SINGAPORE: Movie pirates now using cellphones to record shows
Mobile phones replace camcorders for movie pirates in the region
The Straits Times
Friday, July 13, 2007
By Chua Hian Hou
High-end mobile phones have emerged as the recording device of choice for movie pirates in the region, with more than 30 people nabbed in cinemas this year for recording the latest blockbusters this way.
Most of those nabbed were spotted by alert cinema staff in Malaysia, Hong Kong and the Philippines, said Mr Edward Neubronner, the Motion Picture Association's Asia-Pacific director for operations.
He cited an instance of a woman recording the film Transformers in an Australian cinema. The movie had opened worldwide just two weeks ago.
Those nabbed recording movies this way were turned over to the police. The arrests were part of movie industry lobby group MPA's Operation Tripod, a 12-region crackdown on movie piracy and the syndicates involved.
Tripod, which began in early May and ended last month, was conducted in cooperation with the police.
It resulted in the seizure of more than three million pirated discs, more than 4,000 disc burners -- which were used in mobile disc production plants favoured by syndicates in the region --and almost 900 arrests.
Since the MPA began its crackdown in late 2004, the organisation and police in the region had conducted 7,400 raids. These resulted in the arrest of more than 4,300 people and the seizure of almost 30 million pirated discs.
According to a 2005 MPA study, piracy had cost movie studios more than US$6 billion (S$9 billion) in lost revenues.
The use of mobile phones to record movies in cinemas is a relatively recent phenomenon, said Mr Neubronner. Pirates previously used camcorders to record the shows.
He said he believed pirates turned to mobile phones as they were easier to hide, compared with the bulkier camcorder.
In piracy hot spots such as Malaysia, cinema staff were trained to look out for suspicious gadgets, he said. The ubiquitous mobile phone, though, was not likely to raise any suspicion.
In addition, the video quality of the current generation of high-end mobile phones had almost caught up with that of camcorders. And improved storage capacity, via memory cards, allowed mobile phones to record for hours.
This was not the case a few years ago, when a mobile phone could only capture grainy videos for a few minutes.
But compared with a theatrical release or a genuine DVD, the playback quality of movies recorded by cellphones remains questionable, said Mr Neubonner.
While it is hard to differentiate between films recorded by cellphones and those by camcorders, industry sources tell The Straits Times that some movies recorded using mobile phones had already appeared on illegal file-sharing networks and on pirated discs.
To counter the "growing threat" of mobile phones, the MPA has conducted training sessions for cinema staff on how to identify patrons who may be recording movies this way, said Mr Neubronner.
It has conducted one such training session in Singapore so far.
Date Posted: 7/13/2007