When a copyright owner suspects online infringement, but lacks evidence of theidentity of the alleged infringers, it can seek an order to disclose those details. Canadian law is clear that “A court order is required in every case as a condition precedent to the release of subscriber information.”

Norwich order is a “litigation tool requiring non-parties to a litigation to be subject to discovery or being compelled to provide information.” In a recent case,Voltage Pictures LLC v. John Doe, 2014 FC 161, a decision released in February, 2015, this tool was used by the Plaintiff (Voltage) to obtain the names and addresses of some 2,000 subscribers of an ISP known TekSavvy Solutions Inc.

Teksavvy said it would only disclose subscriber information if Voltage obtained a court order compelling disclosure. Voltage did obtain its so-called Norwich order, and Teksavvy was compelled to release subscriber information to Voltage, with some controls.

Then Voltage and Teksavvy argued about who should bear the costs for correlating and compiling the subscriber info. The resulting court opinion in Voltage Pictures LLC v. Teksavvy Solutions Inc. 2015 FC 339, makes for interesting reading (if you’re into this sort of thing) regarding best practices for copyright owners and ISPs to manage costs:

  • The copyright owner should first ascertain, in advance “with clarity and precision”, the method used by the ISP to correlate IP addresses with subscriber information, and the investment in time and costs based on a hypothetical number of IP addresses. In other words, the copyright owner should ask the ISP: “What methods do you use, how long would it take and how much would it cost if we wanted you to correlate 100 or 1000 IP addresses?”
  • Next, the copyright owner and ISP should agree on these timelines and costs in advance (in writing if possible) before the copyright owner files and serves its motion for a Norwich order.
  • For smaller ISPs, the copyright owner should not make the assumption that the smaller ISP will handle IP address and subscriber info in the same way as larger ISPs, where such processes are likely automated.