Australian Police nab suspect involved in illegal camcording

MUMBAI: On 13 February, New South Wales Police, supported by investigators from the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT), raided a residence in Sydney’s South West, and seized sophisticated video camcording equipment, and computer equipment.

The video camcording equipment is alleged to have been used for making illegal video recordings of a number of latest release titles including He’s Just Not That Into You, Marley and Me, Yes Man, Bedtime Stories, and Beverley Hills Chihuahua.

A 26 year old man was arrested and charged with 18 Copyright offences. He was granted bail and is set to appear at Blacktown local court on 12 March.

The raid resulted from an intensive investigation by AFACT investigators who tracked down the suspects using state of the art digital watermarking technology. The movie industry is increasingly applying invisible digital watermarks to the prints of movies used by cinemas. Like fingerprints, every print has a unique watermark which identifies the cinemas where movies are illegally recorded from.

It is alleged that the movies illegally camcorded by the 26 year old male and distributed by release group "PreVail" have been made available on numerous web sites as well as forensically matched to pirated DVDs purchased in Australia and a number of other countries around the world including the USA, Mexico, Britain, Spain, the Philippines and Malaysia.

"The importance of preventing the illegal camcording of movies during their cinematic release cannot be overstated. Over 90% of pirated movies that first hit the global internet or are sold on streets around the world originate from professional ‘cammers’ making illegal recordings in cinemas. These illegal copies are then used to manufacture pirated DVDs and are sold or shared with international ‘Release Groups’ who distribute the illegal movies around the world at incredible speed through the Internet," said Neil Gane, Director of Operations  AFACT.

"On behalf of movie producers, cinema owners and DVD retailers and renters throughout Australia we commend the NSW Police for their swift action in stopping this activity at source and preventing a potential avalanche of piracy that threatens Australian businesses and jobs," he added.

"Anyone thinking of illegally camcording a movie should be aware that the technology exists to identify them, track them down and take them to court on criminal copyright charges," said Gane.

"This is a significant and timely action taken by the NSW authorities as there has been a sharp rise in illegal camcordings coming out of Australia. Only greater vigilance at cinemas coupled with tough enforcement measures will serve to deter these criminals," said Asia-Pacific Motion Picture Association president and managing director Mike Ellis.  .    

In 2008, 916 illegally camcorded movies were forensically matched to their cinema of origin, with 122 of these originating from cinemas in the Asia Pacific region. Forensic monitoring over the past four months has shown that Australia has become a major hub for regional camcording, recording the second most forensic matches after the Philippines.

In the movie piracy ecosystem, ‘Release Groups’ distribute the illegal movies online to ‘Top Sites’, where the stolen movies are made available on P2P networks, which are then shared by downloaders, greatly accelerating the spread of pirated movies.

‘Release Groups’ are also known to sell the illegally recorded movies to criminal groups who manufacture thousands of copies for sale at shopping malls, markets, pubs and clubs and from the back of cars, vans and via internet auction sites.

On 13 November 2007, Mr Jose Duarte, 21, from Prairiewood in NSW, was convicted of making and distributing an illegal camcord copy of the theatrical release of "The Simpsons Movie" on his mobile phone and uploading it to the internet. Within 72 hours of Duarte making and uploading his unauthorized recording, it was tracked to streaming sites and P2P systems where it had been illegally downloaded more than 110,000 times and, in all probability, copied and sold as a pirate DVD all over the world.

Penalties for copyright crimes are a maximum of US$39,427 (A$60,500) and/or 5 years’ jail per offence.