U.S. Senators Pressure Prime Minister on Movie Camcording

The dispute over movie camcording in Canada has escalated further with the intervention late last week of two prominent U.S. Senators.  Senators Dianne Feinstein and John Cornyn have written to Prime Minister Stephen Harper to urge Canada to enact new anti-camcording legislation.  The letter pulls out all the usual suspects – the  20th Century Fox claims that Canada is responsible for 50 percent of camcorded movies, the claims that Canadian copyright law is unable to deal with the issue, and the argument that Canadian camcordings are "higher quality."

The Senators also suggest that the alleged growth of Canadian camcording is a direct result of their U.S. anti-camcording legislation (ie. camcording moves north due to fear of the U.S. rules).  Of course, they do not mention that the U.S. National Association of Theatre Owners has commented on the spread of camcording within the U.S. (then again, there is unsurprisingly no reference to data that calls into question the severity of the problem and its economic impact).

The letter concludes by warning that "if Canada does not criminalize illicit camcording, we are afraid that illegal pirating will continue to mushroom in your country." This issue continues to play out in an entirely predictable fashion – threats from U.S. movie studios, reports from U.S. lobby groups, and now letters from U.S. politicians.  Up next will be a much harsher warning from the U.S. Trade Representative, which will cite these developments and follow the IIPA recommendations in its Section 301 Report that will be released next month.

Update: A reader notes that it isn't just the U.S. Senators who stepped up the pressure last week. U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins called on Canada to introduce copyright reform. Wilkins described Canada's copyright as the weakest in the G7. 


  1. Deck of 52 cards
    I’m surprised those moron U.S. Senators (Dianne Feinstein and John Corwyn) haven’t issued a deck of 52 cards with Mr. M. Geist’s face on one of the cards.

  2. Mel Wilson says:

    Do you mean John Cornyn (R – Texas)?

  3. Leave us alone!
    These American clowns can shove it. Inflict your half-brained policies on your own country (which, by the way, is already screwed up enough, so maybe you shouldn’t).

  4. G. Werthers says:

    I remember seeing lots of camcorded movies while budget travelling through Southeast Asia years ago. Canada takes the most heat because we’re the closest. These senators should just chill and go watch some episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000!

  5. Fair-Minded Artist says:

    Make camcording in theaters illegal?

    Of course! Yes! After all, this strategy has always worked, in the past, and that is why there are no more murders, robberies, wars on drugs, rapes, and other kinds of historic nasties.


    Let’s make a law that will prohibit camcorders, in theaters.


    And let’s not, first, expect Hollywood to decrease its outrageous prices.

    Oh no! Not that!

    Let’s just point the traditional finger of blame and make a new law.


    Let somebody else deal with market forces and competition.


    Those worrisome economic thingamagics shouldn’t apply to Lala Land, anyway.


    Ah, yes!

    Another new law.

    Yes. Yes….

    Back to sleep….Back to dreaming.

    – Fair-Minded Artist

  6. Fair-Minded Artist says:


    “thingamagigs” (the correct terminology)



    – Fair-Minded Artist

  7. There are already laws in Canada against copyright infringement, but I acknowledge that we may need some toughening up in our laws regarding things which involve recording copyrighted performances without permission while in a theatre or other public venue without permission, since the people that I have had the misfortune to meet that have done recorded movies in a theatre, in spite of any claim of entitlement under so-called “personal use”, have actually gone and shared the material with other people over the internet.

    Canada does not need the DMCA or an approximation to it, we just need to actually punish people who break the law.

  8. U.S Senators don’t even know how many provinces Canada has, and all of sudden they seem to be interested in Canada’s copyright law? hmm….(scratching my head) I missing something here?

  9. Numbers don’t add up
    The US Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins stated,
    “There’s a lot of pirating that goes on, a lot of counterfeiting of movies and songs” and “it really does cost the Canadian economy a huge amount every year, estimated to be from some 10 to 30 billion (dollars) per year,”

    $30 Billion per year
    33 million people in Canada
    $909 per person per year in piracy!!!!!

    So his statements claim that each Canadian is responsible for this, every man woman and child pirates over $900 per year.
    This is actually a larger budget then we have for out Canadian child care program and no Prime Minister would want to take something like that away from his country.

