Canada has its first conviction under the controversial Bill C-59. A man has been found guilty of ‘camming’ the movie ‘Sweeney Todd’ in Calgary on its opening day. The 21 year-old was given a $1,495 fine and placed on probation for a year. During this time he is also excluded from all theaters and is forbidden to possess any video recording equipment, even that on a cellphone. He avoids jail.
Early in 2007, Twentieth Century Fox announced that Canada had a major movie ‘camming’ problem, claiming that 50% of all such copies of movies originated from the country. The controversial claims caused panic and before long, theater staff were commonly being equipped with night-vision goggles in a bid to catch pirates.
On December 21 2007, Richard Craig Lissaman of Calgary hid a camcorder in his clothing and went to the Empire Studio 16 theater. There the 20 year old joined the matinee performance of the Johnny Depp movie ‘Sweeney Todd’ on its opening day. Sitting at the left of the theater at the back, Lissaman hid the camera in a sock and hid the tell-tale LED lights on his camera with duct tape to avoid being spotted.
Unknown to Lissaman, an investigation financed by the Canadian and US movie industries had been underway for months – and his luck was about to run out. According to Crown prosecutor Rob Bassett, “The house lights were turned on and the movie was shut off and Calgary police arrested him. The accused (later) admitted he had recorded the picture.”
Charged with one count of the unauthorized recording of a movie, Lissaman became the second person in Canada to be charged under new legislation designed to crack down on camcorder pirates. Previously, under Canada’s laws the authorities had to prove that any camcorder movie recording was destined for sale, rental or other distribution to get a conviction. But with changes that took effect on June 1st 2007, any image recorded without consent could result in a prison sentence of up to 2 years.
Yesterday, Lissaman, now 21, pleaded guilty as charged and was sentenced by Judge Catherine Skene to $1,495 in fines and 12 months probation. During this period, Lissaman is excluded from going into any movie theater and is banned from owning or possessing any video recording equipment, including video-enabled cellphones.
Virginia Jones, a director of policy and legal affairs for the Canadian Motion Picture Distributors Association said: “We would have liked to see jail time, sending a stronger message. We hope this is just a starting point.”