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86-year-old woman accused of pirating Metro 2033, told to pay $5,000

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Critics call dragnet application of Canadian law misleading and unfair

Metro 2033 THQ

An 86-year-old woman in Canada received a demand for $5,000 in a notice from a collections company that accused her of illegally downloading a copy of Metro 2033.

Christine McMillan of Ontario was bewildered by the threat, and had never even seen Metro 2033 until CBC News showed it to her. The story highlights many criticisms of Canada's Copyright Modernization Act, introduced last year.

McMillan's story is somewhat familiar; in this case her IP address was associated with the illegal download, and a firm representing the copyright holder generated the demand letters and sent them out to the address holders. Deep Silver is currently the rights holder to the Metro franchise, acquiring it from THQ.

It isn't clear from the CBC’s story when the download occurred or how long McMillan, who lives in an apartment, has been in her home. Metro 2033 launched in March 2010. Experts of course mentioned that someone in the building could have gotten on her unsecured network and downloaded it, effectively framing her for the piracy.

Authorities point out that the notices are not a legal summons or a formal allegation of wrongdoing. Still, they're bluntly worded and encourage the recipient to settle the matter immediately by paying via credit card.

Critics say Canada's legislation should provide for a form letter that does not threaten legal action or demand money, saying these collection firms are making money for their clients simply by scaring people, not proving anyone did anything wrong.

A person would still have to be taken to court to win a copyright infringement judgment, and the costs of doing that would make it prohibitive for a single infringement committed by a single defendant.