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A screen capture of the TekSavvy website.
A screen capture of the TekSavvy website.

L.A. film studio court order could force TekSavvy to hand over customer information Add to ...

Just weeks after Canada’s new copyright law took effect, an Ontario-based Internet Service Provider has been hit with a demand for personal information about thousands of its customers.

On Monday, TekSavvy, a small but fast-growing ISP based in Chatham, Ont., revealed that it had received a request from, Voltage Pictures, a Los Angeles movie studio for the personal information of TekSavvy customers who used some 2,000 IP addresses during a month-long period this fall. The request is related to copyright infringement activity – in effect, the personal information belongs to users who, the studio believes, illegally downloaded its movies.

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TekSavvy refuses to hand over customer information without a court order. As such, Voltage has scheduled a court hearing in Toronto for Dec. 17 to try and obtain such an order, at which point TekSavvy would be compelled to hand over the information.

Because IP addresses are often assigned dynamically, and so can be used by multiple users, it is unclear exactly how many users will be subject to the request. Still, TekSavvy has already sent precautionary notices to more than 1,100 customers, advising them that they should consider their legal rights.

“We’ve seen nothing like this before,” said Tina Furlan, director of marketing for TekSavvy. “The magnitude of this is just unbelievable.”

Voltage’s request comes about a month after the Copyright Modernization Act, which updated Canada’s copyright laws, came into effect. The act includes several new provisions, including a wider definition of “fair use” of copyrighted material for educational purposes or comedic parody. It also stipulates how an ISP must notify customers of copyright actions such as those being take by Voltage.

The updated law also draws a clear line between copyright infringement for commercial and non-commercial uses – in the latter case, monetary damages are limited, reducing the likelihood of an individual user being saddled with millions of dollars in cumulative damages for downloading multiple copyrighted works.

This isn't the first time Voltage has gone after a large number of Internet users for alleged copyright violation. Last year, the studio took legal action against tens of thousands of people for allegedly downloading The Hurt Locker illegally. Voltage eventually dropped the vast majority of those cases, although it is unknown how many users were persuaded by the studio to settle out of court.

According to a federal court motion filed by the movie studio, Voltage hired a digital forensics firm called Canipre to monitor traffic on the popular file-sharing network BitTorrent between Sept. 1 and Oct. 30 of this year, looking for users who were sharing copies of Voltage-owned movies.

“In simple terms, the distributors are facilitating the flagrant theft of the works by others, on an international scale,” the company claims in the court filing.

Voltage representatives did not respond to a request for comment.

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