Canada fingered for copyright theft

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TORONTO -- A consortium of U.S. content creators has urged Washington to blacklist Canada for serious intellectual property violations.

The International Intellectual Property Alliance, in a letter Monday Feb. 12 to the United States Trade Representative, urged the U.S. government to place Canada on a "Priority Watch List" along with China, Mexico, Thailand and other offending nations.

"Pirates have taken advantage of the gaps in Canadian law to make it a leading exporter, both of camcorded masters that feed audiovisual piracy worldwide, and of devices -- illegal in most global markets besides Canada -- that are intended to circumvent technological protection measures used by the publishers of entertainment software," the IIPA said in its 2007 Special 301 report, released Monday.

Despite having lax legal and border protections against intellectual piracy, the Canadian government "has taken no steps toward modernizing its copyright law" to comply with the WIPO copyright and Internet treaties, to which Canada is a signatory, the coalition of U.S. software, movie and music producers said.

The IIPA added that Canada's current Conservative government in Ottawa had failed to draw up revised federal copyright laws as promised.

The Canadian government was urged to introduce draft legislation that protects intellectual property by preventing "unauthorized copying and the exercise of other exclusive rights."

The IIPA report spotlighted a recent wave of unauthorized camcording of Hollywood movies in Canadian cinemas to produce bootleg DVDs, and Canada becoming "one of the world's epicenters" for making modification chips and other piracy tools enabling the use of counterfeit video games.

"Highly organized international crime groups have rushed into the gap left by Canada's outmoded copyright law and now use the country as a springboard from which to undermine legitimate markets in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and elsewhere, through the export of circumvention devices," the IIPA report said.

The U.S. content creators added that unauthorized camcording of films in Canadian theaters was "nearing crisis levels" as biker gangs like the Hells Angels in Quebec were directing the making and distribution of pirated DVDs.

Representatives for Hollywood studios and music labels in recent months have lobbied the federal government in Ottawa to tighten domestic copyright laws, but so far with little success.

20th Century Fox has gone as far as threatening the delay of the theatrical release of its movies in Canada to help stamp out illegal camcording of its product at local multiplexes here (HR 1/24).

Executives at Industry Canada, the federal government department that oversees copyright issues, were not available for comment at press time.
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