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Lies and videotape

Once again, Canada is the boogeyman.  I sense a theme in the news this week.

Frustrated with what they see as the world’s biggest piracy nation, Warner Bros. Pictures announced this week an immediate ban on promotional and word-of-mouth screenings in Canada.

The ban includes Warner Independent Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures, and will affect the studio’s next release, Ocean’s Thirteen, as well as the summer release of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

While the ban does not include press screenings, they will all now be held at a Warner Bros. private screening room instead of in theatres at large.

One gets the feeling that Canadian promotional screenings are just chock full of people making what I like to call thumb-movies (because of the dubious quality of the resulting recording). It doesn’t take much effort to expose the numbers: Does The MPAA Simply Make Up Piracy Numbers Out Of Thin Air? I’ve been to a couple of promotional screenings here, thanks to tickets won through radio stations or through friends. They are quite adamant at these screening about not bringing in any recording devices. Plus, the promotionals are always packed to the rafters…I doubt that any useable quality recording could come out of a packed movie house. If I were a pirate who insisted on making thumb movies, I’d probably choose a midweek matinee screening after the first weekend, when the technical challenges presented by the mob are non-existant.

It’s much more common to actually get a movie leaked from an insider and then have the real copy spread around. However, the MPAA kept claiming (without any evidence) that Canada was a hotbed of this activity — accounting for approximately 50% of camcorded movies. However, now the same movie industry is claiming that New York City is responsible for 40% of camcorded movies. That would mean that only 10% of camcorded movies come from outside New York City or Canada — a number that hardly seems realistic especially given an entirely different report from the movie industry that highlighted how camcorded movies were happening in many states across the US.

Note that the reporter in the Globe and Mail story linked above doesn’t even question the Warner executive’s claims. Kudos to the techdirt people for crunching the numbers, and finding that either 90% of pirated movies come from Canada/New York, or some fudgery is afoot.

I actually don’t doubt that 80% of new releases are copied in Canada. Nor do I doubt that 80% of new releases are copied in Hong Kong, Japan, Great Britain, Germany, France, and yes, even the United States. Warner is using a feeble scare tactic simply to push our MPs into signing some bill or other. A shame that they feel the need to paint we Canadians as a country of criminals while doing so. At the same time, I doubt that the hardcore pirate is hunting the intertubules for thumb movies. They are hunting the intertubules for leaked critic’s prescreen versions. I wonder what geographic location (if any) is the main source for leaked prescreeners?

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3 thoughts on “Lies and videotape

  1. Yes it’s a scare tactic and The Globe And Mail, and others — by reporting claims verbatum from the MPAA which were discredited years ago — are being played by the MPAA PR Machine. Actually the MPAA claims about piracy in Canada were raised most recently, and debunked, just a few months ago. This is from Michael Geist’s blog [http://www.michaelgeist.ca/] from a few months ago:

    “…the International Intellectual Property Alliance, a U.S. lobby group that includes the MPAA, advised the U.S. government in late September that Canadians were the source for 23 percent of camcorded copies of DVDs.
    “In fact, AT&T Labs, which conducted the last major public study on movie piracy in 2003, concluded that 77 percent of pirated movies actually originate from industry insiders and advance screener copies provided to movie reviewers.”

    Actually, I also wrote about this on my little blog back in February.

    To be honest the weeks “theme” you’re referring to is the general laziness inherent in Canadian journalism, and the increasing willfullness to rely on a Press Release as a source. I found Michael Geist, one of this country’s most knowledgeable lawyers when it comes to technology issues, eight years ago and have used him as a source several times. I understand Entertainment Reporters are generally at a loss when it comes to business and technology, but the Globe has a database of sources which all of their reporters can access. It’s the same with the Coin Story. The story has been reported on during at least two previous news cycles over the past eight months and it would have been very easy to do the story up front and honest, but the AP/CP guys had a “Americans Are Dumbasses” headline that was too funny to throw away so they bury the pedestrian stuff and put the misleading “Dumbass” comments in the top six paragraphs. At best the Coin Story should have been one of those “funny briefs” newspapers run across the top of a page, and the MPAA story should have been an expose on how Hollywood is blaming the loss of their theatre revenue on Canada.

    Despite (or maybe because of) my slight disagreements with you, I am enjoying your site.

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  2. It’s actually Kevvy’s site, but meh. I’ll take credit for being one of the many part-time media hater who sparsely contributes to Kevvy’s project. 🙂 We appreciate any and all input, Feartheseeds. I suspect we are close on many issues, and I’ll go check your blog on my noonish break.

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  3. I just want to interject here that it’s not actually my site. It used to be, back when it started, but not after I lot you lot in…

    As for the issue at hand, I have a little to add. Journalists can certainly be lazy, and there is a long-trodden path of least resistance. They do as they’re told like good little sheep.

    I’ve never been a huge movie-goer, and when I go I do not buy the soft mealy cardboard that goes for popcorn, nor the torso-sized bucket of carbonated fountain cat-piss, and I try to show up late so I don’t have to watch the goddamned commercials. Therefore you have at one end of the chain actors asking for $25 million for a movie, forcing movies costs well over the $100 million-mark for even a modest film, and at the other, tight asses like me that don’t feel the need to tap the line of credit to buy popcorn. It’s a hard way to guarantee the flow, if you know what I mean.

    Also, super-sizing the cinemas to one-up the competition (what competition is left, that is) has raised overhead costs to such an extent that multiplexes have to charge customers through the teeth for everything just to cover costs. Not to mention that most of these multiplexes are being shoved into business parks outside of towns where they can squeeze even more money through lower taxes, so just getting there means spending extra ca$h on gas and those that don’t own a car just don’t bother.

    Add the increasing quality of home theatres and you have perfect storm – higher priced product, higher costs and less convenience for viewers means fewer people go to the theatre and more of them lay out the cash for home theatres and rent movies instead. And then they buy used movies from the video store or copy them using easily available software and there you have it – noone goes to movies anymore.

    Naturally, it’s easier to blame cracks in the entire industry on a few leaked advanced releases in the hope that maybe the problems will just go away in time. I have downloaded a movie now and then, and I can assure you that I have never, ever watched a “thumb” movie because there’s no need when I can see one that periodically has a banner at the bottom saying it’s for reviewers or whatnot.

    The media, the rest of the media, plays along meekly, as you guys have pointed out – right from the fawning Globe and Academy awards, which has become a season for fuck’s sake, to the Monday morning tally on which movie “won” at the box office, to the plethora of celebrity-fawning “Entertainment Tonight” crap shows that keep us up-to-date on the urgent news on Brittany’s pussy, Paris’ puppy, Angelina’s new Asian baby, and what breakfast cereal Toby McGuire ate while filming Spiderman 12.

    And of course they also help by throwing wall-paper over the cracks in the foundation.

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