Denis Seguin’s piracy report from Canada.

When it comes to piracy, Canada would seem to have much to answer for. In May, the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) put Canada on its priority watch list, so including the US’s neighbour among a veritable rogues gallery of intellectual-property miscreants such as China and Russia.

But Canada’s inclusion has raised questions about the validity of the statistics the USTR cites in justifying its decision. Canada introduced anti-camcording legislation in 2007, one of the few countries in the world to do so. If it is on the priority watch list, surely the situation is dire. But is it?

The first cause for concern, outside of the US, it that the USTR relies on data collated by the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), an industry-driven coalition that is not in fact international but driven wholly by US interests.

Its members include the Motion Picture Association, the Independent Film & Television Alliance and the Recording Industry Association of America, organisations that could be forgiven for bias in the piracy issue. None of its data has been subject to independent audit or review.

³There is no evidence that the Canadian movie industry is being harmed by the current copyright law framework,² says Michael Geist, a professor of law at the University of Ottawa and an internationally recognised expert on digital media and the law.

Of the USTR’s decision to include Canada on the watch list, he adds: ³I don’t believe the claims stand up to any kind of scrutiny.² One US legal expert has pointed out that if the IIPA were truly objective, it would include the US on its watch list.

Indeed, other sources show Canada’s online film piracy is actually on a downward trajectory.

According to the US media-tracking agency BayTSP, which tracks the intellectual property of companies such as Paramount Pictures, Canada moved from seventh place in 2007 to 10th in 2008 on its piracy watch list, with
3.3 million infringements (Spain, Italy and France held rankings one, two and three, with nearly 24.7 million, 19.2 million and 17.9 million infringements respectively). The US itself holds fourth place, having fallen from number one last year.

As to why the US is unfairly disparaging its neighbour, there is no doubt the US would like Canada to enact stricter copyright laws and enforcement.

In Canada, it is illegal to sell or distribute pirated media on DVD or via BitTorrent websites, however downloading music or movies for personal use is not a criminal offence. That said, downloaders could face costly civil litigation if the copyright holder chooses to sue.

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