If you're a Hamilton TekSavvy user, watch out: your downloading habits could become part of a landmark legal case.

Hollywood film studio Voltage Pictures LLC is trying to force internet provider TekSavvy to hand over customer information about people alleged to have illegally downloaded movies.

The studio is asking the Federal Court of Canada to force TekSavvy Solutions Inc. "to provide the names and contact information of customers associated with certain IP addresses that are alleged to have engaged in copyright infringement," the ISP said in a release.

As many as 2,000 IP addresses are involved in the legal action, which would make it the largest attempt to acquire customer information for a copyright infringement investigation in Canadian history.

Hamilton TekSavvy user Wes Kellar has been following the case closely since he got an email from the company alerting him to the issue.

"I was happy about that, at least," Kellar told CBC Hamilton. "I'm not sure the bigger companies would have been that forthright about it."

Kellar has been a TekSavvy user for about two years, cumulatively. He's been talking about the case to anyone who will listen.

"The whole thing is a bit of a sleazy tactic," he said. He says Voltage is just engaging in "corporate trolling," in that they're counting on scared people settling out of court before trials.

A brief reprieve

On Monday in Toronto, federal judge John O'Keefe gave TekSavvy more time to alert customers they may be drawn into the case.

Tina Furlan, communications director for TekSavvy, confirmed to CBC News that the case has been adjourned until Jan. 14.

Furlan said the judge decided to delay the case due to two factors:

  • TekSavvy had been trying to alert customers associated with those IP addresses, and due to the short turnaround time — the company had been given a week to prepare for the case — 42 clients not involved in the case were accidentally informed, while about 90 connected to the downloading case have not been informed.
  • The Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) argued that it did not have time to officially apply for intervener status in the case.

"We're very happy the court has decided to delay the case," said Furlan on Tuesday. "It was something we wanted for our customers so they can have the time to prepare to take action against the allegations."

The case marks a significant move in the arena of illegal downloading — coming just weeks after the Copyright Modernization Act came into effect in Canada. The act dramatically altered the landscape of Canadian copyright law.

TekSavvy said in a statement that it has a responsibility to protect customer information and ensure customer privacy. But it also said it would comply with any court order to hand over customer information.

Kellar says he's happy with Teksavvy, despite the legal ordeal the company is facing. "They made it pretty clear this was a court case decision and not theirs," he said.

He says at its core, the case is unethical as it's difficult to prove the person doing the downloading is also the person whose name is associated with the account.

"It could be an unprotected wireless signal — it could even be someone's grandmother," he said.

Voltage also took legal action last year against tens of thousands of U.S. web users. The studio alleged they illegally downloaded the company's Oscar-winning film The Hurt Locker.