IIPA Blames Canada for Movie Piracy (Again)

Many observers who take particular interest in Canadian issues surrounding copyright might find this to be a broken record, but a copyright lobby group is, once again, demanding that Canada be placed on a priority watch list in a special 301 report (or, as some might consider, a priority “wish list”)

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

In a demand submission recently issued by the IIPA, the organization is currently demanding (PDF) that Canada be put on a priority watch list. For years, copyright lobbying interests have been making demands in many countries to legislate to their bidding and, taking a page right out of the script of South Park, has a strange obsession of blaming Canada for their alleged movie piracy woes.

Last year, copyright lobbying interests have been trying to put Canada on a priority watch list, but failed to do so. Additionally, to appease American based corporations, the Canadian government allowed the copyright industry to pass anti-camcording legislation. It almost seems like there’s a short memory present given that the report doesn’t appear to even discuss the legislation — instead, talks about how Canada supposedly refuses to take action against alleged piracy.

Of course, they have no problems with the fact that Bill C-61 was tabled — the latest iteration of the Canadian DMCA which died on the order-paper last year. Apparently, the Canadian DMCA didn’t go far enough as the IIPA demanded that Canada force ISPs to fight piracy. This was one of many demands they made while under the presumption that Canada was under some kind of obligation under WIPO to ratify copyright laws. The reality is that Canada signed WIPO, but did not ratify it, meaning that Canada actually isn’t obliged to ratify copyright laws.

Other demands include that the RCMP and crown prosecutors divert a major amount of resources to fighting piracy. Heaven forbid they go after silly petty issues like murder, copyright infringement is apparently a serious issue. While effectively telling Canada how to run a country, they also demand that more resources be put into border security that focuses on intellectual property issues. Now, this might seem a little more of a minor demand, but given that one of the rumours surrounding the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement was the fact that people could be stopped at the border for trying to bring an iPod across it because, in theory, it could contain unauthorized copies of MP3’s, it creates the image that the IIPA wants Canada to comply with things like ACTA, rather than WIPO.

An excerpt from the submission:

We also explained how those hopes [of copyright reform in 2007] were dashed when the Canadian government let a mid-December deadline pass without tabling any copyright legislation whatsoever, and without announcing any decision of an Interdepartmental Working Group tasked to address widely acknowledged and serious shortfalls in enforcement.

So, apparently, it’s not good enough that Canada pass copyright legislation, but they think Canada should comply with their deadlines. The problem with this is that Canada is a sovereign country and there’s a little thing called a Canadian government that decides if or when things are passed. Still, undeterred by this, the IIPA says that it is setting a new deadline of this Spring to introduce another Canadian DMCA.

They even include a wish list of what they want to see in the legislation:

– Include protection of Technical Protection Measures (TPM or DRM as it’s more commonly known)
– Hold ISPs effectively liable for the actions of their users
– Implement a notice-and-takedown regime
– Respect what was ruled in the MGM vs. Grokster case in the US with regards to encouragement of copyright infringement
– Ax the $500 cap for online copyright infringement and implement statutory damages (translation — millions or even billions) as seen in Bill C-61
– Reconsider the exemption of educational purposes (referencing section 30.04 of bill C-61)
– Only allow libraries and archives to format shift if a format is becoming obsolete
– Disallow interlibrary loans if it’s a digital copy
– Restrict private copying with regards to sound recording

Of course, what report wouldn’t be complete without an unproven piracy statistic? Now, the IIPA, in the paper, says that Canada’s piracy rate is 33%. Throughout 2007 and 2008, copyright lobby groups were busted for making up statistics about Canadian piracy rates. The statistics went all over the board including 10%-20%, 20%-30%, 50%, 70%, 75%, 85%, and even 90%. An incredible margin of error of 80%.

Another excerpt:

Internet music piracy appears to be on the increase in Canada, aided by the uncertain legal environment and serious shortfalls in enforcement. These factors contribute to the formidable propensity of Canadians to patronize illegal online sources of copyright material, thus stunting the growth of legal alternatives. For instance, although channels such as digital downloads, online subscription services and delivery of music to mobile devices account for nearly 30 % of the legitimate U.S. market for recorded music, the comparable figure for Canada is only 12%; and the estimated number of unauthorized downloads (1.3 billion) swamps the number of legitimate downloads (20 million) by a factor of 65:1.6 These statistics bear out the OECD’s 2005 conclusion that Canada has the highest per capita incidence of unauthorized fileswapping in the world.

Of course, this completely flies in the face of the fact that Canadian digital music sales have outperformed the United States for three years in a row. It’s a shaky argument to rely on 2005 statistics when later years showed obvious growth in legitimate music sales. That’s what the actual reality is.

An additional excerpt:

Canada’s response too often falls short. While Canadian authorities may say that combating copyright piracy is an important objective, some of their actions — in terms of priority setting, resources, training, and the outcome of prosecutions — suggest the contrary. […] The continued prevalence of pirate product in Canada’s retail market indicates another enforcement shortcoming: the RCMP’s long-standing reluctance to target retail piracy.

It’s evident that whoever put this together never saw some of Michael Geist’s videos, one of which highlights the fact that the RCMP have actually taken an active roll in fighting physical for-profit piracy. Instead, the IIPA paints Canadian enforcement is hardly doing anything — nothing could be further from the truth.

If anything else, this report can easily be debunked using evidence that contradicts some of the wildest claims in the demand letter. With no mention of the anti-cam legislation that was passed a little over a year ago, cherry picked or even made up statistics to try and “prove” a point, the demand letter does little more than offer, yet, another mythical take on what really is going on in Canada.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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