moved that Bill C-59, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (unauthorized recording of a movie), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to open up the debate on Bill C-59, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (unauthorized recording of a movie).
Camcording is the most significant threat facing the motion picture industry. One good camcorder can trigger an avalanche of illegal downloads and result in bootleg copies in street markets around the world.
In recent months, there has been well-publicized criticism of Canada from some in the United States film industry claiming that Canada is a haven for illegal camcording. For example, in January of this year the Globe and Mail reported that the Hollywood-based president of domestic distribution for one of the major U.S. movie studies had sent a blistering letter to the chief executive of Cineplex Entertainment, Canada's biggest cinema chain.
The letter identified Canadian theatres as a source of illegal camcording and threatened to stop sending copies of all its films to 130 Cineplex movie houses or push back Canadian release dates.
It is also true that the United States trade representative and other American politicians have expressed concerns about Canadian camcording.
Last Thursday, after the government gave notice that it would be introducing anti-camcording legislation, an article entitled “Ottawa muscles in on video piracy ” appeared in the Globe and Mail. The article recalled that Canada was placed on a United States government watch list for a lack of intellectual property rights enforcement, along with the notorious film piracy hubs such as Lebanon, China, the Philippines and Russia.
It might be argued that we are responding to the United States motion picture industry to take action against camcorders, but I would like to emphasize that this issue is important to Canadians as well. The motion picture sector is an important component of Canada's cultural industries. Canada not only has a vital domestic film industry creating films by Canadians for distribution domestically and internationally, but it is also an important part of the U.S. film industry which locates much production in Canadian locales.
Canada is also part of the U.S. domestic market for film exhibition with Canadians enjoying the first release of major motion pictures at the same time that they are released in the United States.
Unfortunately, this makes Canada an attractive venue for camcording: the making of unauthorized copies of first release films that are in high demand around the world where these films have yet to be released.
Digital technology and the Internet have facilitated the illicit reproduction and distribution of films.
Canadian films are also subject to piracy as the notorious example provided by the pirated version of the Canadian blockbuster Bon Cop, Bad Cop available before its official release on DVD.
A decision by Warner Bros., announced on May 8, to cancel all preview screenings in the country out of concern over piracy further illustrates the impact that this problem is having, and the problem is growing.
I do not want to leave members with the impression that under present Canadian law it is open season for camcording in Canada. I have pointed out on a number of occasions that there are provisions within the Copyright Act of fines up to $1 million and imprisonment up to five years for anyone who copyrights material with intention to commercially use that.
However, we are responding to a growing problem, one that I believe has international repercussions since Canada is seen as a source for providing illicit copies of films for the worldwide market.
It is for this reason the government feels it is necessary to act. We are not in the business of facilitating this type of activity.
There is broad-based support from across the film production, distribution, and exhibition industry in Canada for an explicit legislative measure to stem the flow of illicit copies of films that are made and put into circulation. Accordingly, the government has taken decisive action that would make camcording movies in theatres illegal.
In doing so, Canada is joining in international efforts to protect the intellectual property interests of the film industry in Canada and abroad from those who would make unauthorized copies of newly-released movies either for their own use, with or without participation of others, for the purpose of selling, renting or other commercial distribution of pirated films.
In the time left to me today, I would like to say something about the proposed amendments to the Criminal Code contained in Bill C-59.
The proposed legislation is aimed at deterring unauthorized camcording activities in movie theatres in Canada. Our main purpose in amending the Criminal Code instead of the Copyright Act is to ensure that local police and not merely the RCMP are engaged in an effort to stop camcording.
At present local police forces are not accustomed to enforcing the Copyright Act and therefore are reluctant to respond to calls from theatre owners. They are also reluctant to respond because of the difficulty in obtaining the evidence to prove the intent of camcording for commercial gain, as I indicated. That is a deficiency in the current law.
Currently, the Copyright Act only provides offences against camcording when it can be linked to copyright infringement and that is not what happens in these cases. They get these individuals, slip them a couple of hundred dollars to do the job, and they are not in the business of commercial redistribution, so that is what the bill takes aim at.
It would amend the Criminal Code to create two new offences; first, which we can call simple camcording that would prohibit the recording of a movie in a movie theatre without the consent of the theatre manager; and second, we can refer to as camcording for the purpose. That would prohibit the recording of a movie in a movie theatre without the consent of the theatre manager for the purpose of selling, renting or other commercial distribution of a copy of the recorded movie.
Simple camcording would be a hybrid offence punishable on indictment by imprisonment for not more than two years or on summary conviction by six months imprisonment or a fine of $2,000, or both. It would establish a clear prohibition on conduct which is a precursor to the more blameworthy criminal activity of camcording for the purpose, or camcording as part of the DVD piracy operation under the Copyright Act.
Camcording for the purpose of sale, rental or other commercial distribution of a copy of the motion picture is a more serious offence. In addition to proof that the accused engaged in the unauthorized recording of a motion picture in a movie theatre, it requires proof that the individual did so for the purpose of selling, renting or other commercial distribution of copies of the film.
Camcording for the purpose would also be a hybrid offence but would be punishable on indictment for not more than five years imprisonment.
Bill C-59 would also provide the court with the authority to order the forfeiture of anything used in the commission of these offences such as the camcorder itself.
Camcording may constitute the first step for both copyright infringement and fraud, and in this context a person engaging in such activities could be found to be engaging in conduct that constitutes a criminal organization offence.
Criminalization of this activity in the Criminal Code could enhance the capability of Canadian law enforcement to combat transnational organized crime activities pertaining to the fabrication and trafficking of pirated videos. The enforcement of these new Criminal Code offences would primarily be the responsibility of the local police who are better positioned to respond to calls from local theatre owners and would be prosecuted by provincial prosecutors.
It is worth noting that on May 24 Japan's parliament passed legislation which criminalizes the camcording of motion pictures in theatres. Scheduled to go into effect in August of this year, the legislation prohibits the use of any recording device in cinemas and is punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment.
Mr. Speaker, I will end my remarks by thanking my colleagues, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the Minister of Industry for their assistance, and of course the Minister of the Environment who was good enough to second this piece of legislation because I know of his concern in this particular area, as well as in many others. I know that all members of the House will want to support this piece of legislation.