Magnitude of Canada’s Piracy Problem “Nearly Impossible to Overstate”

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The International Intellectual Property Alliance represents the interests of the movie & TV show industries, major recording labels, the videogame industry, and American publishers. In a report to the U.S. government, the IIPA says that Canada's piracy problem is so severe, it's "almost impossible" to overstate its magnitude. A laundry list of demands aims to put that right.

canada flagAccording to at least one assessment, Canada is currently the third-best country in the world overall. When it comes to piracy issues, major U.S. rightsholders place Canada among the worst.

In a report to the United States government, the powerful International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) pulls no punches.

On behalf of the MPA, RIAA, Entertainment Software Association (ESA), Association of American Publishers (AAP) and the Independent Film and Television Alliance, the IIPA lists dozens of areas where Canada falls short of the standards expected by U.S. corporations.

Since the report runs to 241 pages, our focus is a subset of issues linked to online piracy.

Canadians Love to Pirate

Citing a report from the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, IIPA states that Canada remains one of the leading markets for U.S. copyrighted works.

A reported 71% of Canadians spend at least one hour each day watching TV shows or movies online. The legal market for online video is growing, with around 61% of all Canadians subscribing to Netflix, for example. Canadians love music too and as a result, recorded music revenues grew by 12.6% in 2021.

But it should’ve been more. Much more.

“Evidence persists, however, that the digital marketplace for copyrighted content in Canada continues to face challenges in realizing its full potential due to competition from illicit online sources. In 2022, 22.4% of Canadians accessed pirate services,” the report notes, citing an IFPI study.

Stream-Ripping and Other Problems

The report states that stream-ripping services, typically sites that allow users to download MP3 files from YouTube, are now the leading mechanism for music piracy in Canada.

IIPA notes that stream-ripping services undermine the legitimate markets both for streaming and licensed music downloads, highlighting as a particular problem. That’s understandable, but the site is causing problems just about everywhere in the world, not just in Canada.

“Dozens of websites, software programs, and apps offering stream-ripping services find an eager marketplace in Canada,” the report continues.

“Use of peer-to-peer (P2P) sites remains high, with BitTorrent indexing sites including Rarbg, The Pirate Bay, and 1337x popular in Canada. Cyberlocker sites, such as Mega, Uptobox, GoFile, and Rapidgator, are also a common way to illicitly access recorded music.”

IPTV Piracy Ecosystem

IIPA says the subscription-based piracy ecosystem continues to grow in Canada. Sellers and resellers of subscription IPTV piracy services, offering high quality streaming and VOD services, are problems in terms of supply and consumption.

“Many of these illegal services in Canada have generated millions of dollars in revenue, oftentimes laundering the money through seemingly legitimate businesses set up solely for this purpose,” the report adds.

Canadians are also “actively involved” in the circumvention of technological protection measures, the IIPA says. Circumvention allows them to spread unlicensed live TV and movies via their own pirate IPTV services, sell streams to other services for use inside Canada and beyond, and provide content for release on torrent sites.

“It is nearly impossible to overstate the magnitude of the piracy problem in Canada,” the IIPA informs the U.S. government.

“Mimicking the look and feel of legitimate streaming services, infringing streaming websites continue to overtake P2P sites as a highly popular destination for Canadians seeking premium content in both English and French.”

Piracy Configured Set-Top Boxes, Piracy Apps

Given that legitimate services are impacted by unlicensed alternatives made available in the same market, Canada needs to do more in a number of areas. The IIPA says that set-top boxes, configured for pirate IPTV services or preloaded with dedicated piracy apps, are “easily and widely” available, sold via Canadian-owned-and-operated websites and traditional retail stores.

“Canadian piracy operators remain involved in the coding and development of infringing add-ons and Android application packages (APKs) that enable subscription piracy services and mass-market [set-top boxes] to access streaming services without authorization,” the report adds.

Police Have Other Priorities

The IIPA suggests that the RCMP, Canada’s main federal law enforcement agency, considers intellectual property crime a non-priority area. It’s claimed that RCMP transfers cases to municipal police forces, which often lack the resources “and the strategic mandate” to investigate IP crimes or prepare cases for prosecution.

For their part, local police agencies reportedly “responded well” to entertainment industry training programs but according to the report, are unable to effectively deal with organized piracy and increasingly fail to follow up on detailed cases referred to them by rightsholders.

In two unnamed cases related to IPTV, local law enforcement actually receive some praise for engaging with rightsholders. Unfortunately, the IIPA seems to lack optimism that deterrent sentences will conclude these ongoing matters.

“Few resources are dedicated to prosecutions of piracy cases; prosecutors generally lack specialized training in prosecuting such offenses, and too often dismiss the file or plead the cases out, resulting in weak penalties.”

IIPA Demands Action

For details on every IIPA demand, the full document is available below. The summary in respect of the niche detailed above goes as follows:

– Adequately fund federal law enforcement to fight piracy
– Fund and provide specialized training to tackle IPTV services and circumvention tools
– RCMP should work with U.S. law enforcement on online piracy cases
– Crown Counsel must criminally prosecute copyright/circumvention cases
– Strengthen “legal incentives” for service providers to stand by their terms of service
– Encourage service providers to cooperate with U.S. rightsholders

IIPA 2023 Special 301 Report on Copyright Protection and Enforcement (pdf)


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