Category Archives: Piracy

We Need To Talk About Event Cinema Piracy

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It is a measure of the success of event cinema that it is fast becoming a victim of internet piracy, a trend that is only like to get worse, for one very simple reason. With the NT Live screenings proving particularly popular for pirates, it is a challenge that the industry will have to deal with soon, though there are only two ways of doing this, neither of which the rights holders and distributors seem keen to embrace. (While we are aware that by highlighting this trend more people might find a way to access illegal copies online, we feel that a debate is required about how to best tackle this issue.)

The problem of event cinema piracy began with in earnest with the popular 2011 transmission of the Danny Boyle directed Frankenstein, with Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch alternating in the lead role. The play was one of the early blockbusters of the National Theatre Live (NT Live), with even the encore screenings sold out.

Fans who were unable to get tickets or lived in territories where it was not screened soon found a way to watch the play as somebody had recorded it with a video camera in a cinema, the same way that most films get pirated. Judging by the comments on PirateBay, the quality is not great, but that is drowned out in the comments section by observations such as this one:

MarinaMurr at 2012-11-02 22:20 CET:
THANK you VERY much!!! As the previous author has said, I also created this account just to say THANK YOU!!! I even cannot express how grateful i am! So just thank you once again :-)

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NT was swift to take notice and issued a sternly worded posting in its NT Live blog, headlined, “OFFICIAL Statement re: Frankenstein DVD/Bootleg Recordings” where it wrote that:

“We do not in any way condone the piracy of recording, both because it is an illegal activity and because it is against the wishes of the artists whose work we represent. I would let you know that if you choose to record, distribute or download the screening of Frankenstein, you are breaking the law and risk legal action.”

Signed by David Sabel, Head of Digital Media Producer, NT Live, National Theatre.

However, a badly camcorded version of Frankenstein was no indication of what was to come. Today you can download in full high definition glory the NT Live transmissions of The Audience, Macbeth and Coriolanus, exactly as they were projected onto the screens of cinemas around the world. Searching for ‘NTLive’ on Piratebay yields a full 1080p version of Coriolanus that clocks in at over 21Gb, as well as a more manageable 720p version that is only 3.85Gb, with over 100 seeders. The Audience and Macbeth are also available in 1080p version, both just over 7Gb in size and both well seeded.

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Movie-Hopping – The Lesser Discussed Form of Film Piracy

Movie Hopping Planner

Film piracy or ‘movie theft’ is a well covered subject in exhibition industry circles. The fight is against people recoding films on video cameras in cinemas and uploading them to the internet or selling them on discs is one that unites multiplex operators, film studios, trade bodies like MPAA and FACT as well as law enforcement bodies (FBI et al). But there is a lesser known version of film piracy that is hardly even mentioned in polite cinema circles; the phenomenon of ‘movie-hopping’. Call it the multiplex cinemas equivalent of Netflix’s binge-viewing or movie-marathon. Except those who do it aren’t cinema fans prepared to pay to watch all four Twilight films in a row. They are screen surfers and quite open about it too.

Take this guest column from The Cornell Daily Sun, which is the student newspaper of the Ivy League university, called “Guest Room | Thou Shalt Not Movie-Hop“. But that is exactly what the columnist (one Arielle Cruz) had intended to do:

My plan today was to go movie-hopping with a friend. Take a bus over to Regal Cinema, buy a matinee ticket for the first show of the day, subtly carry in a couple of Subway sandwiches, a bottle of whiskey and some Target-priced movie candy and let the day unfold. It didn’t end up happening today. It turns out I had some other things I had to do. The intense snowfall wasn’t inspiring me to leave my apartment either. But the thing is, I would’ve done it. I had every intention of doing it, and beyond that, I don’t feel any guilt about it.

Arielle sees this as a victimless crime which isn’t hurting the movie industry (cinemas and studios). “It hasn’t so far, and, according to a number of accounts on the Internet, it is even a family tradition in some households.” A quick survey of the net shows just how widespread the phenomenon is. At least in terms of being discussed. First of all there is a step-by-step Wikihow with illustrations and a disclaimer:

Before proceeding, please realize that movie hopping is grounds for being banned from the theater or escorted out. Very rarely you can be arrested for theft of services (similar to shoplifting).

And a helpful list of suggestions at the end, including:

  • Staff changes occur at around 6:00 PM, this is also the longest gap between movies and is the worse time to try and theater hop.
  • Try to not buy concessions. You want as little interaction with the staff as possible.

