A 25-year old Montrealer cannot enter a movie theatre nor own any recording device for the next two years after being convicted of illegally copying the film Dan In Real Life with a camcorder in a cinema.
Louis René Haché, the first Canadian to be charged under Canada’s tougher piracy laws and the second to be convicted, was caught red-handed on a late Friday night 18 months ago, comfortably ensconced in his chair, his girlfriend by his side, with a digital camcorder atop a tripod recording Steve Carell’s comedy.
“We walked in like a SWAT team. Boom, boom, boom, boom. Two guys went up one way, two guys went the other way, I went straight up the middle,” recalled Vincent Guzzo, executive vice-president of the independent Guzzo cinema chain. “He had nowhere to go unless he jumped over me. And I’m 245 pounds of robust Italian hot blood.”
The city has earned a reputation as a hotbed of film piracy, and Hollywood studios went so far as to threaten to delay film premieres in Canada because of piracy issues, particularly in Montreal and Calgary. Studios can determine at which theatre a film was recorded because each individual reel has a set of watermarks printed onto different frames, generating a unique code for every theatre.
Prodded by the movie industry, the federal government introduced legislation that made filming a movie in theatres an offence under the Criminal Code – and not just illegal to copy a film for commercial purposes as was the case under the Copyright Act. Film industry members have long complained that “it is almost impossible to prove that the person camcording intends to make a copy for commercial distribution (sale or hire).”
Bill C-59, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (unauthorized recording of a movie), has just one clause. It creates two offences in the Code — illegal recording of a movie shown in a theatre for personal use, carrying a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment while recording for the purpose of commercial distribution is punishable by up to five years. The two illegal recording offences may, at the prosecutor’s discretion, be treated either as indictable offences or as offences punishable by way of summary conviction.
Quebec Court Judge Céline Lamontagne sentenced Haché to 24 months probation and 120 hours of community service.