Governator brings piracy battle north

Schwarzenegger persuades Canadian gov't

All it took was a visit from California’s Governator to get the Canadian government moving to squelch the plague of film piracy that in recent years has strained the patience of the U.S. studios.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wrapped a three-day trade mission Thursday in Canada with joint assurances from the ministers of Heritage, Justice and Industry that a bill to address the problem will be introduced to the House of Commons today.

“Canada’s new government will take action to put a stop to the problem of film piracy and will bring forward amendments to Canada’s Criminal Code,” Heritage Minister Bev Oda said. “Piracy has a devastating impact on the entire film industry, and our government intends to ensure respect for the intellectual property rights of cinematic works.”

The camcording of new releases has mushroomed in recent years, with cinemas in the bilingual city of Montreal in particular fingered as the source of a disproportionate number of bootlegs worldwide.

Camcording is a civil offense under current copyright legislation, which industryites consider to be hopelessly outdated. There is very little deterrent for those caught “camming,” unless the cinema can prove the recorder is distributing the film. This reverse onus makes it tricky, expensive and time-consuming to get a conviction.

Bizzers have for years been lobbying the government to overhaul the Copyright Act or at least amend it to make camming a crime, with no success to date.

Putting Canada on a U.S. government watch list three years ago didn’t work.

A public letter of indictment from Fox’s Bruce Snyder to Canadian exhibitors in February didn’t work. Ditto letters in March from Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) directly to the prime minister.

Then last month, amid claims that more than 70% of its pirated titles in the past 18 months come from Canada, Warner Bros. pulled all promotional and word of mouth screenings in Canada.

Still nothing.

But the mere presence this week of the Governator in person, here primarily to shill California business, has finally brought forth the pledges.

Relieved industryites areapplauding loudly. “We are delighted with the government’s announcement to change the Criminal Code to help combat the unauthorized recording of movies in Canadian theaters,” said Raffaelle Papalia, chairman of the Motion Picture Theater Assn. of Canada. “This government understands the significant and very negative impact that film piracy has had and continues to have on the Canadian film industry and is proposing positive changes to protect the rights of Canadian exhibitors, filmmakers, producers, directors and distributors.”

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