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U Compute busted for illegal copying

by Archives January 14, 2004

One of the largest raids on copyright piracy in Canada happened right next door, at U Compute, when bailiffs seized over 2,200 illegally copied books on Jan.7.

“This is the worst [case] found in any jurisdiction,” said Fred Wardle, executive director of Access Copyright. “It’s the worst we’ve seen in Canada.

U Compute, a copyshop on Mackay St., has twice before been brought to court for illegal copying. Each time, the shop paid a $5,000 fine and returned to business usual.

Court orders against making illegal copies of whole textbooks and selling them to students for lower prices were issued against U Compute both times.

The most recent court order also granted Access Copyright, a nonprofit agency working to protect copyright of print writers and Anton Pillar Order, which provides the right to search premises and seize illegal material without prior warning.

“We sat on it until January. We waited for the [back to school] rush,” said Wardle in explaining the time they chose to raid the shop.

“No one has the right to copy another’s work without permission,” said Access Copyright lawyer Roani Levy. “We make it easy for licensees to operate within the law. If they fail to do so, we take action.”

According to Access Copyright, the seizure represents $250,000 in lost revenues to booksellers, publishers and authors.

Along with the copied textbooks, the bailiffs seized 2,100 digital data files saved on U Compute’s computers.

“All those files could produce any amount of copies,” said Wardle.

Access Copyright is having a hard time estimating the extent of the piracy involved with U Compute.

“All of the sales were cash only and they didn’t keep a record,” said Wardle.

They are still looking into the details of the case in order to determine how much to fine the shop. Wardle said it could amount to $20,000 per book.

Also, because U Compute was in contempt of a court order, the owners might face criminal charges.

The manager of U Compute, who wished to remain anonymous, said that he is letting his lawyer handle the case. “We’re out of that business completely,” he said, referring to the shop’s operations since the raid.

“You can’t take an $100 textbook, photocopy it illegally and sell a photocopied version for $25,” said Levy. “Copyshop owners must honour the rights of our affiliates.”

Access Copyright represents an international repertoire of published works along with more than 5,600 Canadian creators and 529 Canadian publishers.

Every year, Access Copyright sends investigators to university-area stores and other places suspected of trafficking. The investigators try to get stuff copied illegally to see if the shop allows piracy.

With technological advances, it has become even more difficult for Access Copyright to monitor trafficking.

“The seizure of electronic files [from U Compute] is particularly important to us as we are witnessing alarming increases in digital piracy,” Wardel said. Because technology makes illegal copying easier and because the price of books is often high, it is increasingly hard to stop piracy.

“The price of textbooks is high because they are produced at great expense for a relatively small market,” said Wardel, adding that illegal copying hurts “artists, illustrators and photographers.”

He hopes that Access Copyright can work with universities to monitor trafficking and is also looking to license digital uses of copyrighted material.

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