An organization representing cinema owners and another representing the major Hollywood studios is asking the Canadian government to tighten the Copyright Act as part of its review of Canada’s feature film industry. The two organizations, the Motion Picture Theatre Associations of Canada (MPTAC) and the Canadian Motion Picture Distributors Association (CMPDA) also called for changes to the criminal code that would make it illegal to video or audiotape movies as they are being screened in theatres. "Organized crime is the biggest threat to the film industry. The counterfeit film business is more profitable than heroin trafficking and conviction carries trivial penalties," CMPDA president Doug Frith told the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage last week. The standing committee is reviewing Canadian Heritage’s Canada Feature Film Policy as it is currently in its fifth year. Frith noted that pirates use Montreal, the first city in the world where the French language version is available, to get pirate copies. MPTAC executive director Adina Lebo in her presentation to the committee noted that there was nothing in the Criminal Code to prevent the taping. Theatre owners, she said, had to resort to the Trespassing Act to do anything, and under such laws police are slow to respond. Frith called on the government to legislate and enforce appropriate protection from piracy by ratifying the World International Property Organization (WIPO) Treaty, amending the Copyright Act to address ISP liability, changing the Criminal Code to make unauthorized videotaping in theatres a crime, and enforcing legislation to combat piracy. Last Thursday, the federal government signaled its intention to change the Copyright Act by codifying a "notice-and-notice" regime covering ISP liability, which is weaker than the "notice-and-takedown" regime advocated by the CMPDA, as well as to introduce legislation to make cracking technological protection measures a violation of copyright law. That change won’t be as strong as the law in the U.S. – the Digital Millennium Copyright Act – but it has been seen as a made-in-Canada compromise on a thorny issue. Proposed changes haven’t been codified into legislation, and aren’t expected until later this spring. (CCR affiliate publication Canadian NEW MEDIA explores Ottawa’s proposed amendments to the Copyright Act in its upcoming issue.) Lebo noted that as theatres transition to digital, piracy will become an even bigger concern. "Thanks to digital imaging and the Internet, piracy is rampant. Solving the piracy problem requires immediate changes to the Criminal Code of Canada to protect the rights of owners of intellectual property," she stated. "This is essential to the economic health of the Canadian film industry. An absence of such laws and resulting economic harm is a major delay in the transition to digital cinema." Standing committee member Charlie Angus, a New Democrat, asked the witnesses that while they were talking about hard measures to counter piracy, where were the initiatives to promote Canadian films? He suggested that the government might consider legislating that a certain percentage of all trailers be those promoting Canadian movies. Susan Peacock, VP of CMPDA, responded that it would be hard to legislate U.S. studios to promote the films of other distributors. When Lebo was asked the same question by another committee member during her appearance, she said that theatre owners would be happy to promote Canadian movies but that, unlike the American studios, few Canadian filmmakers actually made trailers. "It’s not part of their marketing, when it should be. They should have trailers worked into their overall plans, but most often they don’t," she noted. "We would like to start by saying that (the theatre) exhibition (industry) fully supports the government’s initiatives to build an audience for Canadian films, to reach 5% of Canadian box office by the end of 2006, and to continue to grow in succeeding years," she said. But Lebo said for that to happen, producers in English Canada have to widen the types of films that they produce greatly from auteur films, and that more emphasis needed to be placed on script development, and marketing and promotion. She noted that French-Canadian film producers have been more successful because they have branched out. "Quebec creators came into their own identity and found the pulse of their audience creating all kinds of film products for the different audience demographics," she noted. "They broadened their range of film product. Not only was there film d’auteur genres, but comedies, romantic comedies, science fiction, and mystery, thrillers and period pieces were created as well." The goals of the federal government in announcing its feature film policy in 2000 were to increase the percentage Canadian films account for at the domestic box office to 5%, to raise the average Canadian production budget to about $5 million from $1.5 million, and to increase marketing budgets. It inaugurated the Canada Feature Film Fund, which added an additional $50 million in taxpayers money to an existing $50 million distributed to Telefilm Canada, to help further those goals by financing all aspects of film production from script to screen, including marketing. Not surprisingly, the Canadian Film and Television Production Association (CFTPA) in its written submission to the committee last month called on the government to renew its commitment to the feature film fund for at least another five-year period. The CFTPA also called on the government to ensure that broadcasters play their part. "…Canadian private and public sector broadcasters should be required through conditions of licence to play a more significant role with respect to the development, production and promotion of Canadian feature films. Moreover, those conditions need to be strictly enforced by the CRTC," states the submission. "With a view to ensuring transparency and accountability, each broadcaster should be required to release publicly each year during the term of its licence a comprehensive report on its activities in this area…Overall, the government should consider putting in place a system of incentives to encourage broadcasters to become involved early in the development of Canadian feature film projects and to aid in the promotion of those films in the wind up to their release in theatres." When CRTC executive director of the broadcasting directorate Marc O’Sullivan appeared before the committee on March 8, he outlined the role that the CRTC plays in aiding Canadian films in subsequent windows of pay TV and on conventional TV. He also noted that video-on-demand (VOD) services, which have grown from generating $3 million in revenue in 2003 to $12 million in 2004 are another potential growth area for Canadian feature films. The CRTC has regulated that all new Canadian feature films must be accessible to VOD users, and at least 5% of feature films in English and 8% in French on VOD must be Canadian. As well, VOD licence holders must remit 5% of their gross annual revenues to Canadian production funds. As well, all new Canadian feature films must be available on pay-per-view (PPV), according to CRTC regulations. O’Sullivan noted that at least 12 Canadian feature films per year must be placed on PPV services, and that there be at least one Canadian film for every foreign film. "Of all types of broadcasting, pay television pays the greatest support to Canadian features," he told the committee. "In 2003, 60% of the total viewing of Canadian English-language feature films was through pay-TV services. That indicates the importance of the sector. On the French-language side, 38% of viewing of Canadian French-language features was through pay-TV services." O’Sullivan also noted that the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. had committed during its licence renewal hearing to invest $30 million in Canadian feature films, and Radio-Canada $20 million. Also, CHUM Ltd. has agreed to air at least 100 hours a year of Canadian feature films during peak viewing hours on its Citytv stations. The standing committee expects to report its findings by the June 23.