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MPAA Agent Bob Hope Detains Man For Wearing Google Glass in Ohio Cinema

Sergei Brin with Google Glass

Not the man accosted by the FBI.

It was only two weeks ago that we predicted the day would come when people would be wearing Google Glass in cinemas and be able to record an entire movie. That future has already arrived sooner than we expected.

Over the weekend of January 18th an un-named man went to see “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” in Columbia, Ohio and ended up feeling the full wrath of the law for appearing to ignore the FBI warning that says making an illegal recording of a film is a crime. The man wrote a first-person account in The Gadgeteer about what happened:

I went to AMC (Easton Mall, Columbus, OH) to watch a movie with my wife (non- Google Glass user). It is the theater we go to every week, so it has probably been the third time I’ve been there wearing Google Glass, and the AMC employees (guy tearing tickets at the entrance, girl at the concession stand) have asked me about Glass in the past and I have told them how awesome Glass is with every occasion.

Because I don’t want Glass to distract me during the movie, I turn them off (but since my prescription lenses are on the frame, I still wear them). About an hour into the movie (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit), a guy comes near my seat, shoves a badge that had some sort of a shield on it, yanks the Google Glass off my face and says “follow me outside immediately”. It was quite embarrassing and outside of the theater there were about 5-10 cops and mall cops. Since I didn’t catch his name in the dark of the theater, I asked to see his badge again and I asked what was the problem and I asked for my Glass back. The response was “you see all these cops you know we are legit, we are with the ‘federal service’ and you have been caught illegally taping the movie”.

He tried to explain that the Google Glass had been turned off and that he needed the prescription glasses to watch the film. This did not seem to impress the officials, who further confiscated his work and personal phones, as well as his wallet. After 20-30 minutes of questioning outside the cinema he was promptly hauled off and taken in for questioning at the mall’s security room.

What followed was over an hour of the “feds” telling me I am not under arrest, and that this is a “voluntary interview”, but if I choose not to cooperate bad things may happen to me (is it legal for authorities to threaten people like that?). I kept telling them that Glass has a USB port and not only did I allow them, I actually insist they connect to it and see that there was nothing but personal photos with my wife and my dog on it. I also insisted they look at my phone too and clear things out, but they wanted to talk first. They wanted to know who I am, where I live, where I work, how much I’m making, how many computers I have at home, why am I recording the movie, who am I going to give the recording to, why don’t I just give up the guy up the chain, ’cause they are not interested in me. Over and over and over again.

Eventually they brought in a laptop and USB cable, telling the man that this was his final chance to ‘come clean’. After he insisted that he had done nothing wrong, they plugged in the computer, downloaded and went through the photos and five minutes later realized that there was no Jack Ryan recorded on the new fangled device; one which would not have looked out of place in Q’s gadget lab in a James Bond movie.

I asked why didn’t they just take those five minutes at the beginning of the interrogation and they just left the room. A guy who claimed his name is Bob Hope (he gave me his business card) came in the room, and said he was with the Movie Association and they have problems with piracy at that specific theater and that specific movie. He gave me two free movie passes “so I can see the movie again”. I asked if they thought my Google Glass was such a big piracy machine, why didn’t they ask me not to wear them in the theater? I would have probably sat five or six rows closer to the screen (as I didn’t have any other pair of prescription glasses with me) and none of this would have happened. All he said was AMC called him, and he called the FBI and “here are two more passes for my troubles”. I would have been fine with “I’m sorry this happened, please accept our apologies”. Four free passes just infuriated me.

Interesting to note that digital cinema watermarking on pirated films had obviously flagged up previous instances of piracy, which is why the authorities must have responded as quickly as they did in this instance. And by ‘Movie Association’ does he mean the MPAA? It would seem so.

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Industry Trust Deploys “Battleship” In U.K. Anti-Piracy Campaign

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Universal Pictures has teamed up with the trade group Industry Trust for Intellectual Property Awareness in the United Kingdom to produce an anti-piracy advertisement which incorporates footage from the studios upcoming release “Battleship“.

The thirty-second spot (shown above) is part of Industry Trust’s “Moments Worth Paying For” campaign aimed at enticing viewers away from illegal downloading and into the theater by suggesting some films are just meant to be seen on the big screen, or at the very least… meant to be paid for. The advertisement intercuts scenes from the film with shots of audience members watching and enjoying the movie.