  10. Nice that Feinstein & Cornyn have the time to deal with petty things like this- since the Democratic leadership announced that “impeachment is off the table” (Not coincidentally, so is democracy, thanks to their lack of courage).

    Next, they’ll lead a scintillating debate on which colour schemes should go on which licence plates, I suppose.

    “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss”

  11. “Next, they’ll lead a scintillating debate on which colour schemes should go on which licence plates, I suppose.”

    Why who’s brib… er, lobbying them to do that?

  12. Dear America,

    $%^$ off.



  13. wounded knight says:

    My problem is this?

    Who has more sway with our federal leaders? Senators from the US or contituents in Stephen Harper’s riding? The answer scared me. I am supportive of the Conservatives but at least the Liberal party was as anti-american as me.

    Mr Ambassador should shut his yap hole. Like ten minutes ago.

  14. Sylvester M. W. says:

    Charming. More American clots using the same justification. As a business student, I’d love to see an independent auditing of movie studios. If they’re losing billions to various kinds of piracy they ought to be declaring that as part of their statements. Otherwise it’d be a breach to their shareholders. Additionally, if they aren’t then it is one of two things: Wild-assed guesses where they said “this number looks good”, or they’re trying to screw the shareholders.

    Frankly, either option there isn’t too surprising. If they aren’t willing to back up their numbers with independently verified research done by actual ACCOUNTING FIRMS, instead of their legal and PR departments, then they simply shouldn’t be taken serious. Just the same if I go and sue someone who dented my car for one million dollars, if I don’t have fairly solid proof that’s what it cost to repair it (as well as lost wages etc etc) then the only thing I’ll hear from the judge is “Don’t waste my time. Case Dismissed”.

  15. The only people that stand to gain from this sort of legislation are American movie/music execs. I’m outraged that the US would step on our sovereignty with insincere pressure to change our laws, especially since the US has a known history of imperialism.

  16. I’ve already written my MP twice and the Heritage Minister once about issues just like this one. I got the standard copy-paste reply that says “Hello we care about you and got your letter” and that was it. How is democracy supposed to work if your opinion doesn’t count unless you wave money around?

  17. American Citizen says:

    Don’t be pressured by the Criminal Soci
    I am an American citizen. I advise you to tell our Congress-critters to shut up and fix the problems in their government first. In particular, I would recommend not placing the power to (more or less) specify who will run in political parties in the hands of widely recognized criminal sociopaths — American corporations (Thanks, Harv. Bus. Rev.).

    I would further recommend that you not allow the influence of these sociopaths to overwhelm your stereotyped good sense and congenial demeanor. Just because we Americans are allowing our corporations to pee in our swimming pool does not make it a good idea for anyone else.

    Good luck.

  18. W
    Leave our Prime Minister alone. He has a few more pressing problems than having to worry about who’s watchin’ what movies. Problems like fighting poverty, drug lords, gang murders, prostitution, global warming, child slavery, terrorism, war in Afghanistan, military building. You know, the only reason they are addressing Stephen Harper personally, rather than the Heritage Minister (whose job this is by the way) is the fact that he’s a doer..unlike the last Liberal party which sat on their hands for over 11 years.

    And yes, the Americans have to fight their own battles, thank you very much…..

  19. William H. says:

    Mind ur Own Business
    do those senators have nothing better to do than try and harass us about our laws?

    soon they will try to dictate to us what our laws should be…

    why arent they going after other countries? (and if they are they should go and mind the business of the States not ours)

    and yes, why dont they actually try to “pressure” the correct ppl first..

  20. escalating battle?
    Why do I get the feeling this is an escalating battle? Even if the Canadian public understands the true issues and doesn’t bow to special interests, there will be peer pressure on all sides.

    I’m not sure if enough politicians have the will to slog this one out, or if they’ll just bow to what America says is right. Hopefully this will become an election issue.

  21. I hope to God it does not become an election issue…because the electorate does not understand it. Everyone needs to go read Lawrence Lessig\’s \”Free Culture\” before being allowed to vote.

    Google it. It\’s free. Weird, eh?

  22. Representation
    [Who has more sway with our federal leaders? Senators from the US or contituents in Stephen Harper’s riding? The answer scared me. I am supportive of the Conservatives but at least the Liberal party was as anti-american as me.]

    That’s a good point. I voted Conservative in the last election, but depending on how this is received by the government, I could be swayed to vote otherwise.

