On Monday in Los Angeles, the studio issued a press release alleging that 70 per cent of its films distributed in Canada had been pirated through in-cinema camcording.
Referring to a 'growing tide of pirated feature film releases' coming from Canada, Warner said it was suspending promotional screenings in the nation in response to 'a lack of legislation'.
At time of going to press, no other studio has taken similar action.
Professor Michael Geist of the University of Ottawa, whose expertise bridges intellectual property issues and the media, recently appeared before a Canadian parliamentary committee exploring the issue.
Speaking with Screen International, Prof. Geist said the MPAA member companies distributing in Canada have issued a wide range of percentages, from 20 to 25 per cent, 30 per cent, 40 per cent. Twentieth Century Fox issued a warning earlier this year claiming 50 per cent. 'The numbers simply don't add up,' said Geist.
Indeed, according to a report in the New York Times from December 2006, MPAA senior vice president Vans Stevenson was quoted saying that '43 percent of movies illegally recorded with camcorders in the United States last year were copied in New York City theaters.'
As for the claimed lack of legislation, Geist says Canadian law already addresses and prosecutes on the issue. Penalties include the prospect of jail time and stiff fines.
Geist pointed out that despite the protestations of cinema industry stakeholders the United States Trade Representative has not elevated Canada's status as an international trade scawflaw. Said Geist, 'What's missing in an independent and verifiable study to get a better sense of how big the problem is and what Canada's contirubtion might be.'