The Industry Trust is a member supported trade group established in 2004 to promote the benefits of copyright. The “Battleship” spot is the first in a series being produced for the “Moments Worth Paying For” campaign. Each will feature a different movie.

“Battleship” opens on April 11th in the U.K. and the anti-piracy trailer will run in theaters throughout the country until May 10th.

In a press statement announcing the “Battleship” spot the Industry Trust’s general director Liz Bales said:

“Using new release content to engage with our audience on the important issue of copyright infringement is a proven approach embraced by both the film and TV industries. We feel certain it will provide great benefits to the marketing of the release while continuing the great strides made in change attitudes and consumer behavior around copyright theft.”

Studios Are Fighting Movie Piracy On College Campuses

Piracy On College Campuses

A Warning To Copyright Infringers At Cornell

It looks as if the MPAA may be spying on college students, or at the very least monitoring their file sharing activity. Last week on CNET’s daily tech news podcast Buzz Out Loud the hosts read an email from a listener named Chris who explained how the MPAA has been leaving notes for students they believe are sharing movies online.

Illegal (and legal) file sharing is a constant topic of discussion on Buzz Out Loud as are the attempts of the MPAA and RIAA to prosecute those who participate in such activity. So Chris, a college student who lives in a dorm on the Cornell University campus, wrote in to pass along the news that the MPAA has identified his dorm as a den of illegal downloading. He writes (no emphasis added):

…my university (Cornell) has had run-ins with the MPAA and RIAA in the past over our school’s file sharing network. Everyday when I get back from class, I see a new notice on the message board in the lobby. About once a week there is a particular kind of message; this week’s reads:

‘Attention! Someone in Eddygate (my building) IS or WAS uploading the movie THE FIGHTER. STOP NOW!!! PARAMOUNT PICTURES WANTS YOU!!!

Last week it was ‘SONY PICTURES IS WATCHING YOU!’ for some other movie.

Are they now threatening college students specifically? … Are they possibly monitoring our specific building?… Are they really going through the effort to contact landlords and apartment managers to tell their residents to stop committing the ultimate evil?

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NATO Responds To ‘Twilight’ Pirate’s Lawsuit

nato-logoLess than 24-hours after we posted a story on the lawsuit filed against Muvico by a 22-year-old for being arrested for filming inside a movie theatre an email arrived from Patrick Corcoran, the National Association of Theatre Owners’ Director of Media & Research.

Corcoran not only provided a statement about Samantha Tumpach’s suit, but along with Brigette Buehlman also filled in a few details about the organization’s Take Action reward program.

Tumpach was arrested in November for filming portions of “Twilight: New Moon” during her sister’s birthday party inside a Chicago movie theatre. Her suit alleges that she was given no warning to stop filming and that even after the MPAA suggested releasing her, the theatre’s management had her arrested to collect a reward for stopping a camcorder pirate.

In our previous post Corcoran pointed out that Tumpach’s assertions were printed as fact, rather than allegations. Fair enough. That the history being presented was being drawn from Tumpach’s allegations and news reports could have been made clearer.

Corcoran also wrote:

“Any upset or unpleasantness Miss Tumpach believes she has suffered was a consequence of her own actions. Muvico was well within its rights to act as they did. Recording any part of a movie in a theater is illegal.

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Accused “Twilight” Pirate Sues Movie Theatre

Samantha Tumpach Mug Shot.jpg

Samantha Tumbach

Remember back in November of last year when the industry was abuzz about a 22-year-old woman who was arrested and jailed for using a video recorder inside a Chicago movie theatre during her sister’s birthday party? Well, she’s back in the news again.

This time Samantha Tumpach wants to go to court on her own terms by filing a lawsuit against Muvico over the arrest for malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotion distress, defamation and negligence. Tumpach had hinted she might sue the theatre back in December so he lawsuit doesn’t come as a complete.

When Tumpach was originally arrested in November she spent two days in jail before being released. Facing the possibility of a three year jail sentence, Tumpach insisted she was only shooting her sister’s birthday party which was taking place at a showing of “Twilight: New Moon”. Though the theatre and prosecutors didn’t back down, initially they ultimately dropped the charges.

The lawsuit claims Tumpach was never given a warning to put her camera away. She was filming the first scene in the film “hoping to capture the title and beginning as a memory of this exciting event.” Then when she was removed from the auditorium by theatre personnel the police questioned whether making an arrest was really appropriate. Tumpach pleaded with authorities that she had know idea she was doing anything wrong by recording inside the theatre. The suit alleges that when the MPAA was contacted they told police to erase the content from the video camera and simply file a report.

