Skip to Main Content

What is online piracy?

Given that we live in a digital world where the Internet has become the norm in our daily lives, it’s not surprising that a new form of piracy has arisen in recent years called “online piracy”.

What is online piracy?

Online piracy means for the most part the downloading of copyrighted materials and the illegal copying of licensed material.

The most common types of piracy are movie, music and software piracy.

How is online piracy dealt with under Canadian law?

In 2012, the federal government passed the Copyright Modernization Act. The act amended the already existing Copyright Act in order to:

  • Update the rights and protections of copyright owners to better address the challenges and opportunities of the Internet, so as to be in line with international standards;
  • Clarify Internet service providers’ liability and make the enabling of online copyright infringement itself an infringement of copyright;

It was a recognition that online piracy was occurring in Canada and the act attempted to deal with the issue of online piracy by making it a contravention of the Copyright Act.

How is this Copyright Modernization Act enforced when it comes to online piracy?

On January 1, 2015, another piece of the act came into effect that required Internet Service Providers as well as website hosts to send letters from copyright holders to clients who have been identified to have engaged in illegal downloads.

This serves as a warning that illegal downloading activity has been detected at a specific IP address. That doesn’t necessarily mean that a person is going to be punished for doing so, or that the customer has to stop downloading material but it gives the copyright holder the right to sue the IP address holder.

It’s important to know though that the website host can’t just hand over the personal information of the person who has the IP, unless a lawsuit is launched by the copyright holder. In fact, copyright holders are forced to go to court and obtain an order to be allowed to ask the web host for the identity of the IP holder.

What are the punishments handing out for being convicted of online piracy?

If found guilty of online piracy, the minimum fine allowed is $100 up to a maximum fine of $5,000. However, $5,000 is only the maximum fine per lawsuit if the copyrighted material was only downloaded for personal use.

If the person who downloaded the material used it for commercial purposes, they could face a maximum fine of $20,000.

Read more:

Copyright Modernization Act

Canada's copyright rules explained – A guide to Canada's Internet piracy laws