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Wed, Jun 23, 2004 - Page 12 News List

Movie industry offers rewards for tipoffs on pirates

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The movie and theater industries are offering a US$500 reward to theater employees who catch people illegally recording films, part of the entertainment industry's efforts to cut down on bootleg motion pictures.

The reward program comes after the industry has already introduced ad campaign about movie piracy and is also experimenting with other measures such as technology that would jam camcorders in theaters.

The movie industry lost US$3.5 billion to piracy last year and seized 52 million discs containing illegally copied films, according to the Motion Picture Association of America (MMPA), whose members include MGM Studios and Walt Disney Co. In April, two Californian men were caught attempting to make copies of The Passion of the Christ and The Alamo at screenings.

"Theater employees are increasingly vigilant about individuals who surreptitiously set up camcorders in their theaters," said John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theater Owners, which announced the rewards program with the MPAA.

"This program will give every theater worker added incentive to take action against pirates and help protect our industry from this scourge," he said.

Often, the movies are filmed with camcorders in the first days of release. The films are then distributed over the Internet and picked up by overseas labs that churn out millions of DVDs for sale.

"In a matter of days, organized crime syndicates in Russia, Malaysia and elsewhere have turned those films into optical discs that are being sold illegally on street corners around the world. This program will help us stem that process at its very start," said said John Malcolm, head of the MMPA's Worldwide Anti-Piracy Program.

The industry also is experimenting with other ways to curtail piracy, including jamming technology so camcorders can't film the movies.

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