Inside Jobs

Rob Hyndman points to today's embarrassing Globe and Mail article on movie piracy ("Pirates of the Canadians"), noting that the article smacks of a planted public relations piece.  I certainly agree that the article continues a build-up toward new copyright legislation.  I have two further points.  First, I'd have no problem with legislation that addresses this alleged concern.  Camcording in movie theatres doesn't do anyone any good – it tarnishes the vision of the creators and supports the sale of poorly-made, infringing copies of movies.  The problem is that Bill C-60 (and the bill we will likely get from the Conservatives) had nothing to say about this issue.  Rather than targeting these infringers, the legislation targets students, researchers, and individual Canadians for activities that most believe is (or should be) lawful.

Second, the article is an embarrassment not for what it says, but what it doesn't say. Studies have shown that the majority of pirated DVDs are not sourced from movie theatre camcording but are inside jobs.  Indeed, a 2003 study from AT&T Labs found that 77 percent of popular movies being swapped online originated from inside sources who leak copies of films.  The studios have taken some steps to address the issue, including focusing on the availability of screener copies of movies made available to Academy Award voters.  Given that Oscar nominations will soon be upon us, it is a good bet that there are hundreds of DVD copies of movies in theatres right now floating around, many of which may become the source for street-level copies.  The Globe's failure to tell the whole story is inexcusable.


  1. “Crime is crime, is crime, is crime…
    Strategic “timing” by the film lobby with this Globe piece, indeed! The worry is that our federal copyright powers that be won’t see the article for what it is. It does define quite precisely an activity that is blatently criminal and commercially-driven, i.e. for the purposes of distribution and PROFIT. $5,000 – $7,000 payment for illegal services rendered is “PAID USE” and “PAID TRAFFICKING – DEALING”. It describes an organized crime at it’s base component of theft.

    Of course this is completely different from individual Canadians making private copies of entertainment for personal use, or “FAIR USE” or “FAIR DEALING” use, per se… For certain we can expect that the music industry lobby will respond to this article by attempting to hitch this movie theatre crime to their bandwagon against all private copying.

  2. I’m trying to figure out the point of both Mr. Geist’s latest rant against copyright reform, as well as that of the previous comment. Is the suggestion by Mr. Hyndman and the like that since movies are too expensive and aren’t offering the experience they want, it is acceptable to steal them? Because even if the copies of the movies are hitting torrent sites through employees leaking them, it still doesn’t make it right.

    What is your solution, Michael? It seems to me the “personal use,” area and tariff on personal copying of music doesn’t apply to film. I see no reason why the Copyright Act shouldn’t be toughened to hinder piracy of films. I know you’re part of that academic elite in Ottawa, Michael, but the last time I looked, the creation of films helped Canada through the further employment in Vancouver and Toronto.

  3. Why Montreal?
    The American from Fox corporation is quoted in the article to suggest that the camcording phenomenon is primarily in Montreal but was previously in Toronto. How and why did the criminals mirgrate from one city to the other? How did they measure all this? Are the laws different in Montreal? Are there fewer enforcement cops policing? Are the border police weaker? Maybe there are more theatres in Montreal proportionate to the rest of Canada? …& more pirates too? Perhaps the popcorn in Montreal theatres tastes better. Obviously, there are lots of questions that can and should be asked about statements decreed by lobbyists without any measurement, or data to back them up exactly. Sounds like a job for Captain Copyright. Someone better call him quick!

  4. I\\\’m against camcordering pirates in movie theatres.

    I\\\’m also against the \\\”crap codes\\\” Hollywood adds to its movie film prints. Not only are these flashing dots on the screen annoying, calling them \\\”forensic watermarking\\\” is a smack in the face to paying moviegoers. If Fox wants to hold its movies back from Canada, go right ahead – if it can halt movies like Eragon and Night At The Museum from entering my country – THEN I\\\’M ALL FOR IT!

  5. To Bobby:

    If you had taken the time to read and consider the points made by Mr. Geist and Mr. Hyndman, I think you should be able to answer your own questions.

    The issue with the quality of the movie-going experience is that with the degradation of the move theaters in this country (poor standard for presentation quality, over-prices concessions, unclean theaters and washrooms) many people do not see the benefit to spending $10 per person to attend a movie. Couple that with the increasing number of people who have home theaters, earlier DVD releases, and services such as on-demand movies through cable, and fewer and fewer people are want to go to the theaters to see a movie. This, not piracy is causing box-office numbers to stagnate (or reduce their growth-rate).

    The second point made in regards to recording in-theater is that the proposed regulations would not impact these activities in anyway. They do not criminalize recording of a film, which would mirror American Law.

    To me, both Geist and Hyndman make clear points, and clearly describe that the new regulations impact pirates very little, and the rights of individuals greatly.

  6. Shame on Globe
    Wow, I couldn’t even bring myself to completely read the Globe’s article. It was simply too unbearable to read. Meanwhile, theres some interesting comments in the feedback section to say the least. I’m glad readers saw right through this one and tacked on comments that focus on the real issues.

    I honestly thought the Globe and Mail had standards. Judging by this article, I was greatly mistaken. As a content creator myself (musician) I can also say that any bad legislation like anti-circumvention and making suing customers without evidence legal would be devistating to Canada, it’s music creators and consumers. I hope Steven Page get’s writing with a few of his counterpoints to draconian copyright law. Him and the music creators coalition have a number of great positive ideas on the go already!

