Debunking MPAA’s claims: “Canadian camcords … have become a leading source of worldwide Internet film piracy”?

While hardly surprising that the MPAA misrepresents its own figures, claims losses that aren’t theirs, and tries to convince us fair use doesn’t exist (the last one courtesy of Jack Valenti, invited guest to the Roger Ebert movie festival a few years ago when he spoke in the Pine Lounge of the Illini Union), it’s good to have the details of their arguments debunked. Prof. Michael Geist debunks their latest PR—”Canadian camcords … have become a leading source of worldwide Internet film piracy” (referred to by Boing Boing).

Not surprisingly, none of these figures have been subject to independent audit or review. 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.

Moreover, the industry’s numbers indicate that camcorded versions of DVDs strike only a fraction of the movies that are released each year. As of August 2006, the MPAA documented 179 camcorded movies as the source for infringing DVDs since 2004. During that time, its members released approximately 1400 movies, suggesting that approximately one in every ten movies is camcorded and sold as infringing DVDs. According to this data, Canadian sources are therefore responsible for camcorded DVD versions of about three percent of all MPAA member movies.

Second, the claims of economic harm associated with camcorded movies have been grossly exaggerated. The industry has suggested that of recently released movies on DVD, ninety percent can be sourced to camcording. This data is misleading not only because a small fraction of recently released movies are actually available on DVD, but also because the window of availability of the camcorded versions is very short. Counterfeiters invariably seek to improve the quality of their DVDs by dropping the camcorder versions as soon as the studios begin production of authentic DVDs (which provide the source for perfect copies).

The term “piracy” is a propaganda term. Copyright infringement has to do with exclusive power, so focusing on it might not clearly express what you’re getting at. If you want to focus on sharing instead, you should view copying and sharing as such, by name.

If you’re a copyright holder, don’t let the MPAA speak for you.