Between 2004 and mid 2006, the Scene group ‘maVen’ released some of the best ‘Telesync‘ versions of pirated movies onto the internet including Bourne Supremacy, Collateral, Spongebob Squarepants, Mission Impossible 3 and Superman Returns. Then, at the end of July 2006, ‘maVen’ releases suddenly stopped.
It transpired that the FBI, at the behest of the MPAA, had been investigating ‘maVen’ and had labeled him the ‘world leader’ in movie piracy. They handed their file to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in April 2006. By September, Geremi Adam was under arrest after ‘camming’ the movies How to Eat Fried Worms and Invincible. At the time, camming a movie in Canada wasn’t an offense so unsurprisingly, Adam was released.
Someone clearly wanted maVen out of action and Adam punished. One month later Adam was arrested again. The arrest triggered a chain of events which would lead to Adam, who had a history of depression, enduring a 14 month wait for any charges to be brought. He went on the run, was detained and eventually sentenced to jail. Adam began using drugs in jail to cope with his imprisonment and shortly after his release he tragically died of an overdose.
So who was pulling the strings behind the scenes to ensure that so many resources were spent on chasing Adam who, with his camming, wasn’t even committing a crime? Thanks to a US diplomatic cable dated 12th December 2006 and released by Wikileaks this week, we now have the answer.
The cable begins by revealing that having previously reported in March 2006 that 40 to 50% of all pirate movies around the world could be linked to camming in Montreal, by the third quarter of that year the Canadian Motion Picture Distributors Association’s (CMPDA) had revised that figure down to 18%.
The cable reported that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) considered camming to be a low priority issue and doubted the reports of how much damage it was doing to Canadian industry. As a result they preferred to focus their IP-related resources on dealing with serious issues such as counterfeit pharmaceuticals.
The RCMP had encouraged the CMPDA to finance their own civil action to enforce their rights. Although not detailed by name, it is clear that when the cable reported that the individual behind most of Montreal’s camming had been arrested twice, there could be little doubt it was referring to Geremi Adam. The RCMP, at this stage, had been clear – Adam would not receive jail time.
The cable goes on to bemoan the lack of effective legislation to deal with camming and at one stage even refers to it as a “high-tech pastime”. It describes how Adam operated, suggesting a “drag and drop” operation which allowed “films such as The Chronicles of Narnia [to] be shown in a Montreal theater and later sold in DVD form on big city streets within a matter of hours.”
According to the cable, proving distribution was the key to a successful prosecution. In end, the fact that Adam’s cammed copies appeared online was enough to land him in jail. His initial arrest, however, was prompted by less official means.
“With regard to the arrest of the individual who had been pursued by the CMPDA, RCMP officers stated that they arrested the individual ‘as a personal favor’ to a CMPDA official, and that they did not view theater camcording as a major issue’,” reads the US diplomatic cable.
“The officers said that IPR holders could pursue legal action against suspects engaged
in camcording via the civil code without needing to engage the RCMP. They acknowledged, however, that a conviction under the civil code would not result in prison time, and would usually involve a relatively small fine,” it continues.
The cable reveals that the RCMP carried out this “favor” despite believing that Adam was “a small player” who was not receiving “lucrative financial rewards for his work.”
“One RCMP officer expressed concern that the RCMP not be seen as ‘the enforcement arm of industry’, noting that the ‘industry comes to [the RCMP] more and more’ with requests for action,” the cable concludes.
The full cable can be read here.