Five Transformers film pirates arrested


MUMBAI: The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) announced that five movie thieves were arrested over the extended 4 July holiday for illegally camcording Dreamworks/Paramount’s Transformers in movie theaters across the country.

Increased security and surveillance for the summer blockbuster season in movie theaters nationwide and diligent theater employees and alert movie patrons led to the arrests of five suspects who used camcorders and cell phone cameras to steal the film, or portions of it, in California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois and New York.

“These arrests serve as a reminder to potential movie thieves that whether you use a camcorder or a cell phone, stealing movies off the silver screen is a crime and you will be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) chairman and CEO Dan Glickman.

“Once again, theatre employees and theatre patrons have worked together to protect the art form they love, by intercepting movie thieves in the act of their crime. Thieves beware — if you attempt to steal movies off the screen, we will find you and we will have you arrested.” said The National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) president and CEO John Fithian.

The first arrest was made in the Bronx, New York, by the New York Police Department just prior to the July Fourth holiday. The suspect was observed by security personnel in the American Theater for illegally camcording Transformers on its opening day. The defendant is the first to be charged under an amended law passed by the City Council and signed into law 1 May by Mayor Michael Bloomberg that increases penalties for camcord thieves in New York City. The defendant faces up to six months imprisonment, fines ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 and a civil penalty up to $5,000.

On 4 July, in El Centro, California, the projection manager at the Ultra Star Cinema observed a suspect recording an evening showing of Transformers using a Nokia camera/video phone. The El Centro Police Department was alerted and officers arrested the suspect who faces up to one year in jail and up to $2,500 in fines.

Also on 4 July, a movie patron reported to theater management that an individual was using her cell phone to record Transformers at Marcus Cinemas in Addison, Illinois, just outside of Chicago. Theater security and Addison Police were called and Addison Police arrested a 27 year old female for violation of Illinois’ Camcord Statute – a misdemeanor, and for trespassing. The suspect faces up to one year in jail and fines up to $1,000 and a probationary period of up to two years. The trespass violation carries a penalty of up to six months in jail and up to $500 in fines, followed by a probationary period of up to one year.

Late last week an employee at the AMC Universal Theater in Orlando, Florida observed a suspect recording an afternoon screening of Transformers and alerted theater management who then summoned the Orlando Police Department. Officers confiscated the suspect’s recording device and found that over 30 minutes of the film had already been recorded. The suspect was taken into custody and faces up to one year in jail and fines up to $1000.

Over the weekend, a movie patron at the AMC Discovery Mills 18 Theatre in Lawrenceville, Georgia, notified theater management that an individual was using a small camera to record Transformers. An off-duty Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Deputy employed by the theater observed the suspect and made the arrest. The Sheriff’s Deputy seized a small Sony camera along with almost an ounce of marijuana found in the suspect’s pocket. Violation of Georgia’s anti-camcord statute can result in up to one year in jail and/or fines up to $1000.

Camcorders are at the top of the piracy pyramid, supplying more than 90 per cent of newly released movies that illegally end up on the Internet and in street markets around the world. These recordings often appear online within days of a film’s theatrical release, triggering an avalanche of illegal downloads that can significantly impact a film’s performance at the box office.

The MPAA and NATO work closely with theater employees to ensure that movies are protected from camcorders. In May 2004, the MPAA and NATO introduced the Take Action Reward Program, which rewards theatre employees up to $500 when they identify, intercept, and report camcorder theft to law enforcement officers.

Since the launch of the program $38,500 has been awarded to 84 recipients. In 2006, the MPAA, NATO, the Canadian Motion Picture Distributors Association (CMPDA), and the Motion Picture Theatre Association of Canada (MPTAC) launched, an online theatre employee training program in the US and Canada that has since expanded to include Latin America. Theatre employees who participate in the online tutorial are eligible to receive $300 (awarded every three months) for completing the training and taking a brief quiz at the end.

The worldwide motion picture industry, including foreign and domestic producers, distributors, theaters, video stores and pay-per-view operators lose more than $18 billion annually as a result of movie theft. More than $7 billion in losses are attributed to illegal Internet distributions, while $11 billion is the result of illegal copying and bootlegging.

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