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Kevin Tierney used to joke that any Canadian producer of English-language films would be happy to see their movie pirated as a mark of popularity.

Tierney isn't laughing now, not since he produced Erik Canuel's "Bon Cop, Bad Cop," which last year became the top-grossing Canadian theatrical release of all time domestically and has since been released on DVD.

The Montreal producer recently received a call from the police telling him they arrested someone selling bootleg DVD copies of "Bon Cop" door-to-door in the city's east-end Rosemount borough.

"The guy was selling cigarettes and alcohol and 'Bon Cop, Bad Cop,'" Tierney sighs.

Tierney also received an e-mail from a young Quebecois woman in Iraq, who expressed her wonderment when, while browsing bootleg copies of Hollywood movies in a Baghdad video rental store, she came upon a pirated "Bon Cop, Bad Cop" DVD — and thoroughly enjoyed the film.

Tierney accepts the compliment, but isn't impressed with the lost DVD revenue.

Nor are the major Hollywood studios, which recently cited Canada as a major source of bootleg DVDs sold worldwide.

It took a frustrated Warner Bros. canceling all promotional public screenings here to wake Canada up to its piracy problems and convince the federal government to introduce legislation to criminalize and punish camcording in Canadian cinemas (HR 6/1).

Ottawa apparently wasn't bothered by bootleg DVDs recorded in Canadian cinemas before Warner Bros.' pre-emptive strike, because movie piracy has long been considered Hollywood's problem, not Canada's.

Which is just as well, because a movie must be popular before pirates will record and duplicate it for illicit gain.

The fact that English-language Canadian films mostly tank at the local multiplex explains why local pirates instead target popular Hollywood releases for videotaping.

But "Bon Cop, Bad Cop's" showing up on bootleg DVDs may have thrown up a much-needed red flag.

Noah Segal, senior vp home entertainment at Alliance Atlantis, which is handling the movie's DVD release, says gauging the impact of piracy on "Bon Cop, Bad Cop" is difficult to measure.

"Still, there is no question that piracy affects us all. We are working with all authorities to put a stop to all piracy," Segal says.

Tierney agrees that piracy is a Canadian issue as much as it is Hollywood's problem.

"It's hurting my investors, it's robbing the government, it's taking money from the actors, because these are not reported revenues," he argues.

Etan Vlessing can be reached at etanvlessing@sympatico.ca
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