Canada cracks down on camcorders

Government responds to WB's screenings ban

Startled by Warner Bros.’ recent ban on promo screenings in the Great White North, the Canadian government is looking to move against camcording pirates.

Heritage Minister Bev Oda issued a statement saying that she is working with Justice Minister Rob Nicholson on measures to address the issue but declined to elaborate.

Whatever the Canucks do would be of a stop-gap nature. Critics view the Canadian Copyright Act as hopelessly outdated, and bizzers have long awaited its overhaul.

Camcording is a civil offense under the current Copyright Act, unless the theater can prove that the recorder is distributing the film. This reverse onus makes it more expensive, time consuming and difficult to get a conviction. Parliament member Charlie Angus said making it a criminal act would be a fairly simple process, provided all the parties agreed to pass the amendments.

Recently introduced watermarking technology that pinpoints the source of camcorded bootlegs has put the spotlight on Canada and Montreal in particular. Warner Bros. claims that more than 70% of its titles pirated in the past 18 months come from Canada.

Parliament member Charlie Angus, who is a member of a standing committee whose job, in part, is to examine this issue, disputes Warner’s claims.

“This looks like an opening salvo to painting Canada as a pirate haven, which we aren’t. This is a loophole,” he said. “That’s not to say that we don’t think it’s serious. These changes should have happened years ago.”

He applauded Warner Bros.’ recent deal with BitTorrent, noting that while it’s important to try to stay a step ahead of the pirates, the only real solution will be to find ways to monetize the system.

“I think that Hollywood is ahead of the curve on this; they’ve studied the debacle of the music industry, and they’re not going to be caught out like that,” he said. “Parliamentarians need to be ahead of the curve too, which we definitely aren’t.”

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