    Nothing good really happens when the Liberals sit on their hands, but on the up side, at least nothing bad happens either.

    [Hopefully this will become an election issue.]
    I dunno…I can see it now, “Vote for the [Party] because we’ll make theatre camcording punishable by prison sentence.” Because putting dirty thought criminals in jail is good for everyone! [/sarcasm]

  23. Dwight Williams says:

    Speaking of our MPs
    I too have gotten little more than the standard “thanks for your comments” boilerplate reply e-mails from my own riding’s MP. Seeing as I’m in one of the New Conservative-held ridings, I’m not sure that I can hold out much hope for an actual reply that either agrees or disagrees with me.

    If he sent me at least a “here’s why we think this should be done, whether or not the US pressures us to do it” reply, I’d have something to work with. It might even have hope of making sense to me.

  24. Student (York)
    There are not very many statistics that support that the movie industry is losing a lot of money due to pirating. What no one blindly supporting more restricitve copyright laws seems to understand is that going to the movies still provides a superior benefit then downloading it. For music, going to a live show is an expierience. Is sifting out the shit a really bad tactic when you are a frugal shopper?

    Going to the movies is an expierience, but have you ever tried to get your money back for a crappy movie? Downloading movies is a way of sifting out all the crap that film companies produce. Especially if youre poor, 10-15 dollars for a movie is a hard decision; I have to absolutely KNOW that movie is going to be good to pay that much for it. In a way, they marketers who make previews can be accused of false advertising if they make a movie look good, and realisitically, it sucks.

  25. Finck
    Its amazing to me how the word \”criminal\” is used for copying movies,but you pay $20 to see a movie,and $20 for a nickle\’s worth of pop and a nickels worth of popcorn,then tell me who\’s the damn criminal,i just think their getting justice paid back in full.Now you can see the movie,if you don\’t like it you didn\’t waste $40 bucks and 2.5 hours of your life.And if you liked it you can go out and buy the dvd.

  26. Finck
    I think it’s getting a little pathetic,this digital rights management laws.What next imprison everyone whos using a vcr,dvd-recorder,t-vo.Your going to kill 80% of our forein market.what the hell are we going to get from asia now?Rice?We demand the electronic devices they provide for us.You can’t tell me that WB or Disney are losing money.They make Oprah look like she’s almost on welfare for Christ’s sake.

  27. Two Cents
    I do not think this problem will be resolved in a long time til the world has one united law on piracy. Films will be released prior before to the theaters to the selected viewers. What they do to it or what happens after the movie studios release the final release of the film after that are very difficult to control. Also people are not too willing to buy $12 tix to view films at the Cinplex. If they do go to the shows, they would go to the second run theaters with discounted prices or rent or buy the DVD in rock bottom prices.

  28. Mike Murphy says:

    That fucking Wilkins…
    Is it just me, or is there something so pompous and arrogant about that fucker Dave Wilkins. Every time I see him on TV, or read a statement from him in the paper, I get a sick feeling, like I’m being lectured to by the Principal of my old Elementary school.
    This guy needs to go back to screwing his sister or whatever it is they do for fun back where he comes from…

  29. Camcorders
    Canada is the main source of camcorder (particularly Quebec) pirated movies. The reason why is because they are released in Canada the same time as in the US. Our laws are not as strict as the US, alot of copying and uploading happens here. The main downloaders are not Canadians, but Europeans (ie particular the UK). Canada is also the main source of American TV shows distributed on the internet. Have you ever watched, Ugly Betty downloaded via bittorrent. They most likely they have a City TV logo at the bottom.

    The only way to stop this is to release everything at the same time world wide. However, most likely the Americans will delay the launch of movies in Canada by a couple of weeks. This is a threat they made before, no one knows if they are going to really do it. No more North American releases anymore, there will be separate Canadian releases a couple of weeks later.

  30. Well i am sorry to say i do not agree. I remember 4 years ago movie prices were 15 dollars for a movie and 18-19 for the I-max. Until all these movies start poping up on net the price kept going up. When the movies were 15 dollars i works a low end job because i saw still in high school. I made 5.90 an hours and going to the movies buying a pop and popcorn means playing 25 dollars that 5 hour of work. I would be ok without downloading movies if the movies companies charged a reasonable price for them. But in the end everything comes down to the money thats my 2 cents on the issue.