Canada criminalizes camcording movies


TORONTO -- The Canadian government on Friday made good on its promise to criminalize the camcording of Hollywood movies in local theaters, a move Ottawa said will curb movie piracy originating here.

Federal Heritage Minister Bev Oda tabled amendments to the federal Copyright Act to create two new criminal offenses. The first makes it illegal to record a movie in a cinema without the manager's permission, while the second criminalizes in-theater taping "for the purpose of selling, renting or other commercial distribution of a copy of the recorded movie."

As part of the new legislation, anyone convicted of camcording movies in theaters will face up to two years in jail, and those convicted of camcording with the intention to profit from the sale of bootleg DVDs can receive a jail term of up to five years.

The courts also can, for the first time, seize camera equipment and other technology used to videotape and make bootleg DVDs of films at the local multiplex.

Until now, exhibitors that caught anyone videotaping in their auditorium could do little more than eject them as trespassers.

Typically, pirates caught camcording simply claimed they were making a film for personal use to escape prosecution.

The proposed legislation, which awaits passage in the House of Commons, will now put the onus on anyone caught videotaping in cinemas to prove they aren't doing so for commercial gain, rather than placing that responsibility on theater operators and major studios, as has been the case until now.

The new bill marks a shift for the federal government, which long regarded movie piracy as mostly Hollywood's problem since Canadian films rarely surface as bootleg DVDs.

But a recent concerted push by Hollywood studios convinced Ottawa to move against unauthorized camcording in local cinemas.

"Piracy and mass copying of films has had a significant and direct impact on the entire film industry, including producers, directors, actors and creators," Oda said Friday. "The government is acting to increase protection for their works."

Pat Marshall, a spokesman for Cineplex Entertainment, Canada's largest exhibitor, said the proposed legislation will hand her industry the tools it requires to nab movie pirates.

"It's great news and it's something that we as an industry have been working on for some time, and it shows the importance of the private sector working with the public sector to make necessary changes necessary come to fruition," Marshall said.

Ottawa said the proposed legislation will bring Canada into line with the U.S. and other international jurisdictions that have similarly criminalized camcording.

"The new Canadian legislation will ensure that the film industry in Canada is protected by rules comparable to those of our major trading partners," the federal government said in a statement.