My weekly Law Bytes column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) examines recent claims that Canada has become the world's leading source of movie piracy. The column finds that a closer examination of the industry's own data reveals that the claims are based primarily on fiction rather than fact, featuring unsubstantiated and inconsistent claims about camcording, exaggerations about its economic harm, and misleading critiques of Canadian law.
First, the camcorder claims have themselves involved wildly different figures. Over the past two weeks, reports have pegged the Canadian percentage of global camcording at either forty or fifty percent. Yet the International Intellectual Property Alliance, a U.S. lobby group that includes the MPAA, advised the U.S. government in late September that Canadians were the source for 23 percent of camcorded copies of DVDs.
Not surprisingly, none of these figures have been subject to independent audit or review. In fact, AT&T Labs, which conducted the last major public study on movie piracy in 2003, concluded that 77 percent of pirated movies actually originate from industry insiders and advance screener copies provided to movie reviewers.
Moreover, the industry's numbers indicate that camcorded versions of DVDs strike only a fraction of the movies that are released each year. As of August 2006, the MPAA documented 179 camcorded movies as the source for infringing DVDs since 2004. During that time, its members released approximately 1400 movies, suggesting that approximately one in every ten movies is camcorded and sold as infringing DVDs. According to this data, Canadian sources are therefore responsible for camcorded DVD versions of about three percent of all MPAA member movies.
Second, the claims of economic harm associated with camcorded movies have been grossly exaggerated.