Back in May, an 86-year-old woman by the name of Christine McMillan of Ontario Canada was sent a set of emails from her internet provider stating that she would need to pay a fine for a game she allegedly illegally downloaded, specifically the video game "Metro 2033" by 4A Games, or risk paying an even steeper fine of 5,000 dollars. She thought this was a scam at first, though apparently in Canada this is perfectly legal to do and the email demanding she pay up is quite real. This is reminiscent of alleged illegal music downloads in the US, where people could be fined ridiculous sums of money for song downloads that could not even be proven to have been downloaded by the supposed perpetrator.
This move was carried out by the Copyright Modernization Act, which was an effort to streamline copyright issues and settle things in a quick and easy manner, but distinctly lacks any oversight in actually proving the people they are accusing of illegal downloads having actually done anything wrong. It also does not take into account people using someone's internet wirelessly to download these games, such as in the case of people "borrowing" your wifi connection in an apartment building.
I reached out for comment from both 4A Games and the Ontario Justice Department for comment. To 4A Games I asked if they had any involvement in regards to what is going on in this particular case. To the Ontario Justice Department, I asked why they are accusing Christine McMillan of this and if 4A Games was aware or had any involvement in this particular case and received this response;
The Notice and Notice regime helps raise awareness of online copyright infringement in Canada.
If an individual has received a notice, it is possible that it pertains to acts that were undertaken by someone else using their Internet connection without their knowledge. Internet subscribers may want to ensure that their home networks are secured by strong passwords to prevent others from using their Internet connections to engage in infringement.
The Notice and Notice regime does not impose any obligations on a subscriber who receives a notice, and it does not require the subscriber to contact the copyright owner or the intermediary.
A notice of alleged infringement is separate from any lawsuit for copyright infringement. Receiving a notice does not necessarily mean that you have in fact infringed copyright or that you will be sued for copyright infringement. A copyright owner may decide to launch legal proceedings. A court would then determine whether copyright infringement has in fact occurred.
We continue to monitor the implementation of the Notice and Notice regime and to ensure that Canadians are well informed of the rules. The next review of Canada’s Copyright Act – expected in late 2017 – provides an opportunity to take stock and consider whether desired policy objectives are being met.
Based on this it seems that the letters are more intimidating than the actual threat of a fine and that people who are sent these letters should not necessarily immediately worry about having to pay up, if at all.
This article will be updated if there is any further response from either group.