Baffled grandmother accused of pirating mutant video game

New regulations require Internet providers to forward copyright violation warnings to consumers.
New regulations require Internet providers to forward copyright violation warnings to consumers. (Image courtesy THQ)

An Ontario grandmother was shocked to receive two emails in May, telling her to pay up for illegally downloading the post-nuclear war, mutant-killing video game Metro 2033.

Christine McMillan was accused of downloading the video game and told she could have to pay up to $5,000. The problem was that McMillan had never even heard of the videogame.

"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 CBC News’ Go Public.

McMillian thought the whole thing was a scam until she contacted her Internet provider Cogeco, who let her know that this was no scam. In fact, the emails were perfectly legal under the new regulations passed last year under the Copyright Modernization Act.

The new regulations require Internet providers to forward copyright violation warnings to consumers who are suspected of having illegally downloaded movies, games, or other content.

Her ISP forwarded the emails to her on behalf of a company called Canadian Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement. CANIPRE is a third-party company that is hired by movie studios and video game developers to get settlement funds for alleged illegal downloads.

However, Internet providers don’t share the personal information of customers with the company, only their IP address, which is a set of numbers that identifies a computer, or other device that communicates on the Internet.

Many people who are sent the same message as McMillan get spooked enough to contact CANIPRE in order to settle but the kicker is that the new notice regulations have little legal weight.

“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. There is no legal obligation to pay any settlement offered by a copyright owner," the Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada told CBC News.

In other words, the emails McMillan got were a scare tactic that network security analyst and technology expert Wil Knoll calls a “dragnet cash grab,” which works, because people don’t know any better.

For her part, McMillan plans to ignore the emails.

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