  7. Lies, Damned Lies and…

    “at one point during 2006, Canadian theatres were the source for nearly 50 per cent of illegal camcords across the globe”
    At one point? WTH does that mean? Is it no longer the case?

    I also love this one:
    “Frith says government bureaucrats try to placate him by saying that under the Copyright Act exhibitors have the ability to charge someone criminally. “But here’s the catch. Under the Copyright Act, you have to prove that an individual camcording in the theatre is doing it for distribution purposes. That’s almost impossible.”
    So this essentially amounts to “We want to be able to punish for intent without having to prove intent”.

    Thans for pointing this article out, Mr. Geist.

  8. What sickens me is that in reality there is no connection between DRM and camcorder movie piracy. DRM will in no way shape or form help to protect movie content. Yet, for some reason the Canadian *aa equivalent organizations insist on pushing that down MP’s throat and then seeding propaganda – its just like their Captain Copyright BS. Now, lets look for a second what is really happening – we all know DRM is extremely anti-consumer. Now, I can’t understand our government nor that of most other countries when it comes to the area of IP. Why are they able to get away with putting in laws that are not supported by the vast majority of people and only benefit the few elitist corporate top dogs. Isn’t democracy supposed to be by the people for the people? I would really encourage people to watch a short clip which was posted from CNN on YouTube. I fear this is just one part of the whole plan [ link ]=

  9. Can someone explain to me how a November 30 letter complained about Canada being the source for movies released Dec 15 (Eragon) and Dec 22 (Night at the Museum)? Is Canada both north of the U.S.A. and a month in the future as well?

  10. NYC friend
    Since the 2003 study, the studios have been able to stop insider releases of content. So the next problem is the leak of Camcordered versions onto the streets or P2P. Do you really think the studios care about personal use of a camcordered version of the movie. No, They are concerned with people camcording movies in the theatres for later sale or distribution on the P2P? What is confusing to me is that if you don’t like the way content is distributed by the studios, why do you just not watch it. Instead you all complain that you want the content on our terms. Sad…

  11. Know Torrenting First... says:

    To claim that studios have been able to stop insider release of content is blatantly ignorant. I won’t deface Dr. Geist’s Blog by providing direct links, but any basic search of bittorrent sites reveals quite the opposite. Run a basic search on NForce if you wish. NForce does not actually host torrents, but rather provides a search engine which indexes releases. Anything listed as a “screener” is exactly that. Now you tell me again they all magically stopped after 2003.

    I’m not for or against any particular solution, but I’m definitely opposed to ignorance. Effective regulation will be informed by knowledge and experience, and not by the random watered down crap offered by The Globe (and yeah, I hoped they were better than that also) for the sake of a story. An unfortunate truth about mass market media is simply this – the truth is almost always complex, but simplicity sells. Try to at least investigate these claims before parroting them uncritically. And yes, I mean you, “NYC friend.”

  12. aarrggghhh!!
    I think this pirate hunt is pretty funny, the movie industry has everyone so pumped up about how its losing BILLIONS to pirates, I think that anyone who jumps at the chance to watch a pirated copy would be just as likely to buy a ticket anyway. as we have heard, the pirated versions of these films lack the true finished look that we expect from the price we pay, they don’t contain bonus footage, or alternate versions, and are on a writable DVD that have a limited life span anyway. you see, this is no different than going to the store and buying a cheap pair of sun glasses. they may look like the high dollar pair from a distance, but when you view them up close, you know they are cheap. for those who can’t understand my ramblings, what I hope you get from reading this is, people who buy pirated goods are likely NOT going to buy the real goods anyway, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t already contributed via ticket sales. I would submit to you that this is more a crusade of false propaganda than any real threat to the industry, when Tom curse goes on welfare then maybe I’ll listen to their plight! now music pirates on the other hand well maybe thats a differnt story, but movies are very safe from those scurvy dogs.

    take it or leave it, I guess if I were making millions from the industry I might be concerned about someone else getting some of my profit… oh wait a minute I would have millions…WHAT WOULD I CARE!!! get a grip folks, convince the industry to drop their prices, and or increase the level of service and there woun’t even be pirates.

  13. John in Calgary says:

    How do articles like the one in the Globe and Mail get published? Does no one ask the writer where the facts were derived? I would think an article like this deserves some type of rebuttal.

    Personally, I don’t have an issue with going after the people who record movies in theatres, or people attempting to profit off the work of the movie studios. But to make blanket statements like, “…those Canadian camcords … have become a leading source of worldwide Internet film piracy” is, at best misleading and more likely dishonest.

    To pass off this as “reporting” in a national newspaper really makes me question the Globe and Mail’s veracity.

  14. Globe Subscriber says:

    Had in appeared in the other newspaper, it would likely be instantly identified (perjoratively) as “aspertorial”. The Globe and Mail’s editors now obviously have it front and centre on their minds that they are pawns in the parent company’s media army. At least by making the article so blatantly kiss-ass they do their readership a favour, since we now know that in the future the Globe’s editorial page cannot be trusted to say anything fair or nuanced on the subject of ip.

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