Canadian DMCA will take $500/download from your kids' college fund

More word on Canada's version of the American Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which Industry Minister Jim Prentice is rumoured to be ready to release tomorrow: it will include a $500/download fine, which means that if your kids download a couple of $0.99 singles without paying for them, the American labels will be able to take $1,000 out of her college fund (and those are Canadian dollars, still worth something on the international market).

Some sources say that it comes as a result of Prentice's concern that the Conservatives could be tied to huge damage awards against teenagers for peer-to-peer file sharing. If that is indeed the case, it is not clear how this provision will solve that concern. While there are still many questions about this provision (does it target downloading or uploading? does it exempt sound recordings covered by the private copying levy? is the $500 a set amount or a maximum? is it per infringement or cover all activity? does it require actual evidence that files made available are downloaded?), consider a case involving 1000 song files, not an unusually high number. The "retail" value of those files is roughly $1000, yet on a per infringement basis the Prentice proposal could lead to a damage award of $500,000. Even small scale cases would lead to huge awards – 50 songs could lead to a $25,000 fine. Ironically, the prospect of huge damage awards comes as Canadian musicians and songwriters have both rejected lawsuits against individuals. If Prentice hopes that the provision reduces the concern associated with file sharing lawsuits, this move may actually have the opposite effect.