MPAA sets its site on piracy

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ORLANDO -- The MPAA began the international rollout of its anti-camcording Web site, www.fightfilmtheft.org, during International Day, the first day of the ShowEast exhibitors convention here. The site aims to educate theater employees on how to deal with illegal camcording.

The site initially was aimed at exhibitors in the U.S. and Canada, and a Spanish-language version targeted to Mexico was unveiled Monday.

The MPAA, NATO, the Canadian Motion Picture Distributors' Assn. and the Motion Picture Theatre Associations of Canada all joined forces with Canacine, Mexico's national film industry organization.

MPAA president Bob Pisano said 90% of pirated films worldwide are the result of camcording. They contributed to an $18.2 billion loss for the worldwide motion picture industry last year.

"As we've shut off other sources of bootleg films, including postproduction and marketing houses, the quality of camcorders has become better in resolution and sensitivity to motion," he said. "It's not great, but it's pretty damn good."

At panel discussion on "Combating Theft in Your Theaters," moderated by The Hollywood Reporter international general manager John Burman, other concerns beyond camcording emerged.

Miguel Angel Davila, president of both Canacine and Mexico's Cinemex theater chain, said after the panel that the biggest piracy threat in Mexico came from the sale of Region 1 DVDs, which are encoded for use in North America. (Mexico and South America, along with Australia and New Zealand, use Region 4 DVDs.)

Davila explained that the Region 1 DVDs can be used to create perfect masters of films that are in current theatrical release in Mexico, where 65% of households have DVD players, half of which are multiregional. In Mexico, the total consumer spending loss from piracy was estimated at $1.1 billion last year.

"We need studios to stop selling (Region) 1 DVDs to distributors who sell them to Mexico," said Davila, whose country recently passed a law penalizing retailers who sell or rent them. Although legislation has been introduced to criminalize camcording in Mexico, it is still legal there and, according to Davila, less of a concern. "We can't do anything about it -- just kick (camcorders) out of the theater," he said.

Several members of the panel discussed offering incentives to theater owners and employees who catch camcorders in the act -- a tactic that has been used in the U.S. Vicki Solmon, senior vp trade regulation and copyright protection at Sony Pictures Entertainment, said she had given a personalized jacket on top of a cash reward to one projectionist who bought his own goggles and caught a "Spider-Man 2" pirate.

Department of Homeland Security section chief David Faulconer said he would like to extend the incentives to audience members, turning them into informants. He said he had talked with one major exhibitor about incentives like family movie passes to get moviegoers to turn in bootleggers.

In his worldwide fight against piracy, Faulconer pressed for a "force multiplier" form of international cooperation. "I've got agents who can go after the bad guys, but I need you to tell me who the bad guys are," he told the audience at the Orlando World Center Marriott.

Faulconer said the industry had scored a major victory this year in El Salvador, which is the central point of distribution for all Central American DVD bootlegs, by criminalizing its counterfeiting and tying it into a money-laundering statute. He said the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is set to work on an anti-counterfeit initiative in Russia, where one studio estimates 85% of its films' DVDs are pirated.

As part of the afternoon program, Luiz Paulo Teles Ferreira Barreto was given the MPA Anti-Piracy Award for his work in Brazil. Pisano said he was chosen both for his programs and for working with governments in neighboring countries. Gussi's Horacio Altamirano of Mexico received the International Achievement Award in Distribution, and Shari Redstone, who was unable to attend, was awarded the International Achievement Award in Exhibition, for herself and the National Amusements exhibition chain that she heads as president.

ShowEast, which runs through Thursday, is produced by VNU Exhibitions, a unit of VNU Group, which also is the parent company of The Hollywood Reporter.
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