Photo credit: Kerrisa Wilson
By Kerrisa Wilson
New technology continues to provide us with greater access to the films we want to see. However, when it comes to accessibility, there are legal lines that are often crossed.
“Theft is theft,” says Canipre’s managing director Barry Logan.
That’s what Canadians who illegally download films they don’t want to pay for in theatres have to remember. Canipre, or the Canadian Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement company, solves Internet-based anti-piracy issues for entertainment markets. Canipre is hired by companies to find Internet users who are pirating. In the last five years, the investigative company has issued more than 3,500,000 take-down notices with a 100 per cent success rate. As stated on the website, “the bad guys pick up the phone when we call.”
Canada’s film industry has been a growing market with more contributors continuing to add to the success of homegrown movies. However, if Canadians want to keep seeing domestic movies, they need to stop visiting BitTorrent sites or buying bootleg films from independent sellers.
Canadians don’t realize the consequences of their actions. The amount of money stolen by Canadian consumers is affecting the country’s entertainment businesses, as high-budget Canadian filmmakers are losing money; and it’s weakening the Canadian film industry. The more illegal downloading continues to grow, the fewer high-budget films Canadian viewers will see.
Not only does the temptation to save or make money through illegal downloading affect the profits of the entire production, it can negatively affect the monetary assets of the downloader.
Canada’s copyright laws were amended in 2012, resulting in Bill C-11. The bill integrated in 2012, resulting in bill C-11. The bill integrated an amendment to the Copyright Act, which includes a clause to “clarify Internet service providers’ liability and make the enabling of online copyright infringement itself an infringement of copyright.” This means Internet service providers now have a legal obligation to release the names and IP addresses of their customers. Along with being ousted by your Internet service provider, you could face a hefty fine if charged for illegal downloading. Canadians can expect to pay between $100- $5000 for pirating infringements. To put it into perspective: $5000 can get you over 400 movie tickets. It may be a good idea to reconsider if it’s worth downloading that latest blockbuster.
An expert in piracy, Union Pictures producer Brad Fox, said the media has a huge role in a viewer’s interpretation of the film world: an image that is all glitz and glamour, with an abundance of cash. However, for small Canadian film distribution companies like Union, an overflow of cash is not the case.
Independent film companies rely on the revenue gained from sales of their films, without which the future of these companies could be at stake. According to Fox, many consumers who illegally download have a certain mindset that bootleg copies of a film don’t harm or affect the film companies.
“You get a picture in your head of, this is a movie, so therefore it’s a big faceless studio that’s making hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Fox.
In order to keep up with the demands of the entertainment market, Union has to find ways to minimize its expenses.
“In a lot of cases, we’re intentionally losing money on things that we release in theatres in the hopes that it can get popular enough that we can make a broadcast sale to television, and that can make up the difference that we lost,” said Fox.
Union’s DVD sales have plummeted and the company now relies on other methods of sales, like television time and selling its films on the Internet, to stay afloat.
Fox said he checks the website BitTorrent to see the prevalence of Union’s films being downloaded. He’s curious of the demographics of individuals who download these films, and often tracks IP addresses and emails some users with questions of why they download instead of buying. He has yet to receive a response from an Internet user on his act of Internet theft.
If Canadians keep pirating, the variety of films will lessen and the Canadian film market may suffer a lack of funds to create new films. On Union’s film releases in the future, Fox said, “we’ll have no choice but to bring fewer and fewer films to Canadians unless we know something is a big Hollywood hit.”
Fox isn’t the only one to speak up and say that the piracy continues to be a real problem. Don Carmody, executive producer of Don Carmody Productions, said Canadians need to realize the consequences of their actions and that the little guys who make the films are the ones affected.
“The guys making the movies – the producers, the writers, the directors – we’re at the bottom of the chain of profits. If you’re stealing, you’re not really hurting Warner Brothers; you’re hurting the producers and directors,” said Carmody.
We can’t keep making these films unless we make a profit,” said Don Carmody.
Carmody said that five years ago, the time and bandwidth required to download a film was astronomical compared to today. He also said he’s not worried about pirating rates for all his films, only the ones targeted to a younger audience.
“With my picture Goon, the [piracy rates] were unbelievable because the picture was R-rated, and the theatre owners were very particular about keeping kids out of the theatres because they thought it was too tough,” said Carmody. “When you come to Twilight or my next movie which is The Mortal Instruments, we are very concerned about piracy issues with those types of films.”
Some Canadians argue the charges are too harsh for infringing copyright laws, but for Carmody, he said there has to be consequences so people realize they’re stealing and committing a criminal offence.
“I think the copyright legislation is still too weak. I think there has to be a real public education campaign about what this does to the rights of artists.”
He also said young adults are downloading copious amounts without their parents’ knowledge. If the IP addresses of these people are found, their parents can intervene and see the seriousness of the situation, said Carmody.
“We can’t keep making these films unless we make a profit,” said Carmody.
Noah Segal, co-CEO of Canada’s biggest film distributor, E1 Entertainment Group Canada, is a vocal proponent against piracy and feels strongly about raising awareness of the crime. “About 25 per cent of our business is lost to piracy every year,” said Segal. “If people want to see the movies they want to see, they’ve got to pay for it like everything else.”
Like Logan, Segal wants to see those committing piracy held accountable.
“It’s a disaster, it’s a crime,” said Segal. “You know who’s making money? The pirates are making money.”
Segal said it’s not the consumer of pirated movies that should receive consequences, but those who distribute pirated movies.
“The passive person that does it, that’s not my target. It’s the people that are doing it ridiculously, that’s my target,” said Segal.
Segal wants to see pirating stop so that he can continue distributing films Canadians want to see. In order for that to happen, Segal wants to understand why pirating has increased.
“If convenience and price were reasonable then I think the majority of consumers will come back and go legitimately rather than pirating,” said Segal. “We as a business have to work towards better offerings.”
So the question remains: what needs to happen in order to deter Canadians from illegally downloading? That’s where companies like Canipre come in. According to Logan, anti-piracy requires three aspects: a response, education and a deterrent factor. Logan hopes illegal downloading will develop a negative status comparable to drinking and driving
There’s discussion over the court case occurring between American film production company Voltage Pictures and Canadian Internet service provider Teksavvy. Voltage wants the IP addresses of Teksavvy customers who are illegally downloading their films. In lawsuits like this, Canipre would usually be hired to collect digital evidence. Logan’s company is involved in this particular case and therefore cannot comment. He wants to stress, though, that Canipre is not the one trying to punish consumers. “Canipre is not the one that’s wanting to sue, we’re the evidence platform,” said Logan. “The decision to litigate for infringement is ultimately left with our legal team and client.”
Canadian film companies need their consumers in order to thrive in the business. Without the revenue that comes from ticket sales, DVD sales, online purchases and more, the future of these entertainment companies could be in jeopardy. Piracy has a lasting effect on the flexibility in these companies’ future endeavours, which affects the availability of movies consumers want to see.
“If people don’t make money, they stop investing,” said Segal. “When they stop investing, movies don’t get made and people don’t get the movies they want.”