Warner’s Summer Blockbuster

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.


  1. The way I see it is that Warner claims that 70% of it’s theft occurs in Canada, then removes pre-screenings. Nothing actually changes since not much piracy is really happening. However, they can then claim that piracy is down to “only” 50%, thanks to it’s absurd efforts in Canada.

    Personally, I prefer if they stay out and remove all doubt. It’s a good thing that their massive prices for seeing a movie in a theatre doesn’t include some self-approved compensation for “theft due to piracy”.

  2. This is should work out well for your arguments, Michael. Canada cannot possibly be the source of the pirated material for the Warner material that is bound to show up this summer. Perhaps some other English speaking country will be blamed. I would suggest that the UK, Australia, New Zealand, etc. will be named as the next haven for pirates. After all, the source cannot possibly be the USA, with all that effective anti-piracy legislation in place….

  3. If they remove pre-screening and, as a result of reduced visibility and word-of-mouth, movie sales drop, they can claim the drop is due to rampant piracy in Canada.

    They can then use that steaming pile of contrived statistics to cry that sweeping reforms are required to Canada’s copyright and IP laws.

    Very devious. A small investment in a pre-calculated lie reaps huge rewards.

  4. Dwight Williams says:

    Foot-Shooting as a Sport
    As far as I’m concerned, a new opening for getting Canadian movies into Canadian move theatres was just created. If you’re a Canadian film maker and you’ve got product you want on the screens, start lobbying the chains now.

  5. Devonavar says:

    I suspect that Warner’s numbers are being taken out of context. The original source that I saw said only that 70% of Warner’s releases had been cammed in Canada. It did *not* make the additional claim that 70% of pirated sources were Canadian.

    I think it’s quite plausible that 70% of Warner’s releases were cammed somewhere in Canada. I think it’s equally plausible that the the same 70% were cammed in the US, the UK, and most other developed nations.

    What we have here is Warner deliberately reporting the 70% statistic in a misleading way so that other news sources misunderstand what is said and thus report it as 70% of pirated sources. I see dishonesty on Warner’s part, and incompetance and lack of fact-checking and a willingness to toe the party line in most of the online sources that I’ve seen.

  6. B Talent says:

    Victims of Indoctrination
    Viewing the media reports, what is most fascinating is the DEGREE of mind indoctrination the American entertainment corporations have been able to garner with their Canadian executive lobbying counterparts. The comments from the Canadian Motion Picture Assoc’s Mr. Frith are complete with quotes from the annals of US law, Mr. Jacob can run down a list of actions involving US studios, and of course CRIA’s Mr. Henderson has seemingly memorized the RIAA’s covert ops manual. In all, we can wonder just what IS it in the human mind that allows it to destroy one person’s basic convictions and attitudes and replace them with an alternative set of fixed beliefs (however bizarre or detrimental to existing norms)?

    The lure to agree to spew lies and crap has GOT to be more than money… to get someone to puppet perform and allow themselves to been viewed as so out of touch as these men do, really as prostitutes for the mighty US entertainment pimp.

    For decades, social scientists have studied the world’s oldest profession and found that prostitutes generally have overriding issues such as drug addiction. As entertainment prostitutes, these spokespeople must have overriding issues too… perhaps its nothing more than a simple addiction to power? perhaps the promise of what – control where none exists? …world domination?

    Clearly there might be a nobel prize winning thesis here somewhere. In the meantime, best we can do is know that such psychosis is alive and well in Canada’s entertainment industry.

  7. This is ridiculous…
    That’s a joke and I dont see how it helps to improve the situation. Life still goes on and ppl will continue to download or buy pirate movies. IMO, if they want to solve this issue, then lower the price and compete with those pirate movies.

  8. Well, Michael if the amount of counterfeit goods is ONLY $200 billion, not $1 trillion, I guess I can breath a sigh of relief.

    I’m stunned that your dislike of the entertainment industry (CRIA and the like) has led you to the point where you sound like an apologist for counterfeiting. Even more remarkable is that the Star allows you to continue writing this sort of drivel.

  9. To RT:

    I don’t see it as being an apologist for counterfitters, its more like pointing out that this imdustry is making up figures to support an agenda that they know would be unacceptable in any other circumstance. If you support that, then good for you.

  10. Just to echo what MM said, if WB claims that Canada accounts for 70% of the camcorder releases of their movies, we can expect to see a 70% reduction this summer. If it doesn’t happen, we should expect a formal apology from WB (we won’t get it, but we should still expect it 🙂

  11. RT is more than happy to condemn 75% of all Canadians to criminal status without trial. As long as he can swipe his own copy, he is happy to blame anyone else I guess.

    Jsut because I don’t go to movies or buy videos doesn’t make me a thief, nor dishonest. Take your hate for consumer rights somewhere else, RT.

  12. To RT:
    If you think is an apology for counterfeiting, you aren’t paying attention. Geist’s appearances before the MPs made it clear it was about addressing the facts, not the lobby spin dutifully repeated nowadays in the Globe and several years ago in the Post.

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