- The Washington Times - Monday, February 19, 2007

MONTREAL

Film piracy carried out with hand-held camcorders in movie theaters is a growing industry in Canada that is feeding international black markets and denying Hollywood studios billions of dollars in profits, the copyright industry says.

China and Russia pose “the greatest concern to the copyright industries,” but “the problem of unauthorized camcording of films in Canadian theatres is now nearing crisis levels,” the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) told U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab in a letter this week.

“Pirates have taken advantage of the gaps in Canadian law to make it a leading exporter, both of camcorded masters that feed audiovisual piracy worldwide and of devices … that are intended to circumvent technological protection measures used by the publishers of entertainment software,” the IIPA said in its recommendation to the trade representative.

Funded by the American copyright industry, the IIPA asked Washington to place Canada on its “priority watch list,” together with China, Russia and India.

“In 2005, an estimated 20 percent of pirated films on the international market came from Canada, a good percentage of them from Montreal,” said Serge Corriveau, an investigator with Canada’s film distributors association, closely linked to the big Hollywood studios.

U.S. filmmakers put their revenue loss from worldwide film piracy at more than $6.1 billion per year.

“Pirates always focus on blockbuster movies, but over the past few years, more than 200 films have been camcorded [in Canada] and found in 45 different countries,” Mr. Corriveau said.

The U.S. movie industry says Canadian copyright laws are too lax when it comes to film piracy. Camcording a film at a movie theater is a crime in several U.S. states, including California, but in Canada it is not.

A film studio, distributor and theater owner can take someone caught in the act of camcording to a civil court, but criminal charges can be brought only if police can prove there was intention to distribute the pirated film copy.

“To prove intention requires more evidence. It’s not enough to catch somebody filming inside a cinema; you have to have more evidence to get a search warrant, for example, to look through a computer. It’s not easy,” said Royal Canadian Mounted Police spokeswoman Helaine Lavergne.

Faced with this legal vacuum, movie-house owners take matters into their own hands. At opening nights in Montreal, branded “Canada’s piracy capital,” some cinemas use metal detectors to discourage potential pirates.

A Canadian chain of multiplex cinemas went so far as to bar entry to people suspected of piracy.

Though Hollywood complains of huge losses from copyright infringement, the pirates say they are not in it for the money.

“There are so many people doing this nowadays. It’s not true pirates make money out of this; … we do it for fun, to share the films among us. We also do it to [aggravate] the American [film] studios. They can’t complain; they’ve got plenty of money,” two pirates said in an interview with the Journal de Montreal daily.


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