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“Avatar” Pirate Given A Pass Down Under

Here’s a new twist on the old story of camcorder piracy and movie theft. A recent news blip published in Australia’s Herald reported an incident in which movie theatre personnel at a cinema in Glendale spotted a man video taping a showing of “Avatar”. The catch is, the man was 88-years-old.

The cinema manager got the gentleman to stop recording and called the police. When authorities arrived the man, who was wearing large glasses and got around with the aid of a walking stick, informed them that he was recording the film for his wife who was unable to make it to the cinema.

While awfully kind of the man to be thinking of his wife, he was informed that such activity is illegal. The police proceeded to delete the movie from the man’s camcorder and let him sit through the rest of the film. As the Los Angeles Times points out, he may not have been let off the hook so easily in the United States, senior citizen or not. In 2005, the Motion Picture Association of America sued a 67-year-old man for $600,000 after pirated movies were downloaded onto his computer via a peer-to-peer service.

I wonder if the 88-year-old Australian man will get any credit simply for knowing how to work the camcorder or for his willingness to hold it through a movie that’s more than two-and-a-half hours long.

India Welcomes “Slumdog” With Protests And Piracy

Danny Boyle at the premiere of "Slumdog Millionaire" in India (EPA/STR)

Danny Boyle at the premiere of "Slumdog Millionaire" in India (EPA/STR)

Less than 24-hours after “Slumdog Millionaire” picked up 10 Oscar nominations on Thursday, filmmaker Danny Boyle’s rags-to-riches movie about a teenage boy from the slums of Mumbai opened on Friday in India stirring up a bit of resentment and controversy.  In fact, rather than being greeted by long lines of moviegoers, according to The Times of India the release of the film caused a small riot at the Inox Multiplex in Panaji.

As a story in the Los Angeles Times details, some in India are dismayed over what they see as the stereotypical portrayal of their country as filled with corruption and impoverished throngs.  Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS), a pro-Hindu group, petitioned the government to ban or censor “Slumdog Millionaire” stating that the movie would upset the religious values of millions of Indians due to references of Hindu deities and a misrepresentation of the Lord Ram.  Then on Friday, a large group of Shiv Sena activists vandalized the only multiplex in Panaji (the capital of the Indian state of Goa) when theatre managers would not cancel showings of the film. Read More »

MPAA Urges ISPs To Help Fight Piracy

The Motion Picture Association of America has been hinting for some time now that internet service providers should prevent copyrighted material such as movies and televisions shows from being distributed illegally through their high speed broadband networks. Back in July of this year, the MPAA filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission over the “net neutrality” issue, warning the agency that any laws put into place should allow providers to monitor their network traffic to detect the transmission of pirated intellectual property.

On Tuesday MPAA chairman and CEO Dan Glickman pulled no punches in speaking about the issue at a seminar titled Legal Risk Management in the Web 2.0 World . (Try saying that seminar title five times really quickly). quoted Glickman as saying:

“Their [ISPs] revenue bases depend on legitimate operations of their networks and more and more they’re finding their networks crowded with infringed material, bandwidth space being crowded out. Many of them are actually getting into the content business directly or indirectly. This is not an us-versus-them issue.”

The reality is, in the United States ISPs are relatively immune from the liability of their networks being used to distribute pirated material. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act established in 1998, an ISP is not held responsible for the illegal activity of their subscribers as long as they “they don’t condone copyright infringement, that they remove infringing material when notified and that they aren’t deriving financial benefit from it.” So, don’t look for your internet provider to boast that they have the fastest bit torrent downloads any time soon.

Dan GlickmanWhat it seems Glickman is suggesting is that ISPs either prevent pirated material from being transmitted over their networks or that they throttle the bandwidth speed way back when illegal content distribution is suspected. Such throttling, known as traffic shaping, has been a real hot button topic among hard core techies of late given that Comcast (in the U.S.) and other ISPs around the globe have been caught limiting the bandwidth of heavy internet users.

Ironically Glickman may get his wish in having ISPs join the MPAA in fighting movie piracy, though not due to the efforts of his organization. More so because internet providers find it is in their best interest to optimize their network by curtailing bandwidth speeds to non-commercial users generating the most traffic. In techie language. . . that means those using file sharing programs to distribute pirated copies of the latest blockbusters.