86-Year-Old Grandmother Accused Of Pirating PC Game, Liable For $5000

Image: Go Public

Christine McMillan, an 86 year-old woman from Ontario, was pretty surprised when she received an email claiming she'd pirated post-apocalyptic FPS Metro 2033. She was even more surprised about the part where she was liable for a fine of up to $CA5000 ($4899). Itsy bitsy problem: She didn't even know what Metro 2033 was.

Grandma Shirley she ain't, but the email was legit. Go Public reports that it came from a private company called Canadian Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement and was forwarded to her by her internet provider.

"I found it quite shocking… I'm 86 years old. No one has access to my computer but me. Why would I download a war game?" McMillan told Go Public.

She has an adult grandson, but he apparently doesn't have access to her computer.

The notice came as a result of the Canadian federal government's Notice and Notice regulations, which were introduced last year under the Copyright Modernisation Act. The law forces some internet providers to forward infringement notices to customers who might've pirated or otherwise illegally downloaded or uploaded copyrighted material.

Notice and Notice's stated goal is to protect both parties in the event of copyright kerfuffles, allowing the accused party to act (as opposed to simply having material removed by the internet provider, via the Notice and Takedown system also used in the US) and hopefully ensuring that non-infringing material isn't removed because somebody claimed it violated their rights.

BUT in practice it isn't always quite so elegant. For one, McMillan lives in an apartment, and somebody could've leeched off her connection to pilfer a copy of I Really Wish There Were More STALKER Games 2033. On top of that, private companies like Canadian Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement have started sending vague notices to people like McMillan who, according to security analyst and technology expert Wil Knoll, end up paying unnecessary fees out of fear.

"It's preying on people that don't necessarily understand the system or the technology that surrounds it," he told Go Public, "and they're willing to pay out of court because they're scared." It's telling, then, that no Notice and Notice cases have been settled in court yet, further muddying waters already the colour of Russia as imagined by Metro 2033.

Despite all of that, these notices don't necessarily mean people are guilty of, well, anything. They're just notices. People are not even under legal obligation to pay copyright holders.

In McMillan's case, she wasn't even told what she actually owed or other key details. Only what could happen if she didn't spring into action then and there. "They didn't tell me how much I owed," she said. "They only told me that if I didn't comply, I would be liable for a fine of up to $5000 [$AU4899], and I could pay immediately by entering my credit card number."

The problem is one of knowledge. Many people don't understand what this (relatively) new law entails, and companies are taking advantage of that. A review of Canada's Copyright Act is set for 2017.

As for McMillan, she's not gonna pay the piper just yet. For now, her plan is to ignore the notices and hope that nobody's seriously considering lawyering up. An expensive and protracted battle over a game she didn't even pirate? That doesn't sound like an attractive prospect for anybody involved.


Comments

    Speculative invoicing is disgusting, they try to scare people into paying even if they have done nothing wrong just because they are scared of losing much more money defending themselves in court.

      And this is why it was a godsend when Justice Nye Perram basically stuck it to these companies by telling them they can't make money from scaring people in Australia.

        It's always nice when you see logic win over corporate greed and fear mongering

      It's the power imbalance that's most disgusting. Money buys power... the power to get more money from those who don't have it. And that power is abused.

      (It's always about power, though. It's similar to when smaller artists find their work stolen/pirated. I know a couple guys who've experienced that, and it's the power differential at work again - they feel kind of helpless in the face of it.)

    Bad Granny! To jail with you!

    My share portfolio won't feel safe until she's locked away.

    I am going to guess that they base it IP, and she is on one of those plans that change your IP every so often.

      That and IP spoofing is not exactly rocket surgery.

    Canadian Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement

    This is what draws my ire; there is a growing trend where companies like this one act like self-proclaimed bounty hunters and chase after those who infringe.

    Seriously, the claim doesn't even have to come from the copyright owner anymore and that is just wrong.

      I guess unless they're kind of acting like unions, collecting fees from members to act in their interests...

    And in the 15th and 16th centuries old widows were accused of witchcraft, and the church would conveniently get their land :^]

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