet in your sentence, the music/tv/film industry are the last people to speak about the internet, they still think we’re in 1988.

          • Visitor

            “they still think we’re in 1988”

            Sorry, but it’s the other way around: Criminals think it’s 2001, and they need to learn that the Pirate Decade is gone, that the free ride is over and that Intellectual Property is extremely important to protect because our global economy is based on it.

            Fortunately, we’re going to see a wide variety of international educational initiatives during the next year.

      • Quote

        You’re making the assumption that what’s being stolen is the work itself. But what’s actually being stolen is the money.

        “What money?” You say, getting indignant. “I didn’t steal any money”.

        Oh, but you did. The moment you created that copy, you created an obligation to pay the artist; and obligation on which you subsequently reneged. Put differently, in making that copy, you released your legal and moral claim to a very specific portion of your wealth (say, $0.99). Only, instead of transferring the cash to its true and proper owner, you decided to keep it.

        So now you’re walking around with someone else’s money in your pocket. If this were like a credit card debt – one you intended to pay at then end of the month when the bill came due – it would be one thing. But let’s be honest, you have no intention of paying that bill, do you? You’re just going to keep what, strictly speaking, is no longer yours. Moreover, you’re going to do this against the will of the person to whom it truly belongs.

        Again, we’re not talking about stealing music here, we’re talking about stealing money. And you’re right in one sense; copying per se is not theft. But failing to pay the very specific debt minted with each and every copy most certainly is. And that, my friend, is theft.

        I pointed out that an act of theft takes place when an unauthorized and unprotected copy (i.e. non fair-use) is made by keeping the money that ought to be paid in return.

        • jw

          Sean Parker said in 2010 that between 4 & 10 trillion songs are illegally shared every year. I don’t know what that precise number is, in terms of a total. But I do know that the US National Debt is $16 trillion. So if everyone is debting themselves $.99 per song (nevermind $1.29 per song), that puts money owed to artists by fans at… some multiple of our country’s national debt. Does that really make sense to you? Can you truly reconcile that in your head somehow?

          Kudos to Canada for recognizing the insanity of a lot of these judgments. Does this mean anyone gets a retrial up there?

    • paul

      “file-swapping fans…”

      @Visitor: if this debate were only that simple.


      • Visitor

        It is very simple, Paul:

        Piracy will always mean theft to the victim and sharing to the criminal.

        I’m aware you’re trying to position yourself between two chairs, between two vocabularies, but language creates what it describes and I think you’re going to make a choice some day…

        And the keyword is abuse.

  2. Visitor

    Re the size of penalties:

    Paul, would you care to explain why it in your opinion should be cheaper for a thief to steal 100.000 albums on the web than to steal them from a physical warehouse?

    Or do you believe that maximum penalties for both crimes should be reduced to $5,000?

    If yes, would you then also propose penalties of max $5,000 for stealing or copying cash worth of $1,000,000?

    • Billy

      Well if you want to put it that way, shouldn’t the Tenenbaum penalty be $31 since he downloaded 31 songs? Instead, he was hit with $675,000.

      • Artist

        Uh… no. How about for every song stolen, chop off a finger. After 10 fingers chop off the head.

          • Visitor

            You mean, you actually believe this guy is an artist? 🙂

            Listen, artists are not cruel.

            I happen to be a confessed copyright-nazi myself, but I definitely don’t like to see young people fined absurd amounts of money.

            So what is fair?

            Well, a couple of hundred $ per song would probably sound reasonable to my ears. Movies a bit more. Software of course quite a bit more. It’s not about revenge, not for me anyway. I really wish people would just stop stealing.

            Million or billion dollar penalties, on the hand, do seem fair when we’re talking about organized crime committed by the commercial Piracy Industry.

          • Godwin

            Copyright Nazi,

            “Listen, artists are not cruel.”

            Considering the record of your fuhrer, I would think that this statement is probably not universally applicable.

          • Visitor

            I wasn’t aware mein Führer had any views on copyright.

            Did he persecute pirates much?

          • Visitor

            Copyright Nazi,

            Perhaps you are not well versed in the history of the fuhrer, but before he was a genocidal dictator, he was a trained and practicing artist.

            But the idea that “artists are not cruel” is kinda of silly, because artists generally speaking are humans, and humans can often be cruel.

  3. Visitor

    …also, don’t you think it’s fair to mention that the theme of the story you’re referring to is in fact THE RETURN OF FILE SHARING LAWSUITS TO CANADA?

    And let us not forget that the source of your story is Michael Geist, who is one of the world’s most notorious anti-copyright crusaders who spends his time fighting artists and other content owners.

    You can read more about upcoming mass bittorrent lawsuits in Canada here:

    As for estimating the future size of penalties in Canada to be ‘closer to the $100-mark’:

    That’s pure speculation.

  4. Visitor

    What the fuck? We demand HARSHER penalities for copyright theft. I want to see people hanged, not slapped with $5000 fines. It seems the freehadists are taking over

      • Visitor

        … and again, dear Casey, this guy has never been an artist.

        This is a classic Torrentfreak trick to make us look like morons.

        Now, I know you’re evil, Casey :))) but I really don’t believe you’re simple minded enough to fall for stuff like that…

      • Artist

        Hahaha, you wish. You will see how serious we are taken soon enough.

    • Billy

      Are you an artist? I dare you to share your real name. I just want to make sure I don’t accidentally buy any of your work.

      • Visitor

        Of course, he’s not — what’s the matter with you guys?

        Can’t you tell torrentfreak propaganda when it hits you in the face?

  5. wet

    why don’t all devices come with built-in detection systems that scan all hard drives for pirated songs & movies? that would be an easy way to get a tally of how much each computer user owes

    • Visitor

      Take two phrases: “Pizza is yummy” and “Pizza is yummy”

      One of these was copied, the other was written from scratch. Which one is the copy?