Camcorder crackdown: Japan makes it criminal

Ban on theater recording has teeth

The Japanese parliament on Thursday passed a law that makes it a criminal offense to make a video recording of a film in a theater, a decision that the movie industry here has long been seeking.

At present, anyone found using a camcorder in a cinema only can be asked to leave the premises. But, as of the end of August, the Bill to Prevent the Unauthorized Photographing of Cinematographic Works will mean that anyone caught making a pirate copy of a title could face up to 10 years in prison or a fine of ¥10 million ($85,000).

The legislation, an amendment to Japan's Copyright Law, has been welcomed by the industry and the Japan and International Motion Picture Copyright Assn. — which represents the MPA here.

"JIMCA and our member companies feel that the implementation of specific anti-camcording legislation in Japan will make it significantly easier for the police to interdict pirate camcording," JIMCA executive director Yasutaka Iiyama said.

"(Camcording is) particularly damaging because it typically occurs at the very start of the movie distribution cycle, affecting the economic opportunities for films throughout their commercial life," he added.