In the United States, online platforms like YouTube, Twitter and Reddit are shielded from liability by the DMCA, which requires a takedown notice be sent prior to initiating a lawsuit over infringement. These platforms, populated by user generated content, could not have ever existed without the DMCA. Canada offers no such protections. All it took was an untested claim, to have our platform completely destroyed without trial.
Despite having very few resources, we had initially prevailed and won a significant judgement which ordered the return of our property, domain names and social media accounts. In his decision, the Honourable Justice Bell said that the true purpose of the seizure was to destroy the livelihood of our founder.
Unfortunately, the companies we are fighting have billions of dollars and the civil justice system is not designed to encourage participation. They initiated an appeal of the decision we won, keeping our domain names and social media accounts.
We had to return to court twice, once in Ottawa (2.5 hours away). These court appearances were extremely costly, but we had no choice since we had to defend our initial win. Much to everyone’s surprise, about eight months later we received notice that we had lost.
Even if we had won the appeal, our original domain name would have already been worthless after having been down for over eight months. Facebook is one of the most popular sites on the internet, but if it was down for eight months, people would forget about it and give up. And we’re definitely not Facebook.
This whole situation which Bell, Videotron and Rogers have put us into was designed to make it impossible for us to stand a chance. How could any mere mortal be expected to mount a legal defense against the most ruthless of billion dollars corporations, after having his only means of income destroyed without trial?
We never hosted nor directly linked to any form of protected media, we simply provided a platform for people to share scripts (known as Kodi add-ons) which could be used to scrape content from existing online web sites to which we had no affiliation.
Since we launched as a new entity (new domain and social media) last August, we have instituted a far stricter add-on submission policy which stipulates that licensing of content sources must be easily verifiable. While it may limit our future liability, it severely restricts innovation. Canada needs a notice-and-takedown system, to prevent the weaponization of copyright enforcement against neutral platforms like ours.
The fact that our community continues to exist with over 19 million active users, and doesn’t offer anything that could be considered infringing, proves that our domain names and social media pages should not have been seized without trial. We should have been permitted to continue operations, and would have gladly removed anything that Bell, Videotron or Rogers claimed to be infringing. That way we could have at least been able to communicate with our massive user base for the purpose of fundraising our legal defense. Instead, they muzzled us completely because that what bullies do.
According to Canadian law “a person does not authorize infringement by authorizing the mere use of equipment [such as services and technologies that have a dual use (one which is infringing and one which is not, i.e. photocopier) that could be used to infringe copyright.” Kodi add-ons should fall under this exemption, since they do not control the content sources they scrape. And as we said before, a user generated platform should not be held liable for the actions of individual users.
There’s also the fact that it is impossible for any third party to audit the licensing of content hosted by external sources. If you see a video on YouTube, Netflix, Amazon, or any other platform, there is no way of independently verifying their licensing agreements with individual content creators. There simply does not exist a database from which content licensing can be verified. At most you can make assumptions based on brand reputation, which would by definition rule out any lesser known platforms.
Unless we continue the fight, there will be nothing stopping big Canadian corporations from taking the same kind of draconian action against other disruptive Canadian technologies in the future. We won’t be able to get out of this without your support, please give generously.