Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Lobbying pays dividends for the movie industry

There's a disturbing example in today's Globe and Mail of the effect of lobbying in our political (and media) worlds.

Michael Geist (a U of Ottawa law professor who specializes in copyright issues) writes about the issue in his blog today:
Others have noted the Globe and Mail's one-sided coverage of the camcording story, however, there is one paragraph in today's story that requires an additional comment. In its front page story, the Globe reports:

Canada - particularly Montreal - is known as one of the world's worst offenders for piracy, rivalling places such as China, Lebanon and the Philippines. A Motion Picture Association analysis of counterfeit discs in 2005 revealed close to 75 per cent of all films illegally camcorded in Canada were recorded in theatres in and around Montreal, recently identified as the No. 1 city in the world for surreptitious camcording.

This claim bears little relation to reality. While it is possible that Montreal is responsible for three-quarters of Canadian camcording, Canada is not known as one of the world's worst offenders for piracy. While I have previously criticized the USTR's Special 301 List, this year's list identified at least a dozen countries for the "priority" watch list - Canada was not among them. Moreover, the claim that Montreal is the world's leading source of camcording is rebutted by today's Los Angeles Times, which reports an MPAA claim that New York was responsible for 20 percent worldwide camcording (last week they said 40 percent). According to the MPAA, the world's leading source of pirated movies is the United States, home to the anti-camcording laws that supposedly solve the problem. The MPAA says that 43 percent of pirated movies are sourced to the U.S. and now says that 20 percent come from Canada. Leaving aside the ongoing inconsistency of the industry claims, there is no disputing that the MPAA itself has identified New York, not Montreal, as the number one city for camcording.

The Globe's coverage is unfortunate, but the comments coming from MPs in today's papers leave little doubt that change will happen. Canadian Heritage Minister Bev Oda says the issue is on the government's agenda and MPs from the opposition parties, including Liberals Dan McTeague, Roy Cullen, and Marlene Jennings as well as the NDP's Brian Masse are all on record supporting legal change (in fact, Jennings says she is working on another private member's bill on the issue to go with her lawful access bill). With that level of support, neither the facts nor the inaccurate reporting really matter at this stage as it would appear that legislation is a matter of when, not if.

Geist has a couple of other posts here and here with more on this whole business. It bothers me that the issue seems to involve everything but the truth.

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