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Torrenting is incredibly popular in Canada. As a matter of fact, back in 2004, the country had the highest percentage of torrent users for its population. While this popularity has decreased, many Canadians still rely on torrents to find digital content.
Due to legislation passed several years ago, people now have a greater chance of getting in trouble for illegal torrenting.
Here is what you should know about torrenting in Canada to avoid legal and safety issues.
ISPs Need to Log Your Activity
According to data retention laws, Canadian ISPs must keep logs of browsing and downloading habits. That activity has to be kept for at least six months.
But Internet Service Providers are not the only ones who have to track your activity. Canadian VPN providers must also maintain logs and provide them to authorities upon request.
These logs increase the chance of your ISP or a copyright troll discovering your torrenting activity. If your ISP catches you sharing files illegally, you may receive a notice in the mail. These notices typically come from law firms threatening legal action if you do not settle for the disclosed amount. The “fines” vary from several hundred dollars to several thousand.
Understanding the Copyright Modernization Act
The Canadian Copyright Modernization Act is the legislation copyright holders use to sue users successfully. When the government passed this act, online piracy was not a threat. Later amendments added digital content as intellectual property covered by copyright laws.
The act includes a section on format shifting. Format shifting refers to the process of disrupting the digital locks on DVDs, CDs, and Blu-Ray discs to create digital versions of the content. Almost any movie, TV show, or game shared on torrent sites involves format shifting.
While the courts have not penalized anyone for violating this portion of the act, format shifting may provide prosecutors with the leverage they need to try more cases.
The Copyright Modernization Act also requires ISPs to notify users if they detect any illegal activity. This requirement is why you may receive a letter in the mail from your ISP after downloading pirated content.
You May Be Subject to a Fine for Torrenting
Canadian law allows a minimum fine of $100 and a maximum of $5000 for non-commercial copyright infringement. It is a civil offense instead of a criminal one, so you will not face jail time.
The copyright law also requires ISPs to send notices to users caught downloading illegal content. Thanks to the data retention laws, holders have started going after these users. Since 2017, copyright holders have sued about 1000 citizens. The federal courts awarded the copyright owners up to $5000 per infringement case.
In another example, a prominent Toronto law firm filed a lawsuit against 3400 Canadians. The law firm filed the case on behalf of the U.S. movie company behind a Hollywood film released in 2017.
Initially, the law firm demanded a settlement of $3000 from each plaintiff. Some paid the fine, while others held off. In the end, hundreds of people paid between $100 to $5000 for downloading a pirated movie. Many of the cases remain in court or pending trial.
Canadians face a greater risk of being fined than many other countries with active torrenting communities. Some citizens even claim to be fined without ever downloading a single file.
Tips for Safe Torrenting in Canada
Along with using caution with the type of content you download and the sites you visit, you should use a Virtual Private Network to protect your torrent downloads. This software hides your IP address, keeping copyright trolls and ISPs off your back.
Avoid services based in Canada or any other country with strict data retention laws when looking for a VPN service. As mentioned, VPN providers based in this country are required to keep logs for up to six months. For greater privacy, choose a VPN with a no-logging policy.
After setting up the software, double-check to ensure that your real IP address remains hidden behind the VPN server.
Best VPNs for Canada That Allow BitTorrent
We tested many VPN services and picked the most suitable ones for BitTorrent in Canada. All of these provide anonymity when sharing files via P2P. These are our recommendations:
- P2P dedicated servers
- Many fast servers in North America
- All the features needed to torrent safely
- Nearby torrent dedicated servers
- A good set of features, some of them rare
- One of the best prices in the VPN market
Torrenting Remains a Legal Gray Area in Canada
The legality of torrenting in Canada remains a complicated subject. Lawyers have struggled to successfully prosecute some cases due to ambiguity in the Copyright Modernization Act. After the courts straighten out the language in the act, copyright holders may find it easier to sue users caught pirating content.
For now, the holders can sue individuals based on visible IP addresses in torrent trackers. Over 1000 cases involving illegal downloads have appeared in Canadian courts since 2017.
ISPs need to retain logs of user data, giving copyright holders the necessary evidence to seek compensation. Canadian law allows fines from $100 to $5000.
If you are not sure whether the content you download has a copyright, you should take additional precautions. Use a VPN to mask your IP address and hide your torrenting activity. Finally, only use reliable networks and sites to find your files.