Those thinking about camming movies in a UK cinema have a fresh adversary to contend with. A new anti-piracy unit called the Film Content Protection Agency has just been launched with a mission to prevent people recording first-run movies. Unfortunately, the unit is already citing misleading legal information on its website.
According to the movie industry the most damaging form of piracy involves the distribution of films that are not yet released or are enjoying their first-run in theaters.
The claim makes some sense. Due to the business model employed by the studios, titles still in cinemas are usually not available for consumption elsewhere, meaning that it’s impossible to compete for that business.
As a result, much time and effort is expended trying to stop people recording (‘camming’) movies in theaters. In the United States it’s an extremely serious offense punishable by jail time, and over in the UK those who record and then upload to the Internet can receive the same treatment.
The job of catching these people has usually fallen to two UK bodies – The Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) and the Film Distributors’ Association (FDA). In the past, the FDA fully sponsored a dedicated FACT investigator with duties that included staff training and building relationships with the police. Now, however, things are on the move.
The FDA says it has launched a new anti-piracy unit. Titled the Film Content Protection Agency, it will take over the work previously carried out by FACT. According to Screen Daily, several of FACT’s theatrical experts will be rolled into the new unit.
Back in May, it was announced that Hollywood will withdraw its funding for FACT, ending a 30-year relationship and depriving the anti-piracy group of 50% of its budget. Now it appears that the Motion Picture Association has thrown its support behind the FDA’s new unit instead.
“Cinema security is a key priority for the industry and the MPA welcomes this important step by FDA,” said Stan McCoy, MPA president and managing director for EMEA.
“We will work closely with the new unit to analyze threats and offer practical support as it fulfils its UK-wide remit on behalf of film distributors and other partners.”
According to the UK’s Companies House, the Film Content Protection Agency was formed as a limited company during the summer, registered to the FDA’s Kingly Street address in London.
At the time of incorporation, the FCPA had a single director, 85-year-old Barbara Kahan, who remained in the role for a whole day and then resigned. Kahan is rather active for an octagenarian. According to the government, she’s held posts in more than 18,000 companies.
It’s possible that Kahan set up the new anti-piracy company and then resigned, but that left FCPA without any directors or people with significant control. What’s also problematic is the state of the new website set up to promote the new anti-piracy group.
Currently it’s completely non-functional, having gone down sometime in the past couple of days. However, when the site was up it was providing information on the unit and detailing its goals. While most of the claims seemed fairly accurate, one particular section caught our eye.
Titled “It’s the Law”, the section stated that “The penalty for online copyright theft is up to a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine – in line with the theft of physical goods.”
While all anti-piracy outfits hope this will indeed become true in the months to come, the above statement is certainly not accurate under current UK law.
Ignoring the deliberate replacement of ‘infringement’ with ‘theft’ (which is not helpful when advising the public about legal matters), the current maximum prison sentence in the UK for online infringement is two years.
Amendments to boost punishments are indeed underway as part of the Digital Economy Bill but they still in progress in the House of Commons and are many stages away from being written into law.
Only time will tell how the new anti-piracy unit will manifest itself but it seems likely that it will maintain the same pressure applied for years by FACT, but under a new banner.
FDA President Lord Puttnam welcomed the creation of the new unit.
“I’m delighted this new unit is up and running,” said FDA President Lord Puttnam.
“It’s an important addition to the distributors’ armoury in safeguarding theatrical releases and enabling UK audiences to enjoy films to their maximum effect in legitimate formats.”