Limitations on Statutory Damages

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June 2008

For all Canadians

The purpose of this information sheet is to give general introductory information about current copyright law and to explain what would change under the proposed amendments. If you need to know how the law applies to a particular situation, please seek advice from a lawyer.

Current law

  • Currently, copyright owners may seek a number of means, including monetary compensation, when suing someone for copyright infringement. When suing for money, they have a choice:
    • they can seek compensation for the losses they have suffered as a result of the infringement, where they're able to prove them (actual damages); or
    • they can ask the court to award an amount between $500 and $20 000 for each work infringed (statutory damages)

What the proposed statutory damages provision would allow

  • A court could only award $500 in statutory damages against an individual for all private use infringements identified in the lawsuit.
    For example, if you downloaded five movies without authorization:
    • Under current law, you could be liable for up to $100 000 in statutory damages
    • Under the proposed bill, you would be liable for $500
  • Once a copyright owner decides to sue an individual for $500 in statutory damages, all other private use infringements preceding the lawsuit may be compensated only by actual damages (even if these infringements involve the copyright material of others).
  • Statutory damages are not available solely for the act of hacking a digital lock for private, non-infringing uses of copyright material. (See also "Technological Measures (TMs) or Digital Locks Information Sheet".)
  • However, if you hack a digital lock to enable any kind of infringement, (e.g., hacking the anti-copying mechanisms of a computer game to make an unauthorized copy), you would be subject for up to $20 000 in statutory damages.

Limitations

  • For infringements that are not for private purposes, the current range of statutory damages (between $500 and $20 000 for each work infringed) would remain available. For example:
    • Posting music using the Internet or peer-to-peer (P2P) technology.
    • Posting a copyright-protected work, such as a picture or video, onto a website such as Facebook or YouTube.
    • Selling, renting or giving away a device (e.g., iPod) that contains copies of music that were originally copied onto the device by you for private purposes.
  • In all cases, the court would retain the power to award punitive damages to ensure that there is an appropriate deterrent against future infringement.

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