As expected, the federal government introduced Bill C-59, its anti-camcording legislation on Friday (coverage from CBC, CTV, Canwest, Toronto Star, Globe). The bill creates two amendments to the Criminal Code:
- The recording of a movie in a movie theatre without the consent of the theatre's manager, punishable by up to two years in jail.
- The recording of a movie in a movie theatre without the consent of the theatre's manager for the purpose of selling, renting, or other commercial distribution of a copy of the recording, punishable by up to five years in jail.
The Globe is reporting that the bill may fast track through the House without any hearings – literally in a matter of minutes – despite a clear need to review the law for potential amendment (for example, I would suggest that there is the need to add the word "knowingly" to the two provisions and suggest adding a reporting mechanism everytime the provision is triggered so that we can get a better handle on the scope of the problem). Everyone would agree that no one credible supports illegal camcording. Indeed, while the economic impact may be subject to debate, there is no doubt that the practice does real harm to the artistic merit of the film and thus harms the creators. That said, this bill troubles me for several reasons.
First, there is still no independent, verifiable evidence that there is a problem in Canada. The inconsistent industry claims that I highlight in the Power of Lobbying video (along with any sense that Canadian films are affected), undermine the credibility of movie industry on this issue. Canadian Heritage Minister Bev Oda was asked during her press conference whether the government had conducted any independent research on camcording. She responded that they were relying solely on the (inconsistent) industry data.
Second, there is little reason to believe that these provisions will have any discernable impact on camcording in Canada. The U.S. has similar provisions, yet according to the MPAA, it is the world's leading source of illegal camcords. Moreover, it is arguable that current Canadian law can achieve the same goals as these reforms.
Third, implicit with this bill is that the government plans to divert law enforcement resources away from other issues by prioritizing camcording (a new law without any enforcement will do absolutely nothing). Given that MPs have heard about real health and safety counterfeiting concerns, I do not believe that pouring law enforcement energy into movie camcording at the expense of public health and safety is the right thing to do.
Fourth, and most important, notwithstanding Minister Oda's denials, it is self-evident that this bill is the result of U.S. lobbying. Given that reality – and the transparent comments from the industry and Oda that this is just a first step – I worry that the sequel to the anti-camcording issue will involve the broader copyright reform package and it too will reflect a made in the USA solution in the form of a Canadian DMCA.