US: first trial for filming in cinemas

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In Missouri, 19-year-old Curtis Salisbury has been given the honor of being the first to stand a chance of being convicted under the new anti-piracy law. This new law, passed last April, prohibits people from secretly recording video in cinemas using a camcorder, telephone or other means of audio and video recording. The boy used a camera to make copies of the films ‘The Perfect Man’ and ‘Bewitched’, after which he played them through warez channels. He was also guilty of downloading illegal software. If found guilty, Salisbury could face up to 17 years in prison.

The charges against the boy are part of Operation Copycat, a government manhunt that has so far arrested five people on suspicion of unauthorized copying of copyrighted data. Almost all movies that are available for download while they are still in cinemas are made with camcorders. By recording and redistributing these films, the criminals are infringing the copyright in the films. “The creative works of the entertainment industry belong to the millions of people who make them and are not for others to steal or unlawfully distribute,” said Dan Glickman, head of the MPAA.

Films are often aided in the illegal circuit in this way. Even before films appear in theaters, so-called screeners are made by the film companies. These are used to gauge public opinion or to allow a film to participate in nomination rounds for prizes at the last minute. Wealthier film companies can afford to have these sessions played in a movie theater, where VCRs and the like can be more tightly controlled. Another option that costs less money is to make trial DVDs, which are sent to the target group. The latter form in particular is susceptible to illegal trade, but it also happens that recording equipment is smuggled into screeners in cinemas. Because of this, movies sometimes appear on warez networks well before the release date.

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