Thursday, May 31, 2007

Marching with the Hollywood jackboots

Hollywood is on a mission to change Canadian copyright law to its benefit. It continually misrepresents statistics, calling Canada a haven for piracy, and has engaged the U.S. government at the highest levels to do its bidding. Regrettably, Stephen Harper has fallen in line.

After Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with Mr. Schwarzenegger in Ottawa Wednesday, the Conservative government gave official notice to the House of Commons Wednesday night that it plans to table a bill to combat video piracy. A new federal law will target the growing ranks of video pirates with camcorders who copy first-run films at movie theatres. Officials said the law will go beyond existing copyright protections to make camcording a crime.


Canada's copyright laws prohibit selling unauthorized copies of films. But theatre owners say police will not arrest individuals caught copying films because it is almost impossible to prove they intend to sell illicit copies.

For two years, Doug Frith, president of the Canadian Motion Picture Distributors Association, has railed that the theft of intellectual property is treated as a “soft crime.”

Yesterday, Mr. Frith said this “is really the first step – not only for the movie industry – where the government has shown it will seriously address the whole area of intellectual-property theft.”

The piracy issue heated up in January after The Globe and Mail reported that Fox's Hollywood-based president of domestic distribution had sent a blistering letter to Ellis Jacob, the Toronto-based chief executive of Cineplex Entertainment, Canada's biggest cinema chain. Spitting mad after pinpointing Canadian theatres as the source of illegal camcording, Fox threatened to stop sending copies of all its films to Cineplex's 130 movie houses, or push back Canadian release dates.

“All of us in the Canadian film industry have been working together to get the laws changed,” Mr. Jacob said yesterday. “We are obviously delighted to hear the news that the government is acting to put a stop to film piracy and make it a criminal offence.”

Canadian copyright law already provides the tools for Hollywood to assert its intellectual property rights. If the movie studios think camcording is such a threat to their revenues, why not take a few of the vendors of these shoddy, camcorded DVDs, available at flea markets and other questionable venues, to court? The legal remedies are already at hand. This is nothing but special treatment for Hollywood.