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Twelve Hollywood Movie Cammers Caught, Police Prosecute None

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This week Hollywood-funded anti-piracy group FACT revealed that the Film
Distributors Association had handed out cash rewards to more than a
dozen cinema workers who managed to sniff out so-called movie ‘cammers’
in UK cinemas. But despite every case being reported to the police –
some involving Skyfall and The Hobbit – authorities could do little in
response. Not a single cammer was charged or prosecuted.

Despite significant success in recent years clamping down on
camcorder piracy, Hollywood still feels that the phenomenon poses a
serious risk to their business. The somewhat grainy footage – often
accompanied by awful sound – tends to leak online, attracting tens of
thousands of downloaders looking to get an early glimpse at a much
anticipated movie.

In a U.S. theater you need appendages of steel (or perhaps
psychiatric help) to risk recording the video or sound of a Hollywood
movie. Those caught, such as the individuals behind the
IMAGiNE group,

are treated extremely harshly indeed and years in prison can be the outcome.

While after-the-fact punishments are somewhat of a deterrent, the
studios prefer to tackle the problem before it begins. To this end they
encourage theater workers to remove any possible recording devices from
movie-goers. Cell phones are sometimes temporarily confiscated and the
use of night vision goggles to track down suspects during the show is
becoming more common, particularly at premieres.

This week Hollywood revealed the latest results of an incentive
scheme in the UK whereby cinema workers are rewarded for catching movie
cammers and reporting them to the police.

“The rewards scheme is part of a wide-ranging theatrical protection
programme, funded by UK film distributors via Film Distributors’
Association (FDA) since 2006,” FACT announced.

“It also provides vital extra resources for the Federation Against
Copyright Theft (FACT) to support cinema exhibitors’ staff training; an
on-going supply of night vision devices to help cinema staff deter
recording attempts in situ; and an education campaign including school
resources on copyright.”


According to FACT, the campaign has been 100% successful.

“The impact of this programme may be measured by the fact that no
pirated recordings were sourced to a UK cinema release in 2012,” the
anti-piracy group reveals.

While that is indeed a great result, there are some interesting details that shine more light on the overall picture.

FACT says that during the fall/winter season, 13 cinema workers
intercepted unauthorized cammings of the movies Skyfall, Ted, The Dark
Knight Rises and The Hobbit. Of the total 12 incidents, six related to
recordings of the movie Skyfall.

Cinema workers are encouraged to report every instance of camming to
the police but to say that proved fruitful would be taking things a
little too far.

Out of the dozen incidents just two led to suspects being arrested.
FACT reports that the pair were later cautioned (slapped on the wrists
by police and told to behave in future) and that three exclusion orders
and one prohibited access order were issued.

So in stark contrast to punishments in the United States, of twelve
UK camming cases just four individuals were banned from cinemas and zero
people were prosecuted. So why the weak response?

The problem is legislation. The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act
1988 can not be used against a cammer unless there is proof that the
recording was part of a commercial operation or that there was intent to
later upload it. If someone is caught recording a film and claims to be
doing so in order to watch it at home, nothing can be done.

The difficulties are further highlighted in an industry document
obtained by TorrentFreak which details 50 camming incidents in UK
cinemas during 2008. Police attended calls from staff on just two
occasions, one of which resulted in a couple being cautioned. In the
majority of cases people observed camming were approached by staff but
simply left the building. Any attempt to hold a suspect could lead to
accusations of unlawful detention.

So for now cinema workers are being incentivized to become voluntary
members of Hollywood’s unofficial police force, monitoring for
suspicious activity and interrupting the problem at its source.

In 2012 they were 100% successful which if studio figures are correct
must have saved the UK cinema industry around £100m. For this great
achievement 13 cinema workers were paid rewards of up to £700 each.

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