The summer movie blockbuster season is upon us – Spiderman 3 opening last weekend – and today Warner Bros unveiled the lobbying equivalent of the blockbuster. In an effort to attract even more attention to the claims regarding movie camcording and piracy, Warner Bros. has announced that it is cancelling the pre-screenings in Canada for its movies. Given the current release schedule, that amounts to less than a dozen movies through to the end of the summer. While this might seem rather insignificant, it is attracting an enormous amount of media attention as Canadians are subjected to yet another rendition of Blame Canada.
Yet scratch below the surface and the claims simply don't stand up to scrutiny. For example, Cineplex Entertainment CEO Ellis Jacob tells CTV that the U.S. anti-camcording legislation has "pretty well eliminated piracy in the U.S." Perhaps Jacob missed last week's report out of New York that claimed that 40 percent of camcording piracy originates in New York City or the President of the U.S. National Association of Theater Owners telling his members that last year camcording in the U.S. spread from New York and Los Angeles to 15 states.
As for the claims that Canada does not have laws to address the issue, it bears repeating that Canada does have laws that make recording a movie an infringement and where the recording is for the purposes of distribution there is the prospect of severe fines and jail time. Indeed, last month the RCMP told the Industry Committee that they are working on an investigation that involves camcording, though there are resource issues since health and safety concerns take priority.
Warner Bros. astonishingly now claims that 70 percent of camcorded movies have been traced to Canada over the last 18 months. Given the claims of 20 percent, 23 percent, 30 percent, 40 percent, and 50 percent did not make the requisite impact (in fact, the USTR even rejected the movie industry's request to escalate Canada on the Special 301 Watch list), we now get a blockbuster number of 70 percent. Of course, just yesterday the head of the Canadian Motion Pictures Distributors Association told the Industry Committee that the number was between 20 – 25 percent. Moreover, with New York City taking 40 percent of the camcording claims and with Spiderman 3 apparently appearing on China streets weeks before the previews in Canada, the numbers just don't add up.
Finally, it is worth noting that the exaggeration associated with counterfeiting data is itself a growing problem. Last week I pointed to a U.S. GAO study that found that counterfeiting claims are massively overblown with less than one percent of randomly inspected shipments into the U.S. containing counterfeit products, a far cry from the 5 – 7 percent that is often claimed. Today, the Financial Times reports that a forthcoming OECD study concludes that losses of global counterfeiting amount to no more than $200 billion, far less than the $1 trillion claimed by the International Chamber of Commerce.