Is Working To Combat Movie Theft; Join the Battle!
by John Fithian
In last month’s column
I described the serious economic threat that movie theft
poses for the motion
picture theatre industry. I reviewed a recent study indicating
that U.S. box office alone took a $670 million hit in 2005.
In this month’s continuation of that piece, I will
describe some of the activities undertaken by NATO to combat
this scourge. We encourage all of our readers to take part
in these efforts.
Training Theatre Employees. Research
suggests that roughly 90 percent of movie theft occurs inside
the cinema, where
sophisticated criminals brazenly record images off our screens.
NATO is working to combat this problem in a number of ways,
including theatre employee training.
In partnership with the MPAA, NATO has produced
a training brochure, entitled “Tools for Theatre Employees.” The
brochure explains in simple terms how theatre employees can
identify, intercept, thwart and report camcorder movie theft
to appropriate authorities. We have distributed tens of thousands
of the brochures, now in a second printing. Please contact
the NATO headquarters in Washington, D.C. if you need more.
To supplement and further simplify theatre
employee training, NATO and the MPAA have also developed
a website on camcorder
theft. Theatre employees can log onto www.fightfilmtheft.org for an easy-to-use online tutorial. After completion of
the online training, employees are eligible for a monthly
Rewarding Theatre Employees. Training means little without
performance. NATO and the MPAA have again come together to
acknowledge and reward efforts by theatre employees to combat
movie theft. Any theatre employee who successfully identifies,
intercepts, thwarts and reports an act of camcorder theft
inside a cinema is eligible for a cash reward of up to $500.
To date we have made more than 50 awards to theatre employees
who have been successful in these efforts.
Tracking Camcorder Thieves. Utilizing
modern watermarking technologies, the MPAA and NATO track
stolen movies back
to their source material. Simply put, when we acquire a black
market DVD on the streets, we can learn in which cinema that
movie was originally recorded. On a quarterly basis, the
MPAA creates a comprehensive list of cinemas where specific
films were stolen. NATO then distributes this information
on a company-specific basis so that our members will know
where the problem cinemas are, and which movies were recorded
there. Our members then work with the MPAA and law enforcement
authorities to stop movie theft at those sites.
If you work for a theatre company on this
list, we encourage you to focus on those cinema locations
with multiple recent
movie thefts. If you have not received notification from
NATO that your cinemas are on the tracking list, consider
yourself fortunate. But be mindful and alert, because the
thieves are migrating. At first, most camcorder movie theft
occurred in New York and Los Angeles. Today, the thieves
have moved, and we have seen camcorder theft in 15 new
states since January 2005. For our international members,
also begun to see increased camcorder theft worldwide.
I recently met with the anti-piracy officials in Australia
who are witnessing a growing movie theft problem in that
country. And our Canadian colleagues have been experiencing
this problem for some time.
Educating Movie Patrons. Theatre operators
also have a role to play in the education of our patrons.
Movie theft is a
problem both of supply and demand. So far, we have addressed
the supply of stolen movies. But we must also work together
to reduce the demand – by educating our patrons to
the fact that movie theft is illegal, and that stolen movies
simply aren’t as enjoyable as the real thing.
The first step in patron education occurs
at the box office and in the lobby. NATO and the MPAA have
designed and produced
posters for display in cinema lobbies (see
Indeed, I promised Congress that NATO would encourage its
members to display these posters. Again, please contact NATO’s
D.C. offices to order copies.
Periodically, the studios or the MPAA produce
public service announcements to combat movie theft. When
are produced, NATO helps to make them available to our
members, and we encourage you to exhibit them widely.
Improving the Legal Regime. No effort to discourage movie
theft could be successful without criminal laws that impose
severe penalties. In this way, the legal regime, if aptly
enforced and then reported to the public, can serve as an
important deterrent. NATO has lobbied energetically for a
more comprehensive set of laws to combat movie theft. At
the federal and state level, for example, NATO has pursued
laws to criminalize the camcording of movies in cinemas,
and to provide a safe harbor to theatre employees who act
to prevent camcording. Currently, the federal government
and 38 states outlaw the recording of movies in cinemas.
We hope to complete the record with laws in all 50 states.
NATO members and our industry allies have much to lose from
movie theft, as I explained last month. I am hopeful, however,
that we will comprehend the gravity of the situation and
take the action necessary to combat this problem.